Since 2012, Mobisol designs, procures, markets and services large productive-use solar home systems, combining them with mobile technology and a 36-month micro finance scheme, thereby providing a clean and affordable alternative to fossil fuels.
Thomas Gottschalk, founder of Mobisol, states: “In the future, Mobisol aspires to provide clean, reliable electricity to millions of households in low-income communities – stimulating economic and social development while simultaneously contributing to global environmental protection.”
Approximately 2 billion people worldwide live without a reliable electricity source to fill their daily energy needs. Millions of households currently manage to subsist using kerosene lanterns, diesel generators and other fossil sources that are unhealthy, harmful to the environment – and very costly. On-grid solutions have failed to address this need effectively.
The major obstacle to the extension of the national grid is that it is simply not economically viable. Strong solar radiation ratings and scattered settlement patterns predesign the region for decentralized solar solutions. However, the base of the economic pyramid lacks financial resources to purchase larger off-grid solar systems on an upfront basis.
Mobisol addresses the need for energy access in the rural off-grid regions of developing countries. Mobisol provides an alternative to grid connection by serving all electricity-related needs arising in our target customers' households. Mobisol’s micro-financed rent-to-own payment plan allows customers to purchase high-quality systems powerful enough to run small businesses. Mobisol’s custom-designed business kits enable entrepreneurial customers to start their own solar-powered enterprises such as phone and lantern charging stations, barber shops or village cinemas. Customers can therefore actually make money and simultaneously pay off their personal energy source.
Mobisol creates confidence in solar products in rural communities. A behavior change towards off-grid solutions is catalized by focusing on effective, customer education and an emphasis on both feasibility and affordability.
The plug’n play Mobisol system is quickly installed by locally trained technicians. It includes a solar panel, battery, lights, as well as a cell phone/solar lantern charger. The system is available in different sizes from 80 to 200 Watts. The entry unit can for instance illuminate a medium-sized home with eight LED bulbs, power a radio, charge various mobile phones and run a TV. The largest system powers multiple lights and consumer appliances such as a laptop or TV, a DC refrigerator and charges up to ten mobile phones or solar lanterns simultaneously. Mobisol‘s systems come complete with a full service package which includes free maintenance for three years. Through the GSM modem included in the solar controller, technical data regarding the panel, battery, energy consumption and payment patterns are tracked and monitored in a web-based interface. The remote monitoring technology allows potential maintenance problems to be addressed swiftly and enables systems to be locked automatically in case of theft or overdue payment.
Mobisol’s total budget consists of a mix of angel investors and institutional equity, institutional grants and loans from international development banks. Mobisol has raised total capital around USD 30 m and USD 6.7 m in grants and reached breakeven in early 2015.
Market expansion was furthered by political commitment such as from the Government of Rwanda. Mobisol also recently received substantial financial and operational backing from the DEG, the EU and the GSMA in order to support the build-up of infrastructure and a sustainable scale-up.
Since 2012, Mobisol has equipped more than 40,000 rural homes and businesses with solar home systems in Tanzania and Rwanda – making the company Africa’s largest rent-to-own solar energy provider by capacity installed (more than 4 MW).
So far, Mobisol has created about 800 new jobs (400 full-time, 400 on commission-base) and trained over 900 people in the local Mobisol Akademie, a training institution that teaches employees and small entrepreneurs about solar technology and the benefits of renewable off-grid electrification. This creates awareness amongst the rural population with regards to the benefits of environment-friendly energy resources whilst empowering particularly young people in this new, exciting sector.
Furthermore, our experience shows that about one third of our customers use their system for business purposes, thus creating approximately USD 5 million per year in additional income (a study by GSMA has shown that, on average, $35 per month are generated). There is a clear correlation between electrification and economic development. Energy enables the population to utilize the hours after dark for social and economic activities, creating spill-over effects resulting in increased productivity.
Mobisol solar home systems have many environmental advantages, providing the cleanest and most resource-saving option for off-grid electrification in rural Africa. One Mobisol system saves on average 0.5 tCO2eq per year, resulting in a total of 20,000 tons of CO2eq per year from all systems installed to date (based on our certification from myclimate and the UNFCCC standards for carbon savings from stand-alone solar units). Mobisol participates in carbon trading, offsetting emissions effectively and helping mitigate climate change.