A UK company called Eight19 has announced a solution called IndiGo, a pay-as-you-go, personal electricity system for the developing world. The system combines solar energy and mobile phone technology and allows users to light their homes and charge mobile phones as a service, paid for using scratchcards.
Eight19 wants to increase access to electricity to 1.6bn people who are not connected to the grid and have to resort to fume-emitting fuels such as kerosene. It said solar lamps and phone chargers are not new but so far more expensive than many potential users can afford. Offering solar power as a service, without high purchase costs, gives them access to clean electricity for less money than they spend on kerosene.
“We are excited to be working with Eight19 on this revolutionary technology. Solar energy offers huge economic, health and social benefits to the world’s poorest people; for lighting and mobile phone charging. Eight19’s technology opens up these benefits to many more people. This is a major breakthrough”, said Steve Andrews, CEO of Solar Aid, a charity supporting product trials in Kenya.
The IndiGo system consists of a low-cost solar panel, a battery unit with inbuilt mobile phone charger and a high efficiency light emitting diode (LED) lamp. Users put credit on their IndiGo device using a scratchcard, which is validated over SMS using a standard mobile phone.
Ongoing customer trials in Kenya will be extended to Zambia, Malawi and the Indian sub-continent over the next 3 months. The commercial roll-out of IndiGo will start early in 2012.
“We are very encouraged by this new way of delivering energy to off-grid applications in emerging markets”, said Simon Bransfield-Garth, CEO of Eight19. “Indigo enables a new generation of solar power products that are affordable, providing customers with access, often for the first time, to clean low cost energy that eliminates the health risks and carbon emissions of kerosene.”