Backing Innovation: The Formula for Achieving Universal Energy Access

David Lecoque, CEO, ARE

6 Key Trends in the Use of Digital Technologies in Energy Access Markets

Chris Browne, Country Specialist, Energy Catalyst Accelerator Programme

Energy Catalyst accelerates the innovation needed to end energy poverty. Through financial and advisory support, and by building strategic partnerships and uncovering new insights, Energy Catalyst supports the development of technologies and business models that can improve lives in Africa and Asia.

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One feature of the support provided in the accelerator is centred on helping innovators to understand their product-market fit. This article is based upon the wealth of experience gained through those activities, as well as a range of interviews with key market players, and is a snapshot of collective research undertaken with the Energy Catalyst portfolio companies on how are digital technologies used in energy access markets, and what impacts are they having?

Digital technologies underpin almost every energy system in the sector today. These enabling technologies have increased scale, efficiency, and investment in ways that, in some cases, were not possible even three-to-five years ago. Our research has found four distinct groups which we have called the four pillars:

The arrows indicate the interplay between these pillars. In real-world applications, technologies from some or all of the pillars are combined to form a huge range of systems, used at all levels – governments, to developers, to the customers themselves.

Our research uncovers 6 key trends, explored below:


Application programming interfaces (APIs) are used by every major digital system in the world today. They are a set of commands that allow platforms to exchange information without the need for human intervention. Through the wide use of such APIs, digital platforms in the energy access sector are being interconnected more than ever, and this trend is set to continue. An excellent example is the automatic flow of data from onsite devices, through mobile or satellite internet to remote monitoring services, like Nortech and Ferntech, and then, along with data from many other sources, into project & portfolio management platforms like Odyssey.


This is the backbone of many of the new digital innovations explored in this research and was widely cited by our interviewees as the biggest enabling technology for their products. Cloud computing services have democratised access to vast data storage and computing power, and revolutionised what technology providers can deliver at a relatively low cost. Shifting computing to the cloud reduces the need for companies to buy and maintain computing infrastructure, centralises their operations, and shrinks the footprint of technology that is required onsite.


Historically, technology businesses in energy access have been forced to vertically integrate. Provision of off-the-shelf digital platforms that are flexible to a range of companies needs has reduced the burden of in-house technology development. This is best seen in the PAYG sector where platforms like Angaza have made it viable for companies to have a lighter structure, with resources focussed on developing their model, reaching customers, and profiling risk.


Following the trend in the rest of the world, more and more data are being collected. Once collected, they are aggregated at a scale not seen before giving the industry huge opportunities for learning. Data sets are being provided as a service, by Fraym and Nithio, or open-source, by e-GUIDE & ViDA, enabling organisations at every level to make informed decisions about their strategy.


Digital technologies have become vast and complex, but it cannot be forgotten that the infrastructure and computer literacy of many of the sector’s customers does not grow at the same rate. Successful technologies remain simple on the ‘front-end’. This is a trend that will continue for years to come.


While digital technologies have revolutionised our sector in many ways, this research has also highlighted the inescapable fact that they are not the whole story. Many projects still need human-to-human contact to be successful. In Bangladesh, for example, some micro-finance institutions found that digitising loan repayments meant the loss of face-to-face contact which actually lead to a rise in defaulters. In some contexts, instead of entirely replacing humans, digital tech can work in parallel to facilitate our interactions. ENACT’s ComET platform is an excellent example – facilitating a community’s learning while feeding information back to the developer.

For more information about this research, contact the author at

The Energy Catalyst is cooperating with ARE to improve knowledge exchange between the UK and other DRE companies and to bring innovative companies and technologies to the forefront of the sector.


Boosting Digital Innovation in the Energy Sector with Start-ups & Power Utilities

To boost digitalisation in the energy sector, the recently launched Digital Energy Facility (DEF) programme, funded by the European Union and implemented by Agence Française de Développement (AFD), is launching a Digital Energy Challenge comprising an annual Call for Projects. The challenge targets two categories: Start-ups (pre-seed and early-stage activities) to scale up digital innovations or digital transformation projects for energy access, and Utilities in innovative public/private partnerships with technology/service providers, to test and scale up digital innovations for increased energy access and better energy services.

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Jean-Pierre Barral, Director of the Energy and Digital Transition department at AFD confirmed that the challenge will break new ground with energy access players: “It is the first programme that encourages partnerships between electricity companies and start-ups in digital innovation". The Digital Energy Challenge 2021 Call for Projects runs from 6 April to 30 June 2021 and has a geographical scope of sub-Saharan Africa.

Each year a dozen winning projects will benefit from both financial and technical support. An annual budget of EUR 1.5 million from the European Union will enable grant funding for equipment and software, training, recruitment costs for start-ups, and product/service purchase costs linked to technology/service providers for utilities. Technical Assistance will also be provided for all utility projects and certain start-up projects on a case-by-case basis, such as project management support, strategic and technical expertise and accounting/reporting assistance. Challenge winners will also be invited to attend a Boot Camp run by cross-sectorial experts to optimise successful project implementation, foster synergies between project winners and share best-practices.

What are the main eligibility criteria?

For the two categories, Start-ups and Utilities, all projects must have a digital component, incorporating telecom, computer or cloud-based technology as a core element of the project. All projects must be innovative, either intrinsically or innovative for the local market or country. All project scopes must be local, i.e., the company/organisation must have management activities headquartered in the country where their activity or project takes place.

The three different themes per category, which will be reconsidered every year, have been specifically chosen to support sectorial needs and strong market dynamics in the digital and energy spheres. More details on themes and eligibility criteria will be available on dedicated Challenge webpages from 6 April 2021.

For more information contact us at:


Local Innovation: Creating a Foundation for Success in Rural Liberia

After several years of working closely with the people of Totota, Liberia, NRECA International in partnership with USAID/Liberia collaborated with this rural community to establish an electric cooperative in 2018 to bring them affordable, reliable and safe electricity. In less than two years, the utility became self-sufficient, has met all operating costs, paid employee salaries, and amassed a modest cash reserve with no subsidies from the Liberian government.

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Electricity is generated from a solar hybrid mini-grid that will ultimately provide service to about 2,000 people. Since 2018, more than 1,500 people in 341 households and businesses have access to reliable electricity. This has given a much-needed boost to the town which is located along the major route that connects Monrovia, Liberia’s capital, to the rest of West Africa. Having access to electricity from the mini-grid has helped support economic growth in Totota, where small businesses now provide cold storage for fish, meat and other food that can be sold to travellers.

Fostering a culture of creative solutions in challenging environments

Totota Electric Cooperative (TEC) now has three full-time technicians and two line workers, who report to an operations director, a commercial manager and a general manager who reports to a local board of directors. NRECA International continues to provide TEC local staff with technical assistance and training so they can continue to operate independently and have the capacity to improve. While much of this was done before the pandemic closed borders, today one NRECA International staff member in Totota has served as the single onsite support to help the cooperative keep things running.

Realising that information is critical to ensure productivity and operations remain strong at TEC during these challenging times, Aaron Mineen, NRECA’s onsite senior engineer developed the TEC Dashboard, an automated web-based monitoring platform for the entire utility’s operations. The application was populated with key performance indicators and data needed to inform NRECA International and TEC staff of the utility’s commercial and technical status in real time. This includes energy use, power outages, peak load, commercial data on bill payment, customer map, and more. This data feeds many reports, to include monthly board packets to the TEC Board of Directors. The solution is similar to third-utility party software monitoring systems. While it may not seem cutting-edge to many in utility management, the environment in which this idea was born and implemented should be recognised not just as innovative but lauded as necessary and critical to its future success in these remote areas.

Prior to this, manual data collection was very cumbersome for TEC’s monthly analyses and reports. Digitising this process has not just changed Aaron’s workload, it has improved the quality of TEC’s monitoring and evaluation systems, ultimately improving the operational efficiency of the co-op.

Encouraging independent, local innovation

Innovation isn’t defined solely by sophisticated solutions using advanced technology. Human centred design, when people have the ability and freedom to present creative ideas that can be tested and eventually implemented to improve systems they require, is what is truly innovative. The TEC Dashboard will be used to inform staff regarding system operations, the financial performance of the utility, and present a transparent view of the co-op’s performance to both internal and external stakeholders.

In remote areas like Totota, expensive third-party software solutions are not readily available when things go wrong. To make sure that utilities like TEC remain successful, NRECA International continues to recognise the importance of capitalising on local and available resources – the sun for power, and grassroots ideas and creativity to keep the community powered for generations.

Clean & Resilient Grids are Digital Grids: The Role of Smart Metering in Utility Digitalisation

Distribution utilities are struggling to serve their core customers in urban areas and cannot extend their reach to serve rural customers. As recently as November, despite the country's enormous electricity supply relative to demand, the Nigerian grid collapsed after "multiple trippings," sparking widespread blackouts.

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Power outages, whether short or long, force consumers to turn to inefficient and toxic backup diesel generators that threaten public health and the environment. The IFC estimates that some 20-30 million generators are in use due to unreliable grids and emit as much annual CO2 as 700-1,000 coal-fired power plants. The need for reliable power and consistent energy quality has never been more urgent.

The microgrid utility model is a necessary solution to the problem of energy access. But as microgrid utilities grow to operate dozens - and hopefully hundreds - of microgrids under a single portfolio, the risk of more extensive failures from poor financial performance and overlooked operations is increasing. The last thing we want to see is for microgrid infrastructure to become as decrepit and unreliable as distribution utilities’ infrastructure.

Many of the challenges that utilities and microgrids face can are avoidable by adopting digital Operational Technologies (OT). Utility digitisation gives grid operators visibility into their electric grids. They can measure how grid assets perform, watch for warning signs of early failures, make investment cases for new infrastructure, understand outages and other anomalies, proactively respond to crises, protect against future threats, and efficiently expand the network. This crucial information can help utility leadership evaluate and plan for new assets if needed or realise smaller tweaks that could improve their existing system’s efficiency and lifespan.

Smart meters are often overlooked; they are much more than a method to automate billing and customer service; they are essential to convert grid-edge information into transformative action. But realising digitalisation takes more than just smart metering. It also must include other OT systems like outage management, work order management, distribution network management, and asset management. These OT systems also require data acquisition about the grid’s assets and the conditions of each of those assets - data that can be represented as a geospatial model of the grid, down to the individual customer connection.

The conventional approach to utility digitalisation uses Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) to do smart metering. AMI systems range from USD 150 to 800 per customer to deploy and take months or years of planning and integration to put into service. More time and expenses are required to integrate AMI with OT systems for broader utility digitalisation.

Just as SparkMeter made smart metering significantly more affordable and available to small-scale utilities, it is now doing the same for digital utility OT. The company has recently begun to offer services that utilise drones/Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) to rapidly and affordably map and inspect distribution grids to generate the geospatial data needed for OT systems like outage management. SparkMeter hopes to help utilities and microgrids in emerging markets rapidly surpass utilities in developed economies in terms of their ability to deliver decarbonised, resilient electricity to all.

Ferntech’s Remote Monitoring & Control Delivers Cost-Saving Improvements in O&M

A hybrid distributed energy system is complex, especially if it combines solar, storage, and a diesel generator. It requires supervision and careful management to make sure all components are working together efficiently. The complexity often requires mini-grid developers to invest in expensive control systems to manage storage dispatch, curtail the solar resource if it is over-producing, or bring on the generators when necessary. 

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Germany-based Ferntech is taking a different approach, designing remote monitoring and control systems that collect data and analyse and manage the operation of mini-grids remotely in a user-friendly and affordable manner.

Ferntech’s approach is designed to use bi-directional communications protocols to connect to a wide range of components from any manufacturer, monitor a fleet of systems remotely through a single dashboard, and easily programme changes that will improve performance. 

Fundamental to the Ferntech system is the collection of large amounts of data that can be analysed to trigger actions to optimise performance and save money. The remote monitoring service is designed to benefit off-grid, hybrid microgrid and mini-grid power systems and addresses a range of distributed energy systems from under 10 kW to 1 MW. 

One customer currently using Ferntech’s remote management services is Equatorial Power, now partnering with Engie to develop a mini-grid that will power a new industrial park in addition to powering communities on the Ugandan island of Lolwe in Lake Victoria. 

Equatorial Power’s Chief Technology Officer, Abishek Bharadwaj, explained that since the mini-grid is on a remote island, it would cost a lot to travel there, “so it makes a lot of sense to use a remote monitoring system.”

Bharadwaj explained how remote monitoring and local staff worked synergistically on another Equatorial Power project: Ferntech data on a distributed energy system showed mysterious power spikes. Further analysis revealed that they were being created by a loose wire in a generator. Equatorial Power’s electrical engineering staff remotely supported an onsite technician to troubleshoot the issue and resolve the problem without traveling to the system. “That paid for the cost of travel right there,” says Bharadwaj. 

Ferntech has remote microgrid monitoring systems set up in 15 countries on five continents. Most are energy access customers and some are commercial and industrial (C&I).

Fleet Control for Microgrids: The Stellar Microgrid OS Story & Context

By focusing on a piece, we can obscure the puzzle. There exists a welter of issues—around governance, regulation, finance, trade, etc.—that data and its handling, New Sun Road’s business, cannot solve. When tempted to overemphasise the role of digitalisation and optimisation in what I consider our largest collective challenges, climate change and vast inequalities, I visualise my 16-month-old daughter’s face. Making smaller renewable systems, or microgrids, more scalable by lowering operating and capital costs is arguably a necessary, but definitely not sufficient, condition for the clean energy transition that will preserve for her and her peers a stable, secure Earth.     

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Yet it likely plays a part. So, what’s a microgrid? Simply a collection of electrical generation, loads, meters, power conversion equipment, and storage? Yes, but also the people who make it work.

New Sun Road has met, and worked with, many obscenely smart people in the microgrid and distributed renewables industry.  A few would otherwise be working on quantum gravity, or DIY cars, or the next episode of The Expanse­, were it not for their commitment to 1) climate change solutions and 2) equity and access. We find these twin pillars of the New Sun Road (PBC) mission very much alive in most people we have the privilege of working with in the sector.

From these partners and kindred spirits, we’ve learned a great deal about remote power systems—whether off-grid, bad-grid, or backup resilience systems. We’ve learned that interfaces for managing many of them, hundreds or even thousands at once, should be intuitive and fun. We’ve learned that everyone begins struggling with the same Tower of Babel of device communications protocols, portal overload, and messy data models that we did when we first began, as microgrid developers in first Vietnam and then Uganda, years ago. And we’ve learned that even those who would otherwise be working on quantum gravity will struggle with network and IT issues — especially when that network is sitting in a village several hours from the nearest city, or even road. 

These are a few of the problems we aimed to solve once we turned from developing microgrids to technologies for them in 2016. We distilled our solutions into Stellar Microgrid OS, New Sun Road’s flagship product and a market-defining platform, now in its fifth year of commercial service. Along with our Stellar Edge device and Stellar AI predictive optimisations, our technology helps many of the best-known names in off-grid energy access easily and cost-effectively scale services to some of the most climate vulnerable, underserved communities in Africa. And we’re not done.

Our work began with a fishing village of 800 or so people in Ugandan Lake Victoria. Today we serve microgrid fleet operators across three main regions, Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, and the US.  This is a category created by New Sun Road, which encompasses not only electricity utilities, but anyone who manages a portfolio of distributed power systems, including other verticals such as telecom, C&I, NGO, and electrical OEMs. After a 7x step in NSR’s core IoT sales last year, Stellar Microgrid OS will have 1,000 sites reporting in the first part of 2021, and NSR is now raising the funds necessary to carry it to the 10,000 mark, our next milestone.         

Over seven years since planning our first microgrid, we have learned a great deal. Our vision now expands to disconnected villages throughout the global South, as well as to utilities and telecoms in OECD nations seeking resilience.  Yet we as a company refuse to lose sight of the context needed for our larger success: peace, equity, and the relentless work of millions of dedicated people in the streets, in committee meetings, in boardrooms and workshops all over the world.  We’re humbled by folks who work not on data streams and code every day, but on the tedious three-dimensional physical problems that we must, and shall, overcome—and we’re grateful, on behalf of our children, to be a small part of the effort.

Remote Monitoring for Solar & Water Supply Systems in Rural Areas

Again and again, you can observe that solar plants or water supply systems in rural and hard-to-reach regions do not run properly. Often, these systems stop working due to minor technical defects. Remote Monitoring Systems can reduce downtime and increase the system lifetime. Therefore, EcoPhi has developed solutions for both small-scale and complex solar and water pumping systems in rural areas.

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EcoPhi Renewables Engineering GmbH is a company based in Germany and was founded with the goal to make solar plants and water systems in Africa more sustainable. EcoPhi has a vision of a world free of fossil fuels and where everyone has safe access to clean drinking water. Our team members are well experienced on-site and thus know of the problems and challenges of managing solar and water systems in rural Africa.

To achieve this goal, EcoPhi has developed a remote condition monitoring system to monitor solar and water systems even in remote areas. Defects on the systems can be identified and fixed quickly or even prevented with predictive analyses. In case of a defect, available specialists can be identified and mediated through our local network and instructed immediately by using the underlying system data. For the operator, this significantly reduces the effort and cost of troubleshooting.

But it is not only the obvious faults and downtimes, but very often potentials also remain unused. With remote monitoring, the performance of systems for energy and water supply can be improved individually and without putting too much stress on the single components.

EcoPhi covers everything necessary from the hardware to the subsequent services. A good selection of customised hardware components makes it possible to monitor both smaller and complex systems cost-effectively. With the different service levels, there surely is a fitting service for every user. From simple data transmission and visualisation to the “We-take-care-of-your-system” package.

But sustainability is more than just technically improving a system. Local know-how and good planning at the beginning are two essential aspects for sustainable projects in developing countries. This is why we also offer training and technical advice at the very beginning of a project and why we are constantly expanding our network of local companies, technicians and educational institutions.

In order to continue improving the operation of technical systems in Sub-Saharan Africa in a sustainable way, we are looking for reliable and motivated partners. We are happy to get in contact with you if you are interested in our solutions our would like to partner with us:

At the Forefront of Storage Technology to Secure, Uninterrupted Energy Supply

Super capacitor technology is a safe, highly performant, long life-cycle energy storage technology, and the better choice compared to conventional electrochemical batteries such as lead-acid or lithium-ion.

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Its major technological advantages lie in the estimated lifetime of 40 plus years, compared to 5-15 years with conventional chemical batteries, and considerably fewer quality issues. This leads to more reliably uptime and a considerably reduced total cost of ownership of lifetime. Furthermore, supercaps technology eliminates the safety issues, for example related to fire hazard related to electrochemical batteries.

W. Giertsen Energy Solutions (WGES), a system integrator and specialist for solar powered applications in demanding environments, is working with the Sirius Capacitor Module (“Sirius”), designed and manufactured by Kilowatt Labs, headquartered in New York. 

Sirius is a supercapacitor-based storage that stores energy electrostatically instead of common electrochemical batteries. Because of no use of chemicals, supercapacitor technology is a safe, highly performant, long life-cycle energy storage technology. Since the Sirius is storing his energy electrostatically, there is no chemical reaction while charging or discharging. Therefore, the supercapacitor storage modules do not degrade or lose capacity – resulting in longer cycle life, very high efficiency during cycling, and the absence of any risk of thermal runaway. In addition, the technology encompasses the full suite of safety features.

The Sirius supercaps storage modules are very suitable to integrate with solar applications for residential homes, commercial businesses and micro-grids. They can be integrated with any new solar and storage project, but as well are perfectly suited for a retrofit upgrade of an existing storage in an installed system. A remote monitoring solution fitting with the systems, ensures full visibility and control over the performance and condition of the system.

WGES has successfully integrated the technology into its application engineering and system designs and implemented into projects with its partners. Since 2015, WGES has a strategic partnership with the NIS Foundation, a non-profit organisation working with stabilisation, reconciliation, and peace support initiatives in (post-) conflict areas. Through this partnership, WGES has successfully designed and installed solar hybrid systems in nine public health facilities in different regions across Somalia.

Two recent success stories for the NIS Foundation and WGES partnership are the Laasanod and Erigavo public hospitals in the elapsed physical year of 2020. Prior to the installation of the solar hybrid systems, the two hospitals incurred monthly energy bills of USD 3,000 to 4,000 and now reduced to less than USD 300. Moreover, this expensive power was bedeviled by outages that often-paralysed important operations of the two hospitals. They so far have relied on diesel generators and fossil fuels to ensure essential power back-up.

The solar and storage hybrid system implemented has significantly increased the availability and reliability of electricity, and therefore the quality of health services and vital medical treatments while at the same time reducing the dependency on fossil fuels. The hospitals now have a resilient energy infrastructure that improves the quality of health services and ensures the uninterrupted use of vital medical equipment to save lives.

StorEn Technologies at the 6th Africa Mini Grid Summit

StorEn will launch its proprietary vanadium flow batteries at the 6th Africa Mini Grid Summit (virtual) on 25 and 26 February 2021. It will be an exciting opportunity for us to share with the African mini-grid community more information about our exciting technology and the benefits in mini-grids, as an alternative to lithium ad lead acid batteries, in duration, resilience and environmental profile.

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Our evolutionary vanadium flow batteries are based on the demonstrated fundamentals and strengths of the vanadium flow technology, such as the exceptional duration and resilience, and embed our proprietary technology to deliver efficient and cost-effective energy storage.

Our battery solution for African mini-grids is a 5 kW/30 kWh. When discharged at its full load of 5 kW, our battery will deliver six hours of power, or longer durations with smaller loads. Several batteries can be connected together to increase the power and energy rating of the battery installation. They can be charged indifferently by solar panels and/or wind, or if present, by the grid.

StorEn's batteries last 25 years or 15,000 cycles. Unlike lithium batteries, our batteries discharge at 100% Depth of Discharge without damage. They retain 100% of their capacity throughout their 25-year lifetime. Hence, the battery pack will not need to be oversized to compensate for future loss of capacity.

Our batteries operate within a wide temperature range, from freezing up to 50°C. Unlike lithium and lead acid batteries, when operated anywhere within this range (0°C to 50°C), our vanadium flow battery will not experience chemical decay and a consequent reduction in the battery’s duration. Outside the ideal temperature range, the battery can be operated with the addition of devices to control the temperature of its electrolyte. As the reaction time is milliseconds, StorEn’s batteries can be used as a power back-up device, for example in telecom towers.

StorEn’s vanadium flow batteries love the environment too and are no environmental hazard. We do not want to contribute to the electrification of off-grid communities at the expense of the environment. The vanadium electrolyte is reusable, hence there is no need to mine fresh vanadium once the battery needs replacing.

End-of-life processing is easy and affordable. The batteries are primarily made of plastic and metal therefore no specialised recycling facilities are necessary.

It will be our pleasure to share additional information on our batteries during the virtual Summit. Feel free to reach out after the event too. We would have liked to meet you personally in Nairobi, but the current health concerns prevented this from happening. We look forward to meeting you all personally at the earliest available opportunity.

StorEn’s batteries: the ideal solution for African mini grids!

Introducing Plug & Play to Productive Rural Applications Solar Home Systems with the 2nd Generation of the LS-AC

Solar home systems have evolved during the past years to answer the need of people without electricity access. It started with pico systems and proceeded with small scale solar home systems to power lamps or charge laptops and phones. But now the demand of plug and play systems for productive applications is rising.

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Why? Because with the use of productive systems, people can generate money. For example, agriculture investments have been estimated by World Bank to be two to four time more effective than in others sector. The increasing need to stop urbanisation will also require more medical centres in rural areas.

This requires electricity and especially higher power systems which can do so. But the infrastructure set up is way more complex than previously where AC and DC supply is needed, inverters and all needs to be wired and installed correctly to ensure the effectiveness of the investment. In addition, high power applications require more and stricter safety features.

At this point our LS-AC comes into play. The LS AC is a fully-fledged ready-to-use system which makes the product useful for many applications, while significantly reducing the service, maintenance and installation cost. Therefore, leading to a higher and safer return on investment.

Perfectly suited for:

  • Rural medical centres
  • Home, farm, cooling application
  • Shop, restaurant application
  • Industry application

The LiFePO4 Battery for the compact LS AC Solar Home System is using one of the longest lifetime Lithium technologies and is therefore perfect for solar applications. Additionally, the wide operating temperature range makes it ideal for most areas in the world.

  •  Battery Capacity: 2.56 kWh – 5.12 kWh
  • Load Output
    • 110 or 220 AC for high power applications
    • 25.6 V DC for small power loads with highest efficiency
  • Solar input: 2 kWp
  • AC-Backup Function
  • Pay as You Go Integration on demand

Supply Flexibility & Energy Security (Battery & Storage):

Stable electricity is key to run many applications, such as for food supplies in which the cooling chain is key. The same need holds true for offices which need a stable grid to be productive and operate. In a modern world, work without electricity or internet is paralysed. A more severe example is in the case of surgeries during nighttime in medical centres, which need stable lighting solutions to carry out treatments.

The LS-AC Solar Home System sets a new standard for uninterruptible power supply. It is possible to combine the LS-AC with the grid. The LS AC can take over within milliseconds in case of a grid outage. The grid can be a mini-grid, diesel generator or national grid.

The battery design life is > 4,000 cycles due to a high-quality battery in combination with the Zimpertec battery management system (BMS). Its excellent behaviour at low State of Charge conditions means it gives best performance during low sun conditions and allows users to use it to its full capacity.

Energy Efficiency & Performance:

The integrated MPPT Charge controller and AC inverter combined with Zimpertec’s unique single cell monitoring for optimising the battery operation can ensure the best system performance.

From the LS-AC, it is possible to use the full 2.56 kWh / 5.12 kWh battery capacity for operating appliances.

Bringing International Safety Standards to rural areas:

Plug & Play design: the LS AC is one of the few systems in the market which enable a full plug and play design. For the final installation, only small efforts required in adding the solar panels and adding the appliances. Preinstalled systems help avoiding safety errors during the installation process.


  • Earth Leakage protection (RCD)
  • Air-Breaker
  • Surge Arrestor
  • Grounding/Earthing Accessories:
    • Ground rod
    • Ground connection

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  • From Innovation to Impact: New GET.invest Support Stories Follow Renewable Energy Businesses on Their Road to Financing

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    Today, nearly 1.1 billion people around the globe still have no access to electricity, which hampers social and economic development, affects resilience, and often harms the environment. Despite promising technologies and entrepreneurship, there is a persistent mismatch between those who need and those who provide financing. In its recently launched support stories, GET.invest presents how it helps entrepreneurs overcome this hurdle.

    GET.invest, a European programme supported by the European Union, Germany, Sweden, the Netherlands and Austria, supports the mobilisation of investments in decentralised renewable energy. Through its advisory facility, the GET.invest Finance Catalyst, the programme provides a range of services that help projects and businesses become bankable, and links them to finance opportunities. The Finance Catalyst’s advisors work with innovative businesses and projects, covering various investment sizes, market segments, and stages of development. 

    In the GET.invest support stories, developers and advisors recount the challenges they faced in getting projects investment-ready, explain the support that GET.invest has provided and shed light on the difference that these projects and businesses make in the countries and communities where they operate.

    Among them is ARE Member SolarWorks!, a company that supplies a wide range of solar home systems. A few years ago, when SolarWorks! decided to change its business model from pico solar in South Africa to a fully-fledged energy service provider in Mozambique and later Malawi, one of the partners who assisted the company along the way was the GET.invest Finance Catalyst, building on the support provided by the Energising Development programme.

    GET.invest’s advisors gave hands-on advice on the financial model and business plan, ensuring these key documents were sound and met the expectations of potential financiers. The advisors also brought SolarWorks! together with similar energy service providers and financiers to discuss the business idea and bring their experience to the investor pitch. Ultimately, in 2019, the company scaled up with an amount equivalent to €3.5 million debt funding from the European Union’s impact investor ElectriFI.

    This and many more support stories are available on the GET.invest website. You can also listen to the recently launched Shine On: Solar Success in Africa Podcast. Developed in cooperation with SolarPower Europe, the podcast episodes feature companies from the GET.invest Finance Catalyst portfolio which discuss challenges and opportunities in the rapidly growing African solar market.

  • Energy SELF Portraits Photographs & Stories Contest 2020-2021

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    The collection of Energy SELF Portraits focusses on different SDG-7 dimensions such as energy access, its costs and options, its quality, its environmental implications as well as how energy efficiency and renewable energy may offer solutions to the SDG-7 challenge. As energy is an enabler of many of the other SDGs, special emphasis is given to stories that highlight the particular role of energy in reducing poverty and hunger, increasing health, education and gender equality as well as tackling climate change.

    The second round of the contest (1 February – 21 March) will give special visibility to topic of energy poverty, a problem that has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 outbreak as the global recession triggered by lockdown has deepened pre-existing inequalities and has emphasised the importance of energy and energy services in leading a safe, healthy and decent life.

    “Energy poverty, commonly understood as the inability to secure needed levels of energy services in the home, means living in a home impossible to cool or to heat, because of excessive energy bills, low incomes and poor energy efficiency”

    WAME wants to help document the challenges of energy poverty in order to assure that better conditions can be met in the future. Issues of energy poverty include but are not limited to underperforming insulation and inefficient appliances, the lack of guaranteed access to energy and other essential utilities and rising energy consumption.

    The contest will accept Energy SELF Portraits which conform to the following photo formats:

    1. Traditional family Self-Portrait: a photograph taken in or at the family home with one or more family members and a collection of energy devices.
    2. Technology Self-Portrait: a photograph of one or more people standing with a type of technological device or process which has a connection to the energy challenge.
    3. Community Self-Portrait: a photograph with one or more people and their collective connection with energy, for example, students at a school, doctors at a hospital, etc.

    The Jury is composed of:

    • Swetha RaviKumar Bhagwat, Head of FSR Global
    • Sherry Kennedy, Director of Communications for Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL)
    • Luca Locatelli, environmental photographer and filmmaker
    • Kip Patrick, Senior Director of Advocacy and Communications at the Clean Cooking Alliance
    • Kristina Skierka, CEO of Power for All

    Together they will select the winners of 15 prizes worth USD 100 and one overall winner for the contest who will receive a prize of USD 500.

    All winning portraits and stories will be made available to view on and the social media of WAME and partners of the contest.

    The CONTEST is open to EVERYONE! We invite all contest participants to publish their portraits on Instagram, using the hashtag #energyselfportraits

    • Launch of the contest: 21 November 2020
    • First deadline: 31 January 2021
    • Second deadline: 21 March 2021
    • Last deadline: 21 April 2021
  • Publication Database on Energypedia For the Most Relevant & Recent Off-grid Publications in 2020

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    Energypedia maintains an open-source and free “Publication database” containing recent and most relevant publications on Decentralised Renewable Energy (DRE) topics. In 2020, we documented 170 publications on topics related to energy efficiency, off-grid appliances, solar energy, impacts, cooking energy etc. Browse through the database to access the latest and most relevant publications from the sector.

    Do you have a DRE publication to share? Create an energypedia account and add it to the publication database here.

    Energypedia is a wiki-based platform for collaborative knowledge exchange on renewable energy, energy access, and energy efficiency topics in developing countries. On energypedia, we host over 4,800 energy articles on different DRE topics. Join energypedia and share your information and experience with a huge community of practitioners, researchers, and policy makers!


  • ARE & TAREA Sign MoU to Support DRE Businesses & Market Development in Tanzania

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    A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) has been signed between the Tanzania Renewable Energy Association (TAREA) and ARE on 12 January 2021. The MoU sets out the shared goals of the two organisations to support decentralised renewable energy (DRE) businesses from and active in Tanzania.

    The associations will work together on a number of activities, including joint advocacy to create a conducive market environment for DRE actors accompanying and contributing to the government’s efforts to achieve renewable energy targets as well as targeted business development and market intelligence support for DRE companies.

    In this regard, the associations aim to develop the capacity of renewable energy stakeholders in Tanzania to create local jobs and enhance the capacity of the sector to raise increased financing for renewable energy projects and businesses. This will be achieved by spearheading in-person or virtual “DRE Investment Academies” or similar trainings for Tanzanian and international DRE developers and other stakeholders, with the aim to provide additional fundraising and technical support.

    Finally, the MoU states that the partners will deliver joint offers and support services for Tanzanian renewable energy actors, who work to address energy access, energy security and climate change challenges in Tanzania and conduct applied research creating the market for renewable energy technologies.

    Download the press release

  • ARE & ESA sign MoI to Strengthen Joint Efforts on Space-Based Applications for DRE

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    Earlier this month, ARE signed an MoI with the European Space Agency with the common objective of strengthening the joint efforts on space-based applications - leveraging the use of space applications for advancing sustainable innovation and development in support of affordable, secure and clean energy and energy services, addressing, but not limited to, rural communities in low- and medium- income countries.

    Contact: Jens Jaeger

  • ARE Wins Seat at the IRENA Coalition Steering Committee

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    ARE CEO David Lecoque has joined the Steering Committee of the IRENA Coalition for Action, which is at the vanguard of global talks to drive the global energy transition in line with SDG-7. To that end, David will work with the Coalition network of private sector, civil society, research institutes, intergovernmental organisations, and IRENA which acts as its Secretariat. ARE will strive to share its experience and put DRE and energy access at the forefront of the global renewable energy debate, generating fresh traction and attention, as well as attracting more players and investment to deliver on clean rural electrification.

    Contact: David Lecoque 

  • ARE Closed First Ever Technology & Innovation Forum with Resounding Success

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    ARE, in cooperation with GET.invest, a European programme supported by the European Union, Germany, Sweden, the Netherlands, and Austria, held its first ever Technology & Innovation Forum (TIF 2021) on 27-28 January 2021. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the event was held virtually.

    The event attracted over 1,000 registrations including energy experts as well as a diverse group of stakeholders, financial institutions, and civil societies. Speakers at the virtual event discussed innovation as a key driver of economic growth, development, as well as climate mitigation and adaptation. In emerging markets, new high-quality and modular technologies, such as AI, advanced GIS mapping, remote monitoring, new control software and systems, as well as innovative energy storage solutions and productive use applications are helping drive last-mile rural electrification with decentralised renewable energy (DRE).

    David Lecoque, CEO of ARE said: “At ARE we see innovation as essential to the future of the sector DRE sector and as key driver of economic growth and development in rural communities, as well as climate mitigation and adaptation.”

    TIF 2021 provided an important opportunity to shed light on, and stimulate stakeholders’ thinking about how they can contribute to furthering innovation and progress in promoting investment in DRE systems. New technologies boost efficiency of systems, increase their longevity and technical sustainability, help project developers better estimate demand, increase financial sustainability of projects, mitigate climate change, and help communities respond to health crises, for example via the deployment of modular health clinics for rural communities. The challenge remains the affordability of such solutions, making the solutions known to end-users and understanding customer needs.

    In addition to high level discussions and debates, GET.invest and ARE were able to facilitate over 200 virtual matchmaking sessions, enabling investors, technology providers, project developers, as well as other innovators in the sector to connect.

    The event was sponsored by Schneider Electric, Norvento Enerxia, NXT Grid, SparkMeter, and Studer Innotec. ARE also strategically partnered with Energy Catalyst, ACCESS Coalition, CLUB-ER, Efficiency for Access, Energypedia, India Energy Storage Alliance, Mini-Grid Partnership, Power Africa, Power for All, REN21, Smart Power India, and UNIDO ITPO Germany.

  • Registrations Open: 6th ARE Energy Access Investment Forum (Virtual, 17-18 Mar 2021)

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    The ARE Energy Access Investment Forum (EAIF) is an annual business and political exchange event aimed at bringing together the private and public sector to debate the latest financing trends and developments in rural electrification sector, do business and boost clean energy access globally and in particular in Sub-Saharan Africa, where 588 million people still lack electricity.

    Since the 1st edition of the EAIF held in Madrid in 2015, the Forum has since become the key flagship event for the decentralised renewable energy (DRE) sector, taking place in spring each year.

    Due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, EAIF will take place virtually for the first time on 17-18 March 2021. Based on the success of previous editions, ARE expects more than 1,000 participants to attend the Forum.

    The event is supported by GET.invest, a European programme which mobilises investments in DRE, supported by the European Union, Germany, Sweden, the Netherlands, and Austria.

    Register now


    Would you like to showcase your innovative off-grid solutions, products and services to investors and partners? ARE offers various opportunities to raise your profile as a key player in the sector.

    Please have a look at our sponsoring options to find out more.

  • ARE: DRE Innovations to Boost Agri-Sector Productivity & Address Global Food System Challenges

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    Zero hunger can be achieved by providing energy beneficiaries with the means to produce, transform and consume food in a clean and sustainable way, thereby enhancing both their food security and nutrition.

    Agriculture is a source of livelihood for 86% of people living in rural areas globally. Besides farming, livelihoods can encompass various activities in other key agricultural sub-sectors, including livestock and fishing and aquaculture.

    The OECD highlights three major challenges faced by the global food system:

    • Feeding a growing population
    • Providing a livelihood for farmers
    • Environmental protection

    There is a strong need for increased adoption of sustainable agricultural practices to bring the food from farm to fork while addressing the above three challenges. This is where decentralised renewable energy (DRE) technologies can and must play a key role. Moreover, as innovation in DRE-powered agricultural equipment and appliances steam ahead, their technical and commercial viability will improve further.

    Based on best practices from the 15 case studies included in this publication and general observations, ARE and UNIDO ITPO Germany developed recommendations for public and private stakeholders working in the field to boost DRE uptake to power agricultural productivity.

  • Efficiency for Access: 2021 Appliance Data Trends

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    Improving the performance and affordability of off-grid appliances and equipment can help make critical income-generating and time-saving devices more accessible to consumers in developing economies. A typical household in sub-Saharan Africa owns 2-5 appliances, compared to the 30+ appliances found in a typical European or North American household. Achieving greater parity in appliance ownership could enable households and businesses in developing countries to realise significant productivity and quality of life improvements.

    The inaugural 2018 Appliance Data Trends report presented the first snapshot of energy efficiency, product performance and market trends for off-grid appropriate appliances. Since then, the market has grown substantially. The 2021 Appliance Data Trends report builds on the 2018 iteration and presents updated product performance, energy efficiency, and pricing trends for off-grid appropriate televisions, fans, refrigerators, solar water pumps and early market insights for electric pressure cookers.

Please note that views expressed in the Co-Editorial, the In Focus section and the Special Feature of the newsletter, are those of the contributors and do not necessarily reflect ARE’s opinion.

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