In the village of Sidonge, a remote rural and off-grid community in western Kenya, the main street came alive at night with locals crowding into their community video hall to watch the World Cup games on a large screen.
For most of the villagers, the video hall is the only way to catch the action and it is made possible because of a solar mini-grid, which generates affordable electricity. The power is supplied on a pay-as-you-go (PAYG) basis to the community by RVE.Sol (Rural Village Energy Solutions Lda.) who developed, owns and operates the Sidonge mini-grid. RVE.Sol is a social enterprise, which leverages renewable energy technologies and innovative micro-financing models to benefit some of the world’s poorest communities.
Cleaner and affordable energy from the mini-grid is kick-starting social and environmental change in Sidonge, improving local living standards and enabling new services for the community including access to clean water, mobile phone charging, hair cutting and food processing.
Energy 4 impact has been helping both RVE.Sol and several micro enterprises in the village to realise the full economic potential of the new source of power.
The advisory team worked with RVE.Sol to assess and identify ways to increase demand, as a way of improving the economic viability of the mini-grid.
“We helped micro entrepreneurs grow and diversify their businesses by leveraging their newly-acquired access to affordable energy. We offered advice on the most suitable electric appliances and facilitated financing through a Rockefeller-funded working capital facility that enables customers to buy machinery on credit,” explains Diana Kollanyi, Advisory Programme Manager, Energy 4 Impact.
One of these entrepreneurs, Esther Wanyama, sells fried chips and plantains and shares both shop and electricity with a neighbour who blends and sells fruit juices. “Before the grid, I was cooking my chips on a wood-fired stove,” says Esther. “Now, I just plug in and fry and the chips are better quality. My business mentor at Energy 4 Impact helped me find ways to diversify my product range and increase my profitability and now my business is growing – all thanks to electricity.”
“Mini-grids have the power to bring remote villages to life,” says Stephen Nakholi, Regional Projects Manager, RVE.Sol.
“They can kick start economic growth by creating jobs and boosting livelihoods for people like Esther and they bring valuable social benefits too. The video hall in Sidonge is a new hub for the community and creates a real buzz, whether it’s live sport or a blockbuster film. And at half time, hungry viewers can pop along the street and fill up with Esther’s fresh chips, washed down with a juice from her partner.”
Energy 4 Impact has been advising RVE.Sol on ways to scale up their business model and make it more attractive to investors. Recently, the company secured investment from the Green Mini-Grid Fund Kenya (funded by the UK’s Department for International Development) to roll out more mini-grids in Kenya. They now plan to install 10 additional mini-grids in Kenya by end of 2018.