Prepaid model expands solar energy access in rural India

Thursday, March 21, 2013
[PHOTO: Mark Florence/ BY-SA 2.0]
Manila/New Delhi: More than 60,000 households in rural India will have better access to electricity by 2015 as Simpa Networks, a company supported by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), scales up the sales of its off-grid, pay-as-you-go solar energy solutions.

ADB has signed a $2 million equity investment in Simpa Networks, a company that offers a simple, prepaid payment platform to enable affordable clean energy solutions for underserved consumers in India.

“The success of this entrepreneurial venture could lead to increased venture capital funding for inclusive business models which deliver goods and services to those at the base of the economic pyramid,” said Aniruddha Patil, Investment Specialist with ADB’s Private Sector Operations Department.

Greater access to electricity in rural India will enable children to study beyond sunset, replace smoky fuels such as kerosene with clean solar energy, improve respiratory health of household members, and improve overall productivity of rural households.

“Our mission is to make clean energy simple, affordable, and investible. Our relationship with ADB will help us advance that mission, demonstrate the commercial viability of investing in small scale distributed solar, and mobilize more funds into the sector. The end goal, of course, is to expand access to clean, reliable electricity,” said Paul Needham, President of Simpa Networks.

Simpa’s customers make a small initial downpayment for a high quality solar home system and then pre-pay for their energy service, topping up their systems in small user-defined increments using a mobile phone. Each payment also adds towards their final purchase price. Once fully paid, the system unlocks permanently and continues to produce electricity. The technology is also offered to solar micro-grid developers as an extremely flexible prepaid metering, customer, and revenue management solution.

Simpa Networks was established in 2010 by Paul Needham, Jacob Winiecki, and Michael Macharg—three accomplished and highly regarded entrepreneurs with a proven track record in energy access, micro-payments, and information technology. Simpa’s operations in India are based out of Bengaluru in Karnataka.

Established in 2008, the Energy for All Initiative strengthens ADB’s support for innovative projects that provide energy access, and seeks to identify the best business energy access models and works with entrepreneurs to learn from, replicate and scale up these successes.
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