Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Who will bring light and electricity to Africa?

Since 2009, demand for solar-powered lights in Africa has experienced an annual growth of 90%. Nearly 4 million lights have been sold, a number which at first glance seems impressive, and yet only represents 3% of the current market. 3%!

In 2009, scientists scrambled to come up with a low-cost, quality light to help modernize the developing world. In 2013, more than 40 companies have patents on products that meet the rigorous standards set forth by Lighting Africa, a joint IFC and World Bank program that strives to provide previously disconnected areas with reliable access to electricity. For these 40+ companies, the biggest hurdle they currently have to overcome is a lack of working capital. They need more money to produce and export enough lights to meet soaring demand. But the options available for filling their capital requirements are less than ideal. Companies can either try to raise their debt level from an investor or bank, or lean on their equity reserves, which can easily result in bankruptcy. 

In 2011, the World Health Organization partnered with the OPEC Fund for International Development to help extend credit to companies struggling with working capital. The result was a wave of sales – hundreds of thousands of solar-powered lights were introduced to Africa. But as the market expands, demand inevitably rises. If a system of sound investing in manufacturers of innovative, quality products isn’t put in place, it will be nearly impossible for Africa’s economy to sustain itself. Instead, it will be victimized by “bubbles” and “bursts.”

As most people know, solar technology has its drawbacks. Panels have a limited capability and storage capacity due to their photovoltaic cells.  They’re bulky, too. They don’t work at night. Or in the rain. And worst of all – they’re expensive!

Why rely on solar-powered lights when cheap filament light bulbs, powered by a grid, have been a staple of the first world since Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla back in the 19th Century?

NRGLab is actively seeking partners and investors to help grow enough working capital to manufacture the SH-box, a portable generator capable of providing power to every corner of Africa, or any other developing country in need of electricity. The zero-emission SH-box may prove to be the piece that stabilizes the African economy; producing electricity for as little as $0.03 per kWh allows for capital to be invested elsewhere, like in grid expansion and social welfare.

Visit nrglab.asia for updates on upcoming SH-box auctions, or to learn more about how partnering with NRGLab may just be the soundest investment and smartest decision you’ve ever made.

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