Pay as you go solar power systems provide clean, affordable lighting in Kenya

© M-KOPA
A solar startup is helping to change the way rural residents in Kenya get their light and power, by offering small solar power systems, just large enough to provide home lighting and mobile phone charging, on a pay-as-you-go basis.

The majority of Kenyans (an estimated 80%) are not connected to a grid, and must light their homes by using kerosene lamps. Not only are these lamps not very efficient, but they also generate fumes from the fuel they burn, which, along with smoke from cooking fires, contributes to health problems in residents. Having a clean source of energy for lighting homes can go a long way toward increasing their quality of life,

To help bring fume-free and affordable power to rural Kenya, M-KOPA Solar offers a small solar power system to residents for just a down payment and an ongoing pay-as-you-go agreement, which lets low-income earners get a system for their home or business. The system, from d.light solar, consists of a 4 W solar panel, 3 adjustable lights, a mobile phone charging station, and a base station that manages and displays the user's credits.

The initial deposit for the M-KOPA system is 2500 shillings (about $30 USD), and then users pay a daily rate of 40 shillings (about $.46 USD) until they pay off the entire unit, which usually takes less than a year. Compared to the estimated $.70 a day it currently costs for kerosene and mobile charging, not only is it cleaner, it's cheaper. This pay-as-you-go system makes it possible for even low-income earners and those with sporadic income to pay for future credits as they have the money available. And once users pay the full amount, they own the unit free and clear, which means they get continued access to not only clean lighting, but free power as well.

To help make it even easier to make payments, M-KOPA uses the popular M-Pesa mobile payment system, allowing users to quickly transfer money to their M-KOPA account with their phone.

Tags: Kenya | Solar Power