Green and Accesible Energy Solutions for the BoP

Green and Accesible Energy Solutions for the BoP

Bogota, ColômbiaUribia, Colômbia
Year Founded:
Organization type: 
Project Stage:
$100,000 - $250,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

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

Renewable energy solutions have existed for quite some time, the innovation does not rest on the technical side anymore but on the design of an appropriate marketing channel to put the solution in the hands of the people. We offer a 360 degrees approach from the technical design to the distribution

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

What if nearly 2 million Colombians with no access to electricity at all had an alternative and affordable source of energy and thus, make a decent living?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

The problem is 477.000 families in Colombia that have no access to the electricity service. According to the Statistical Department of Colombia (DANE), a family has in average 4 members, so the total population with to access to electricity is 1'908.000 people. The Government does know about this situation and has seized the effort to interconnect those users to the electricity network: USD 1.5 millions or its equivalent COP 4,3 billions.

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

Government does not have USD 1,5M for those families, so the idea is to provide affordable and local solutions based on renewable energies starting with solar lanterns. Many of those families are located in rural areas with excellent solar conditions (aprox. 134k families), so with this idea and the support of the Microelectronics Group of National University, we plan to design an affordable solar lantern and an most importantly, a marketing channel that allows: channel development with local community, education on the solution benefits, build brand trust, affordability thru a microcredit schema, and support and maintenance. We then plan to focus on the remaining families with other renewable energies solution, being massive and cheap.
Impact: How does it Work

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

Carlos is a 12 year old student in Uribia (Guajira), he walks 5 miles to his school and today there is a Seminar about Renewable Energies given by National University. He learns about Solar Energy and solar lanterns and realizes: the day does not end with sundown, he can study at night more, his parents can continue a bit further with work activities to get more income, no risk about his home getting fire due to candles/kerosene lanterns use, his father can recharge the cell phone. He comes back home and teaches that to his parents (illiterate ones) and get them to understand, also that the solar lantern can be bought with Pedro, the grocery owner, who will give the lantern once 3 payments of 3 dollars are made, and 3 more to end the debt.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

Children can study at night improving their education and future in zones with good solar coverage with no access to electricity or irregular access. Parents can work a little bit longer into the night and thus, get more income. Reduce home fire and intoxication due to candle or kerosene use. Houses in the rural area are made of wood or other material highly flammable. Charge cell phones, the access to the connected world. A World Bank study has revealed that the cell phone use in rural areas made possible more income of the community members. Create a new stream of jobs in the region for local grocery owners, local entrepreneurs and women head of families, who will be the distribution channel and will get a fee upon selling the lantern. Solar lanterns will be the start, other regions will have different conditions (ex: no sun) and solution will be designed accordingly (ex: biomass).

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

Make a small pilot to adjust the marketing channel for rural areas that has been designed, this will be done in the town Uribia (Guajira). For the pilot and the early stages of commercialization, we plan to use d.light solar lanterns. In parallel, the Microelectronic Group will design and produce a local solar lantern, the idea is to minimize the actors in production chain to improve the cost and reduce the price by maintaining the margin. In three years time we plan to address 10% of the 136k families in solar region, meaning 13.890 lanterns sold. R&D to produce other no solar solutions.

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

The P&L has been designed for a 3 year period and a resulting NPV of USD$ 37.037. Seed capital to start operations: yearly cost in USD (1) 72k (2) 82k (3) 94.5k. Yearly income in USD (1) 84.4k (2) 97.4k (3) 116.6k. We plan to sell carbon credits in the international markets, we have identified Microsol as possible trader. This income will be used to finance R&D. National University has social contests to finance market studies and R&D

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

Actors identified: (1) a "franchise" of Liter of Light but it is more a complement that a competitor since it is a solution during the day and not the night and (2) Little Sun another "franchise" with a solar lantern more decorative than functional. Our project main difference is to have a marketing channel fully designed for Colombia to address the complex rural market: population widely dispersed, transportation infrastructure poor or does not exist, income low and sporadic, and traditional methods of creating brand trust and awareness do not apply. Also a diverse portfolio of eco solutions

Founding Story

I was driving to work in the morning and was listening at the time a History of the World in 100 Objects podcast from BBC Radio 4 and the last episode was about a solar lantern and how much difference has made in Africa, I remember it was a sunny day, two things still echo in my mind: what Thomas Alba Edison said to Henry Ford and Harvey Fireston: "I'd put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don't have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that." and the cosmic noise of the sun in the atmosphere when the day begins. That put me to think and I connected to the vast solar potential that Colombia has in some regions where poverty and need exist.


I am electronics engineer graduated from the National University and always kept the link with my professor Ivan Jaramillo, he is the leader of the Microelectronics Group of the National University (the group is composed of students of last semesters and also Professors of the Electronics Engineering program). We have structured a sub team to address the technical points of the solar lantern and other familiar solutions based on renewable energies. As for myself, I have wide experience (8 years) in technical side, project management (PMP certified), marketing and sales (my current position) in a french multinational named Gemalto. I also finalizing a MBA this year and have acquired soft skills and a 360 degree view on the main topics about a business. Also Ivan and mine's initiative is to get the students to focus their thesis on start ups that address social issues and to make them realize that as an engineer your job is not only to solve technical matters, it also involves a whole set of skill like logistics, marketing and sales, just to name a few.
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Which of the 8 UN Global Goals (Sustainable Development Goals) pre-selected for this competition does your solution relate most closely to? [select all that apply]

Affordable and Clean Energy.

Leadership and the Unilever Awards
Please provide examples of any previous entrepreneurial initiatives you have pioneered.
Beyond your existing team, who else are you working with to achieve your objectives, eg partners, advisors, mentors?