Liberian Energy Network (LEN)

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Liberian Energy Network (LEN): Lighting Liberia

Santa Fe, United StatesMonrovia, Liberia
Year Founded:
2010
Organization type: 
hybrid
Project Stage:
Scaling
Budget: 
$250,000 - $500,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

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

Since its founding, Liberian Energy Network ( LEN )has distributed over 7,000 solar lighting units which provides electricity to more than 35,000 rural Liberians. LEN projects to distribute over 200,000 solar lights by 2018, providing light to more than one million Liberians.

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

Liberia could be first World Nation whose citizens are solar powered
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Liberia is the least electrified country in the world, with less than 2.5% of the rural population having access to any form of electricity. It is also one of the poorest countries in the World, yet pays the highest price per kWh of power in Africa. This lack of access to affordable, reliable and sustainable power is a root cause for its lack of development, which in turn under lays the 14 years of civil wars and current Ebola crisis.

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

Since 2010 LEN has been using a shared value approach to achieve a rapid deployment of solar power to Liberians. While structured as a non-profit, it behaves like a for-profit business, selling small scale solar lights and phone chargers approved by the World Bank Lighting Africa program at a price point to cover its costs , and expand its operations, allowing LEN to push as much value as possibles into the hands of Liberians. Relying on a for-profit model requires LEN to deliver goods and services that Liberian consumers want and value. Rather than giving Liberians a light and telling them what to do with it, LEN provides them with solutions they want and value.
Impact: How does it Work

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

Liberian health care workers in the rural areas have access to no light, which is a major impediment to delivering needed services. Nurse Mid-wives are forced to use candles, kerosene lamps or the light from their cell phones to perform maternal and child care procedures at night. Often they walk hours through the rain forest to reach patients in isolated villages with no way to light their way. LEN has worked with Save The Children to provide solar lights/phone chargers to all of their Nurse Mid-wives and rural clinics in 5 of the 20 Liberian countries they serve. With the onset of the Ebola crisis, LEN has provided 300 solar lights to rural health care workers attempting to provide round the clock critical care for their patients.

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

Four million Liberians spend half of their lives in total darkness. Yet despite the limited and poor quality of electrical energy available, Liberians are paying $0.43 per kilowatt hour the highest price in Africa. Compounding the problem most electricity consumed is generate by highly polluting diesel and gasoline generators. The rural parts of Liberia are beyond the reach of any efforts to tie them to any power grid. Working in partnership with other civil society organizations, private Liberian entrepreneurs and the Liberian government, LEN has built a network which, to date is operating successfully throughout Liberia an has delivered over 7,000 solar lights to those Liberians at the base of the economic pyramid, proving light to over 35,000 Liberian . LEN projects distributing over 200,000 solar lights by 2018 providing light to more than one million Liberians.

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

LEN is premised on the belief that those living at the base O of the economic pyramid, if given the opportunity, will make rational decisions acting in their won interest to improve their individual circumstances and that, collectively, these decisions will build the foundation for a stable and secure society. The model builds upon identifying, rather than ignoring, what works in Liberia. it then builds a supply chain in partnership with government agencies, traditional tribal institutions, as well as established organizations already providing basic goods and servitude to Liberians.
Sustainability

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

Prior to the onset of the Ebola crisis, LEN projected to grow its sales to 30,000 units a year in 2015, generating annual gross revenue of $1,350,000, with cash flows turning positive. While these projections may need to be adjusted, LEN is utilizing a rate of annual sales growth which it believes is conservative based upon observations in the Liberian market. The underlying strength of the market remains strong despite the Ebola crisis.

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

There is, in fact, no competing technology to bring large scale access to basic electrical power in rural and semi-rural areas of Liberia except solar. LEN is a pioneer in the marketplace, and it's experience in the Liberian market for the past several years confirms that there is a large undeveloped market for solar power in Liberia and its neighboring counties. With a potential market in Liberia alone conservatively estimated at over 700,000 households, LEN projects to sell over 200,000 lights or nearly 30% of the market, for a total of $8,910,000 by 2018.
Team

Founding Story

In 2009, Founder Rich Fahey returned to Liberia with a group of Return Peace Corps Volunteers to assess post-war conditions. During a meeting with the Liberian President he shared his concern for the loss of human capital as a result of the war, and the difficulties that posed for development. In an extraordinary moment, she invited him to return to Liberia and help with the recovery. Almost as an afterthought he had brought a small solar light which attracted a great deal of attention from Liberians. Together with experiencing the complete lack of electricity in the country with all activities ceasing at sunset; he decided to bring solar power to Liberia on a national scale using the principals of doing business at the economic pyramid.

Team

Rich Fahey, Founder/CEO, US Peace Corps Volunteer. San Francisco State University, B.A. Northwestern University School of Law, J.D. 2010 Harvard ALI Fellow; 2013 Purpose Prize Fellow. Robert Saudek, CFO/Director, Harvard College, B.A., University of Michigan Law School, J.D., 2011 Harvard ALI Fellow. Abubakar K. Sherif, President/COO. Lifelong resident Liberia, former rural community developer, special adviser Ministry of Interior