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Back in the 1930s, the United States remained largely a rural country, with almost half of the population still living in rural communities–without electricity. Electrifying rural America was a key part of the New Deal. The key then was distribution of electricity generated in utility-scale plants.
Today, the world is in a race to electrify rural communities in the developing world. This presents an opportunity for entrepreneurs and investors around the world, say Chris Warren, CEO of Clean Energy Advisors, and Erik Melang, co-founder of Distributive Solar.
Unlike the New Deal-era effort to electrify rural America, today’s electrification efforts run the full gamut from solar lamps charged by day and used at night to utility-scale projects that connect to the grid.
Entrepreneurs around the world are getting in on the act. India has organized incentives and entrepreneurial support programs to for solar projects.
d.light, among others, offers a range of solar products in Africa, including solar lamps at the bottom and “modern, grid-like solar power systems for homes and businesses” at the top. Akon has installed 1,200 micro-grids across Africa. Utilities across Africa have built or bought power from solar developers who have built utility-scale projects.
Erik points out that the “market opportunity is huge.” He says, this is an “amazing opportunity for the world to invest in Africa.” He explains that in the developing world, homes can initially meet all of their needs with systems that produce fewer than 100 watts of power, while in the U.S. the average household uses 3 to 5 kilowatts, or 30 to 50 times as much.
The implications are important. A little bit of solar power can go a long way in changing and improving lives in Africa–which they can readily afford as they shift from kerosene to solar lighting. Many of the systems deployed at the household level use a pay-as-you-go model. The consumers pay for the power the solar panel generates rather than needing to buy the panel up front.
The other key implication is that as African affluence grows, the average household demand for electricity will grow until it eventually approaches the U.S. level. In other words, the business of providing solar power in the developing world will continue to grow faster than the U.S. economy for the next several decades.
Chris notes, too, that because much of the need in Africa is off-grid, systems don’t need to work with the grid, simplifying installation and reducing costs, compared with typical U.S. installations that need to work with the grid.
On Thursday, January 19, 2017 at noon Eastern, Chris and Erik will join me here for a live discussion about opportunities in solar in the developing world. Tune in here (at the top of this article) then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.
More about Clean Energy Advisors:
Clean Energy Advisors is a private equity firm focused on creating socially and environmentally positive ownership opportunities for investors in utility scale solar energy projects that generate tax advantaged predictable income and preserve capital.
Chris Warren has over twenty-five years of experience in the financial industry and along the way he has acquired a unique set of skills and experiences through roles that include managing assets for high net worth investors, leading a major division of a Fortune 500 company, building three successful businesses from inception, and overseeing complex financial arrangements for over US $860 million in renewable energy assets. Mr. Warren is a graduate of Duke University. His technical training includes a Certification in Renewable Energy Management from North Carolina State University and training in Basic and Advanced Solar PV Design from Solar Energy International.
More about Distributive Solar:
Commercial Solar Origination. Recruiting, training and supporting commercial solar consultants to present the economic, branding and environmental benefits of going solar to commercial business owners.
Erik Melang is a Co-Founder of Distributive Solar and oversees the firms Recruiting, training and support of Independent Sales Representatives. Erik previously served as Managing Director of Impact Partners, where he led impact strategies initiatives and renewable energy private equity investments. It is in this role that Erik was drawn to the amazing business opportunity around Commercial Solar Origination. The industry is in the early stages of mass adoption and Commercial Business Owners are realizing the tremendous economic benefits of deploying solar panels on their rooftops. Erik is an Appalachian State MBA with strong desire to learn and teach and is an avid follower of everything solar and all things “Impact.” Erik’s interest include Clean Energy, Fishing, Snow Skiing, Travel , Guitar Pickin’ and is a child adoption advocate.
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Devin is a journalist, author and corporate social responsibility speaker who calls himself a champion of social good. With a goal to help solve some of the world’s biggest problems by 2045, he focuses on telling the stories of those who are leading the way! Learn more at DevinThorpe.com!