Mobile Power operates a network of solar-powered battery-charging stations called ‘MOPO Hubs’ across Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Uganda, Zambia, The Gambia and Liberia. Its battery rental system is both affordable and flexible. For Customers, renting a MOPO50 Battery creates a significant saving compared to charging phones on generators, requires no deposit, credit check or fixed payment structure. To date, Mobile Power has provided power to over 100,000 people.

With support from  PREO, Mobile Power is now launching Battery swap stations for electric motorbikes in Sierra Leone. The e-motorbikes are rented on a daily basis to drivers of motorcycle taxis known locally as okadas, with MOPO Batteries charged via solar mini-grids. This model deploys the new 1kWh MOPOMax Battery which has been designed to facilitate both productive use and e-mobility solutions. The MOPOMaxBattery will also be incorporated and charged through Mobile Power’s country-wide network of MOPO Hubs.

The PREO project targets were straightforward: to assess the product-market fit for the e-motorbikes and battery swap system and thereafter to demonstrate that this clean energy powered e-mobility solution can be a viable generator of profit for the rider, the solar mini-grids partners and for Mobile Power itself.

Early evidence obtained from testing the prototype was encouraging: the e-motorbike operated as part of the pilot has covered thousands of miles on rural and urban roads and it has proved popular with riders and customers alike; given the high prices of fuel, the unit economics for the rider were vastly improved when compared to petrol motorbikes; the data shows that the e-motorbikes can improve the daily profits of the okada drivers by more than 100% to at least GBP 3 per day. Mobile Power has plans to scale its battery swap for e-mobility footprint in 2022.

Read more about Mobile Power

vol terra vanilla plant

The Powering Renewable Energy Opportunities (PREO) programme, is delighted to announce that VOLT-TERRA Farm and Energy Solutions Ltd has been awarded €250,000 to provide cost-effective and reliable electricity to local communities, whilst simultaneously unlocking their economic potential in the process.

VOLT-TERRA is a joint venture between Gourmet Gardens (U) Ltd. and INENSUS GmbH. The partnership aims to increase the profitability of mini-grids in agricultural value chains in Uganda, by applying the cutting-edge KeyMaker Model (KMM). The KMM is based on utilising the mini-grid electricity to establish a local agro-processing project, the revenues of which are an additional income stream for the mini-grid operator. In addition, the project creates an end-market for the local farmers to sell their produce.

To do so, VOLT-TERRA supports the production of vanilla and bird’s eye chillies and will become the supply-chain manager of these local products for export to value-added markets.

The proposed location of the pilot phase of the project is in the sub-county Bbaale in central Uganda, which has a population of about 17,000 people and where the primary source of economic activity is agriculture and forestry. Farmers are restricted in growing crops, and often suffer from price exploitation, due to a lack of access to energy and high unemployment rates. Through the KMM, VOLT-TERRA is addressing these challenges by providing sustainable, reliable and affordable energy and agro-processing services to empower rural communities.

VOLT-TERRA is the latest project to receive grant funding to develop its high-potential project. In May 2021, nine other pioneering African businesses were awarded a total of €1.36m to pilot new approaches or expand their existing business models, which are set to stimulate clean energy uptake and, in doing so, improve livelihoods and reduce poverty.

Read more about VOLT-TERRA

PREO is a multi-million Euro productive use of energy (PUE) programme co-funded by the IKEA Foundation and UK aid, and delivered by Carbon Trust and Energy 4 Impact. PREO recognises that, while increased energy access is vital to improve livelihoods in rural Africa, this alone is not enough to transform economies. So PREO aims to boost demand for clean energy as a way of creating sustainable jobs, growing economies, reducing poverty and empowering women.

As most of the profit from worldwide coffee sales is generated outside the country of origin, local farmers are typically left with minimal income. By contrast, Congolese coffee company Café Kivu sources, roasts, packages and markets the best coffee beans from the Kivu region of the DR Congo locally, thereby fostering employment opportunities and economic growth within the country. It also means that the end product remains affordable enough for local consumers to enjoy.

With funding from PREO, the company plans to scale its roasting production using an energy efficient, cost-effective electric roaster connected to a solar hybrid plant. This reliance on clean energy will reduce the total carbon footprint from seed to cup.

Distribution will also be expanded through a franchise licensing and asset loan system, providing local entrepreneurs with a mobile coffee cart to promote the brand in urban centres. By reaching higher revenue and sales targets, Café Kivu hopes to progress towards developing export markets in the US, Middle East, and Asia. PREO has interviewed Café Kivu’s Jonathan Shaw to find out more.

Q: Can you tell us about the origin of your company, its place in the coffee value chain, and what you hope to achieve through it?

A: Café Kivu began with my own hunt for a great coffee product whilst living in eastern Congo. I was doing academic research in North Kivu in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2014, and I would go on long hikes in the hills of the Semliki River escarpment near my research base. This area was full of thousands of hectares of arabica coffee farms, but it was impossible to purchase that very coffee in the areas directly adjacent to its production.

The only coffee I could purchase was instant coffee grown and packaged thousands of kilometers away. The viability of instant coffee as a consumer product in Congo proved to me that there was a market for coffee, but I couldn’t buy fresh roasted coffee grown near where I lived. I realised the major reason for this was a lack of access to energy. The necessary heat to roast coffee as well as energy used in processing and packaging was not available. So much of the value lost in exporting green beans and not providing any value addition locally was due to a lack of access to energy.

The obsession of Café Kivu is to capture as much of that value at origin – to reclaim the 85 cents on the dollar for retail coffee that is generated outside of the country of origin. It goes far beyond just increasing the price of beans to a farmer. Our vision is to foreground and make visible the dozens of local people at origin who are critical to the coffee value chain and the invisible forces – like access to energy – that make local value creation possible. With funding from PREO, we plan to introduce and scale sustainable roasting infrastructure using an energy efficient, cost-effective electric roaster connected to a solar hybrid plant run by our project Partner Nuru Energy while gradually capturing more value locally.

Q: What led you to choose Goma as a base for your company?

A: Goma is a beautiful city on the shores of Lake Kivu which serves as a link between the major population centers of eastern Congo to the north and south as well as to East Africa via nearby land borders to Uganda, Rwanda, and Tanzania. Goma offers good transportation, international airport links and reliable energy infrastructure from Nuru.

Q: Goma recently experienced a destructive volcanic eruption; can you share your first-hand experience?

A: At about 6 pm on the night of May 29 the power went out in much of the city and the night sky turned an ominous red. With no notice of any kind an eruption of lava had exploded out of the eastern flank of the Nyrigongo mountain about 15km north of Goma. By the next day over 2,000 homes had been destroyed, over the next week over 300 earthquakes had occurred, and fissures had opened up in the city. Much of the city evacuated on orders of the governor.

Q: How did the recent volcanic eruption in May impact your company’s operations and their sustainability?

A: While others take their unprocessed raw coffee to the borders directly for trade and exports, we are one of the few domestic coffee processors in the region. Our supply chain seized up since all of our raw coffee comes through the eastern part of Goma city that was worst affected by the eruption. We also lost at least 3 weeks of PREO project implementation time period, including delays to running our day-to-day administrative operations and importing / installing our electric roaster due to the logistic nightmares caused by the eruption. The flexibility of the PREO team allowed us to immediately jump back into the work as soon as we were able to return to the city.

Nuru Energy, our PREO project partner and the company operating the solar minigrid powering Café Kivu, was the only energy supplier to maintain operations for 100% of the time the eruption was occurring. People from all over Goma came to the Nuru grid to be able to find security, food and energy in incredibly difficult times. Nuru saw a spike in utilisation and the eruption doubled the load from grain millers. Nuru also provided an emergency connection to water piping facility that pumped treated water for 5,000 people. Some processors and exporters that were connected to the grid with a generator backup were able to continue operations but were impacted by sudden spikes in diesel prices and availability issues.

Q: How has your business responded to the eruption? What were the key lessons learned in terms of building business resilience?

A: The major roads that lead to eastern Goma were closed for 2 to 3 weeks and most of our raw coffee come from these routes. So, since our coffee supply chain suffered major setbacks, the coffee processing capacity came to a standstill in spite of being unhindered by the eruption and connected to a reliable electricity infrastructure. One of the key learnings from this experience will lead to a change in our procurement strategy, which will move to bulk procurement. This way, we can also benefit from economies of scale. We also plan to invest in additional electric roasting facilities and gradually phase out the gas-powered operations.

Also, one of the most unexpected outcomes is the demonstration of distributed energy’s resilience in an unstable geological environment that included a major volcanic eruption and 300 minor earthquakes. The decentralised solar system provided by Nuru was the only power system to remain 100% available during the entire period. We are so grateful for PREO’s commitment and interest in our project that demonstrates the resilience of decentralised, locally integrated solutions.

“Real breakthrough in boosting demand for renewable energy to create sustainable jobs and reduce poverty”

NINE PIONEERING AFRICAN BUSINESSES are set to markedly grow their positive impact on sub-Saharan Africa communities by stimulating clean energy uptake and, in doing so, growing local economies and empowering women.     

This is thanks to the innovation of the businesses themselves, and support provided through the latest round of PREO (Powering Renewable Energy Opportunities) grant funding.

PREO is a multi-million Euro productive use of energy (PUE) programme co-funded by the IKEA Foundation and UK aid, and delivered by Carbon Trust and Energy 4 Impact. PREO recognises that while increased energy access is vital to improve livelihoods in rural Africa, this alone is not enough to transform economies. So PREO aims to boost demand for clean energy as a way of creating sustainable jobs, growing economies, reducing poverty and empowering women.

In the next 24 months PREO will provide the nine businesses with €1.36m to pilot new approaches or expand their existing business models. Learnings will be widely shared to unlock PUE opportunities in the region.  

Says Jon Lane, Head of Energy Access at the Carbon Trust that manages PREO: “The projects demonstrate real breakthrough in boosting demand for renewable energy to create sustainable jobs and reduce poverty through economic growth. PREO funding will help accelerate the scale up of these business models, enabling them to do even more for socio-economic advancement locally.”

The nine successful businesses were selected from a pool of 233 applicants, indicating a strong and extremely encouraging trend toward clean energy use in the region, Jon Lane says. Previous PREO grants have been awarded to businesses active in sectors such as transport, health care and education. In this latest round most of the businesses are part of the agricultural value chain, so the PREO grants are assisting the sub-Saharan agriculture sector realise its full potential.

All grant recipients will undertake research to evaluate the overall socio-economic and environmental impacts of the funded projects, and best practice findings will be shared on the PREO knowledge hub.

The nine PREO grant recipients are:

FRES is setting up a solar powered agro-processing platform to power the Sowdjoma shea butter cooperative that serves hundreds of women farmers in Burkina Faso. The farmers will benefit from the fee-for-service energy supply, giving them access to sustainable energy to increase production efficiency, develop innovative agricultural practices and invest in equipment. Ownership of the agro-processing equipment will be transferred to the cooperative farmers via a rent-to-buy scheme.

ClearSky Power is boosting farmer livelihoods in Somaliland through innovative irrigation technology. A photovoltaic powered drip irrigation system will be available to local farmers through a lending scheme. The PREO funded pilot project will reveal how energy savings impact productivity, water use and crop diversification and provide useful insights for the successful roll-out of the business model to more farmers.

A Congolese coffee producer and distributor, Café Kivu is growing its operations by investing in clean energy and by empowering local entrepreneurs. Solar-hybrid bean roasting technology will boost production at Café Kivu. Distribution will be expanded through a franchise licensing and asset loan system, providing local entrepreneurs with mobile coffee carts that will take the brand into the heart of urban centres. In time, Café Kivu will grow its business into US, Middle East, and Asian markets.  

KOOLBOKS is pioneering a sustainable cold storage model that enhances the resilience of female fish traders in the coastal city of Lagos, Nigeria. The system provides off-grid solar refrigerators (together with LED lighting and USB ports) that are made available through microcredit loans and pay-as-you-go financing. It’s a clean alternative to diesel generators and ice blocks. Koolboks also reduces spoilage and improves profitability.

Solar home system distributor PEG Africa is partnering with water pump manufacturers to distribute solar pumps to Senagalese vegetable, millet and groundnut farmers at a pay as you go price point. With PREO grant support, PEG will grow its supply chain, distribution and after sales network and so give the farmers clean, accessible technology for optimal productivity.

Bodawerk is piloting Agr E-Hub, a new generation energy system that powers new mechanisation opportunities for Ugandan farmers, who continue to rely on manual labour due to the unaffordability of agricultural machinery. Agr E-Hub is a low-cost, multi-purpose tractor, powered by Li-ion battery packs charged through a mini-grid and made available via a pay as you go scheme. This system will spread the mechanisation of tilling, ploughing, threshing, milling and transporting. It will boost both yield and crop value and will offer fresh development prospects for farmers.

Off-grid electrification project REPARLE (Renewable Energy Powering Agriculture and Rural Livelihood Enhancement) will sustainably scale the circular economy model in refugee and host smallholder farming communities in northern Uganda. The company will buy agricultural waste (that’s usually burned) and turn it into clean cooking fuel and displace carbon-based fuels that degrade the environment and harm health. It will also support farming agri-processing activities by providing mini-grid connections, electric vehicles for transporting goods and advanced crop management techniques.

Practical Action Consulting will empower women smallholder farmers in rural northern Malawi by developing a sustainable, vertically-integrated business model for their crops. In partnership with African Mini-Grids (AMG) and Modern Farming Technologies (MFT), this pilot programme will upskill women farmers by providing a solar drip irrigation system for greenhouses and for solar refrigeration. It will also facilitate sales to boost income from farming.

Uganda-based Zembo Motorcycles is planning to demonstrate the technical and financial viability of battery swap solar stations for electric motorcycles (e-motorcycles). Right now, Zembo has six stations in Kampala that service 40 e-motorcycles. The intention is to grow into remote and peri-urban rural areas. Extending its network by 120km along the Masaka Road, Zembo will provide the first corridor of solar-powered, off-grid battery recharging stations in Africa.

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PREO funding applications give insight into productive use of energy trends in sub-Saharan Africa

The Powering Renewable Energy Opportunities (PREO) programme has received a healthy response to its call for Action Learning Projects and Innovative Supply-chain Based Partnerships funding proposals.

PREO is supported by the IKEA Foundation and UK aid, and delivered by the Carbon Trust and Energy 4 Impact. The programme aims to boost productive electricity demand in off-grid areas of sub-Saharan Africa as a route to economic growth and job creation. Data collected from the applications provides an interesting snapshot of trends in the renewable energy market across the region.

Most notably, an overwhelming majority are seeking funding for solar energy sources (88%), powered by either stand-alone systems (64%) or mini-grids (27%). For businesses reliant on small to medium appliances, such larger power systems enable a higher consumption of energy, which is key to transforming rural economies.

Modern healthcare has also become increasingly vital during the COVID-19 pandemic so it is perhaps unsurprising that health (13%) is the third largest cluster within the pool of applicants. Whilst there is a geographical spread of applications across 29 countries, the appetite for productive use of energy in off-grid areas appears strongest in Nigeria (22%), Kenya (19%) and Uganda (10%). A majority of proposals are from applicants at the start-up stage (60%) of development which suggests funding is often needed to test productive use of energy concepts before businesses can get off the ground.

The lion’s share of the eligible 157 applications were from off-grid energy companies or power suppliers. However, the proposals received from non-energy companies, most commonly agribusinesses, are a promising sign that a wider range of private enterprises are becoming integrated into productive use and renewable energy initiatives.

Energy 4 Impact and the Carbon Trust are pleased to announce the launch of the Powering Renewable Energy Opportunities (PREO) Programme, which aims to promote renewable energy in sub-Saharan Africa to boost long-term job creation and reduce poverty through economic growth and empowerment of women.

Co-funded by IKEA Foundation and UK aid and delivered by the Carbon Trust and Energy 4 Impact, PREO will support energy projects and partnerships that use a market-led approach to promoting productive use of energy (PUE), and support revenue growth in the companies involved.

While a reliable and affordable energy supply is vital for people living in rural sub-Saharan Africa to power their homes and businesses, energy access alone is not enough to transform economies. To be effective rural energy programmes need to consider the social and economic context for each local area to ensure the right enabling environment exists to build partnerships that give access to finance, technology and markets.

PREO promotes direct collaboration between energy users and power suppliers to realise the potential of energy access to improve livelihoods and boost economic growth. It therefore supports locally-relevant productive use of energy initiatives through:

  • grant funding to stimulate investment and income-generating activities;
  • partnership building support to bring various actors together for specific projects and programmes;
  • offering advisory services to companies involved in PUE, including market intelligence, partnering and financing advice.

In addition, PREO aims to create a globally significant centre of PUE expertise in the sector, by developing a platform to support, direct and communicate market and project learnings, which will be key to achieve wider impact.

PREO is expected to create 3,500 jobs, empower 1,000 women and benefit more than 11,000 rural households.

By supporting PREO, the IKEA Foundation can effectively work together with other partners and investors to make renewable energy accessible to many communities more quickly, reducing carbon emissions and enabling people living in poverty to afford a better life,

says Jolanda van Ginkel, Programme Manager for Renewable Energy ,the IKEA Foundation.