The issue of rural electrification is one of the key upcoming developments on the African continent with respect to energy. For now, public authorities seem far from finding a satisfactory solution, and in many cases, entire areas depend on local initiatives or private entrepreneurs. This week’s example is the startup, Power:On, who develops micro-grids to provide electricity to rural areas in Benin.
Power:On provided electricity to 3,000 inhabitants in the village of Igbéré, in Benin, who are far from any grid. «Thanks to this electricity, I can open my boutique and I have electricity until midnight», Eda said, she started a business in Igbére four years ago. «It is now so much easier for me to do my homework in the evenings», explained Prosper, a student at the Igbéré college. Power:On was established in 2015 by Tristan Kochoyan and Louise Abalounorou.
This company, which provides electricity to rural areas not connected to the electricity grid, is in the process of being registered in Benin. The first project of this budding company was the electrification of the Igbéré village in the Bassila region, situated in the heart of Benin’s forest area. The company constructed a mini electric network which obtains energy from a generator and supplies electricity to more than 100 households. The objective of the startup is to progress as quickly as possible to using solar energy. The initial investment was borne solely by the startup with no contribution from the inhabitants of the village because of their low and irregular income. Even the meters and the expenses related to network connection were provided for free.
Electricity consumption is billed using a flat rate, payable by “mobile money’ using a mobile phone. This is one of the most practical payment systems in the region just as in many African towns. Electricity flat rate of about 100F CFA (0.15 euros) per day provides five hours of electricity for lighting and recharge of mobile phones. Before the advent of Power:On, the cost of charging a phone in this isolated region was 200F CFA (0.30 euros). At other rates, it is possible to use the television, fridge and fan. In well fitted homes, the company installs smart meters to facilitate monitoring from afar in order to avoid non payment on one hand, and on the other hand, to better advice each client on their needs and consumption.
Tristan and Louise also raise awareness on energy efficiency: they provide information and sensitization on the use of bulbs and other low consumption household appliances. They propose to offer micro credit in order to make these appliances accessible to a large number of people.
The inhabitants, thus connected to electricity have already expressed the desire to renew their subscription in a professional capacity, to develop business and industrial activities: boutiques, hair salons, sewing workshops, food processing etc. The neighbouring villages also hope to soon have the same right to access electricity. Electricity in the rural area certainly drives socio-economic development and consequently, promotes an effective fight against rural migration. Power:On is therefore seeking for additional support to put in place new projects.
Image courtesy of Power:On