TRINE : Affordable finance for socia impact solar energy project in rural communities

Gothenburg, SwedenSidonge, Kenya
Year Founded:
Organization type: 
for profit
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.

TRINE eliminates energy poverty, using a crowdinvesting platform to finance profitable solar energy projects for remote communities in emerging countries.

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

What if everybody in the world could contribute to energy alleviation without making economic sacrifices?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Globally over 1.3 billion people lack access to electricity and 2.7 billion people rely on the traditional use of biomass for cooking and dirty fuels such as kerosene or diesel, causing harmful indoor air pollution. Solar energy is today cheaper and more profitable than kerosene or diesel. But without access to finance, people in emerging countries are often unable to overcome its upfront costs.

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

We enable those living in energy poverty to harness the power of the sun by using crowdinvesting to help small investors finance solar energy projects. Our solution allows both local populations and European investors to make money by giving people in developing areas a better alternative to costly dirty fuels. Local users pay a lower price for their new clean energy and part of this price difference provides a return on your investment.


SKAPA Award for Innovative Ideas in memory of Alfred Nobel, ALMI Best Sustainable Idea, Chalmers Innovation Best Pitch, Climate KIC Accelerator, Chalmers Ventures Accelerator, Sweden's Social Entrepreneur of 2015
Impact: How does it Work

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

Energy poverty causes a host of issues, impacting peoples’ lives and hindering development in many emerging countries. By making solar energy affordable for them through financing we can replace kerosene lamps and help them to climb up the energy ladder. By doing that we enable them not only to have lightning in the night to study, but also to have additional services later on, such as refrigeration and modern communication technology. Not only would they have access to these services, but also pay less for the new clean energy.

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

TRINE's main purpose is have a social and environmental impact and acts as a for-profit philanthropy. A social business that makes profit by doing social impact. 77 billion liters of liquid fuels are used to light houses without electricity, counting up to 270,000 tons of CO2/year. Kerosene lamps emit both CO2 and black carbon and are a major contributor to climate change. Due to an improved access to finance for people in energy poverty, we will help spreading clean, solar energy and reduce the usage of dirty fuels. This will result in reduced CO2 emissions and less local pollution. Over a 5 year period we plan to offset 1 million tons of CO2-equivalent, help producing about 339 GWh of green energy, give energy access to about 1 million people and evade about 1 million kerosene lamps.

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

We will have built up a global community that finances solar energy projects for rural energy access all over the globe and have a more personal relationship, building up a large network of similar minded people. In a later stage we have ambassadors in regions/countries that arrange fundraisers and bring the whole online community more into "real-life". We have to build a team, establishing regional presence in Latin America, Asia, East Africa and other regions. This is necessary to be able monitor the impact of our financed projects better and have a better relationship with solar partners.

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

We are a for-profit company. Therefore we plan to be cashflow positive in about 2 years and grow with the profit we make due to the projects we finance. We generate revenue by taking a “Success fee” when the loan is issued and a “CSR fee” for companies that invest in the project. Crowdinvestors can also decide to pay an opt-in service fee. The interest is an on-going revenue stream that is split between TRINE and the crowdinvestors.

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

Globally there is only one start-up in the US, SunFunder, attempting to build a business similar to TRINE. However, due to crowdfunding legislation in the US they cannot give a real profit to their crowdfunders. This prevented their crowdfunding business from scaling and the majority of their transactions are accredited investors and institutions, no different than other solar finance companies. We have developed a legal model that is scalable to other countries and allows us to operate in the legal boundaries, while other platforms often work in a grey zone.

Founding Story

The idea of TRINE was incepted during the time Sam our CEO was working as director at Bosch Solar Energy in USA. A seasoned Italian investment banker on Manhattan gave Sam the book ”Impact Investing” and blew him away with his conviction of Triple Bottom Line as the guiding principle for his investments. Moving back to Sweden, Sam met Andy and Christian who shared the same value set. Together we shared the goal to harness the power of the crowd to power up the world with solar energy.


As our team is currently still in an early stage we do a lot of different activities, but try to split and delegate the main tasks. Andreas Lehner, Founder & COO, MSc Sustainable Energy Systems at Chalmers University of Technology: Andreas has working experience in Sweden, Germany and Norway. He is a former business developer at Europe's biggest renewable energy utility (Statkraft) where he worked on solar PV business models for emerging countries. He crowdfunded supplies for two orphanages in Kenya. Hismain task is to reach out to solar entrepreneurs around the world and build up the project pipeline for our funding channel. This involves the 1st and 2nd step risk assessment of the solar projects, due diligence trips to their country of residence and signing the final partnership agreement. At the same time he gives input to the features on TRINE's platform and how we can make the process of getting projects for funding on the platform as simple as possible. Sam Manaberi, Founder & CEO, Double Degree Engineering & Business at Luleå University of Technology: Sam was the former Sales Director at Bosch Solar Energy in North America and during that time brought 100m USD to solar projects in the USA. He has working experience in Sweden, Germany, France and the US and speaks 4 languages fluently. He is leading the company strategy, building up a network of potential investors and angels and developing the partnerships with potential CSR investors. He is also involved in 2nd stage risk assessment of the solar entrepreneur and the due diligence trips as well as building up the initial team that is needed to execute well on this idea. Christian Genne, Founder & CTO, MSc Computer Sciences at Chalmers University of Technology: Chrisitian is a scrum master and kanban leader,having knowledge in C#/C++, Python, Software Development and Java. He is developing the crowdinvesting platform and iterating it to the user needs. He will implement new features after our beta is released (early 2016) and will lead the developer team needed to keep developing and iterating the platform. In addition to the core team we have advisors and partners that are crucial for our development. Christoffer Falsen, Founder & CFO: With a strong interest in environment issues and social justice, Christoffer is determined to be part of the transformation of businesses to enable a sustainable growth. A specialist in Green Finance, Christoffer is experienced in accessing external funding and leveraging Green Bonds.
Please confirm how you heard about the Unilever Awards:


Please confirm your role in the initiative (eg Founder/co-Founder) and your organisational title:

Founder & COO

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, Decent Work and Economic Growth, Climate Action.

Leadership and the Unilever Awards
Please provide examples of any previous entrepreneurial initiatives you have pioneered.

During one of Andreas' early trips to Kenya (before he started TRINE) he wanted to contribute to the life of people in poverty in
some way. Before departure, he started a crowdfunding campaign for orphanages in Nairobi, raising a total of $200 for supplies for them.
He had no real idea how to deliver the promise made on the campaign, but was determined to try everything possible to do so. In
Kenya he met several Kenyans (good friends today) which agreed to join him on his mission. 2 of them identified orphanages in Nairobi in
need of supplies and 2 others helped out with the shopping, making sure that what was bought was needed by the orphanage. In the end
they made a one-day trip to each of the orphanages in the slums of Nairobi.

Beyond your existing team, who else are you working with to achieve your objectives, eg partners, advisors, mentors?

Partners: Solar entrepreneurs, e.g. RVE.SOl, that need finance for their solar installations.
Companies, such as energy utility Fortum, that want to support the social cause for their CSR activities.
Advisors: Currently building a board of advisors. Jansson & Norrin and KPMG on the legal side as well as MORE PR on the marketing side.