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MexicoDF, Mexico
Organization type: 
Project Stage:
$500,000 - $1 million
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

ILUMEXICO is a social enterprise that promotes community development through energy access with solar powered home systems in rural communities. Energy has a direct impact in poverty, income, education, health, security, gender equity and environment. Iluméxico works through comprehensive community

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

More than 1.3 billion people worldwide have no access to electricity. While there are more than 31 Million households in Latin America, 2.4% of the Mexican population lives in this situation, which translates into over 600,000 households (INEGI 2010) that have inadequate energy access. THey rely on candles and diesel lamps for lighting with are expensive, hazardous and polluting.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

We provide energy access through solar energy technologies. We work in the design and manufacturing of solar charge controllers, and integrate solar solutions that range from 2 LED bulbs to water pumping and energy for schools. We create innovative last-mile distribution networks and provide micro-loans to rural inhabitants. Additionally, we work through community engagement programs and diverse workshops to ensure long term sustainability.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

Nereo Cruz is 54 years old, he lives with his wife, Carmela and four children. They have been living in the Community of Chichicuastla, Veracruz for 35 years. During the day, Nereo and his family are like any rural Mexican family. However, when the sun sets, their productive, economic, educational and social activities cease: They don’t have access to electricity. They rely on Diesel which costs him from 80-120 MXN per month (7-10 USD). With Ilumexico, Nereo purchased a Solar Home System through a micro-loan he paid through savings and additional income, and is now happy that his children have quality lighting for studying, and considers that they can have a better quality of life. Like Nereo, there are 130 families in Chichicuastla.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

There are many technology companies (such as Barefoot Power or D-Light) that are working with solar systems, and other innovative models for distribution (Tecnosol, Earthspark and Solar Sister, for example). We are combing both tech development and distribution, and believe that this gives our technology an edge as we design with direct customer feedback in mind. Additionally, we are different because we integrate social development programs in all of our operations, with workshops and activities promoting financial inclusion, environmental awareness and community engagement.
About You
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Country where this project is creating social impact
How long has your organization been operating?

1‐5 years

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Your Solution
Founding Story: Share a story about the “Aha!” moment that led you to get started and/or to see the potential for this to succeed.

I studied engineering and inmediately got more involved energy and environment, I co-founded the student group for energy and environment and started working in a Research Institute on “Impulsa IV” a renewable energy technologies program for saline water desalination. I then got a job at GE Energy where I met my co-founder and we wanted to create something on our own. I attended a conference in Canada where I heard about Renewable Energy and its relationship to development. We started doing research in Mexico on Solar Energy and Rural Development and then decided it was what we wanted to do!

Select Sector(s): To which of Unilever's categories of sustainability does your solution apply?

Sanitation and Hygiene, Greenhouse Gases, Supply Chain Micro-entrepreneurs.

Measurable Impact
Audience: Who have you identified as your customers/recipients and why? How will you get your solution to them or engage them in your initiative?

Rural Mexican households with little or no access to the electric grid, usually indigenous, that have an income of around 150-400 USD per month. They usually live in communities below 1000 inhabitants, in households of 4-7 people. We engage local population in the whole process of installation and maintenance, they receive specialized training and participate actively throughout the program. We work with them in complementary subjects such as financial inclusion and environmental awareness.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date and expected impact in the future?

Up to date we have installed over 2100 solar home systems in 11 states in Mexico. We have installed 20 schools (with computers, lighting and some with satellite internet) and 4 community centers. We have worked in over 100 communities in diverse municipalities in the country. These have replaced diesel lamps, kerosene and candles, equivalent to an environmental impact of 340 TONS of CO2 per year (calculated through emission factors). We evaluate our programs with respect to the impact on the Millennium Development Goals. In terms of savings, we observe a average 18% of total monthly income saved by displacing other energy sources (candles and diesel) and an increase in 10-12% due to increased working hours. With education and schools, we see an increase in 2-3 study hours for children. We also observe a qualitative improvement in health by reducing indoor air pollution. See attachment

Growth, Finance & Leadership
Scaling the Solution: How do you intend to scale your activities over the next two years (e.g., reach new markets, diversify solutions, etc.)? What will make this possible?

We wish to reach 20,000 families in the next two years, through a network of 20 rural branches. We will leverage private and public support from goverments, companies, foundations and universities. We will create a replicable methodology and create the tools to grow a large business, empowering local community members. We also plan on creating a suite of add-on products for solar and provide larger solutions for a constant growing energy demand and needs. We are creating innovative services such as extended maintenance plans and solar home system rescues (a program where people can salvage their old government-provided solar systems that are not working), all of this in order to create a sustainable and replicable system.

Financial Sustainability: What is your business model to ensure financial sustainability?

Our business model, even though it has used subsidies and donations, is designed to work on a 100% market based approach. We provide affordable credits to users so they can purchase our technology. Each rural branch requires 10,000 USD investment and a monthly cost of 1500 USD, and solar home systems are sold in a range of 200-800 USD on credit. If we have 25+ clients every month we reach positive cash flow by month 6.

Experience: Please provide examples of any previous entrepreneurial initiatives you have pioneered.

This is our first formal venture, however in the past I founded the SOEMA (student group for energy and environment) that now has over 400 members and continues to grow. Additionally, I developed a project that did not kick of on trying to use used cooking oil for biodiesel generation for university transport. Within Ilumexico we have created 2 different businesses: Tech development and rural electrification.