EcoEnergy

EcoEnergy: Affordable solar energy solutions to improve livelihoods

PakistanKarachi, Pakistan
Year Founded:
2009
Organization type: 
hybrid
Project Stage:
Growth
Budget: 
$100,000 - $250,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

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

EcoEnergy provides affordable solar energy solutions to the 65 million people who lack access to energy in Pakistan.

We do this to provide a better quality of life through increased education, health and income-generation.

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

What if everyone had access to energy, how would their lives improve?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Over 65 million people lack access to energy in Pakistan, which means that their quality of life, education, health and income-generation ability are severely limited. To light their homes, people utilise inferior alternatives, such as kerosene and battery torches, which are inefficient, expensive, poor-quality and provide weak light. Similarly, to charge their mobile phones, residents much spend significant time and money travelling.

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

We address this through: 1) Creating market demand for our products through promotional activities; 2) Providing potential customers with opportunities to purchase our products from convenient locations (such as retail stores and village entrepreneurs); 3) Increasing affordability through financing mechanisms; 4) Providing support and warranty to our customers; 5) Providing opportunities for our customers to provide feedback on products and their needs; 6) Providing opportunities for people to earn a living by providing our solar products to their communities;
Impact: How does it Work

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

Iqbal, from the district of Thatta, saves $9/month he used to spend on torch batteries in lighting his tea stall and home. This money can instead be used on business expansion. An interview with Iqbal can be seen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wn8UohTl0Uc We've also partnered with the Shell Tameer programme to provide livelihoods opportunities to women, such as Fatima Tandai, who has sold $500 worth of solar products to her local community. See http://shelltameer.com/women-empowerment-through-solar-entrepreneurship/ & http://tribune.com.pk/story/737250/brighter-futures-solar-lamps-provide-beacon-of-hope-for-female-entrepreneurs

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

In the past year, since launching official operations, EcoEnergy has provided over 4000 solar lanterns to rural households in the province of Sindh, Pakistan. These lanterns, used by approximately 6 people per household (a total of 24,000!), allow users to study at night, cook by a brighter light, inspect livestock and fields, and conduct income-generating activities (such as embroidery). On average, our customers also save money through the use of these products. In particular: 1) Product payments are priced to match current expenditure on kerosene/batteries, around $2/month 2) After 5 monthly payments, each user will save $2/month by not having to purchase batteries 3) For our customers using mobile charging solutions (such as the d.light S300), we have seen savings of around $5/month, due to the reduced need to travel to another town to charge their mobile phone.

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

With 65 million people across Pakistan who lack access to the electricity grid, and many power with power shortages, we have our work cut out for us. We're pursuing growth in the following ways: 1) Establishing a network of entrepreneurs that cover village clusters and can provide relevant solar products and services; 2) Building partnerships with micro-finance institutions and local NGOs to increase the efficiency of accessing new communities; 3) Providing larger solar solutions (such as mobile charging systems, fans, TVs) on rental or monthly payments to small businesses;
Sustainability

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

Our goal is to cover all operational costs through the margin earned on the sale of each product. With the higher-margin products sold to small businesses, this will become achievable in the next 1-2 years. Until then, we are working with our sister NGO in the USA and foundations & donors to access funding to scale. We are also working with local companies to provide energy solutions to communities as part of their CSR programmes.

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

There are a number of organisations attempting to manufacture, distribute and/or finance energy products in Pakistan. We're different from them in a number of ways: 1) We're integrating technology to reduce costs and facilitate scale (mobile money, PAYG technology to facilitate financing, smartphone apps to increase ease of data collection) 2) Our field staff are recruited from the areas that they work, and constantly have an "ear to the ground" to find out what products are needed 3) We recognise the need for financing, and are working to build a model around this
Team

Founding Story

Shazia Khan, based in Washington, DC, saw the dire situation of energy in Pakistan and wanted to do something about it. Around the time of the heavy flooding in 2010, she raised $20,000 to provide solar systems to flood affects in the province of Punjab. However, she quickly realised that user buy-in was needed to deliver the right products, and that raising donations every year would not allow the impact to scale. Simultaneously, Jeremy Higgs, based in Karachi, was conducting pilot distributions of solar lanterns in nearby rural locations. He recognised the need for small monthly payments, and of local buy-in. After being put in touch by Invest2Innovate, Shazia and Jeremy joined forces to build EcoEnergy's model.

Team

The EcoEnergy team is made up of 15 full-time staff based in Pakistan, and a mixture of part-time and volunteer staff in the US. The combined team brings a wealth of experience in operations, FMCG sales, IT, community mobilisation, fundraising and communications that enables each team member to focus on what they do best, in order for the organisation to excel.
About You
Organization:
Network of Organizations Working for People with Disabilities, Pakistan (NOWPDP)
About You
First Name

Jeremy

Last Name

Higgs

About Your Project
Organization Name

Network of Organizations Working for People with Disabilities, Pakistan (NOWPDP)

How long has your organization been operating?

Project
Organization Country

, S, Karachi

Country where this project is creating social impact

, S

What awards or honors has the project received?
Funding: How is your project financial supported?

Foundations, NGOs, Customers.

Supplemental
Sector

Greenhouse Gases, Opportunities for Women, Inclusive Business.

Audience: Who have you identified as your customer/recipient groups and do these groups value your solution for different reasons? How do you engage different customer/recipient groups to deliver your solution?

Based on our interventions over the past few years, we have discovered 2 groups of customers:

- Residential customers, predominantly without access to the electricity grid, who require access to lighting and mobile charging
- Small business owners, who have access to the grid around 50% of the time, who require electricity to ensure the continuity of their business (lighting, ventilation, mobile charging)

Our staff engage these two groups to increase their productivity and hence quality of life.

Scaling the solution: How would the prize money and publicity help you to achieve your objectives over the next two years?

We have developed a solid model that is changing the lives of energy-poor communities, while providing economic opportunities for local people, but require accessing to flexible capital and financing in order to reach the scale that will allow us to be a self-sustaining organisation.

Until recently, we've avoided publicity and coverage, instead focusing on implementation and operations, and assuming that publicity will come. Unfortunately, we've realised that it doesn't always happen that way, and that some publicity and projection of our work is important to attract the right funders and supporters.

For this reason, the publicity from the Awards would help us to raise our public perception and raise $200,000-$500,000 in funding.

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

Our results are evident: solar lights to 4000 households in rural Pakistan in the past year.

Prior to this, I built and scaled the Network of Organizations Working for People with Disabilities, Pakistan (NOWPDP). During this time, I designed and mobilised funds for a number of projects, including:
- The Rickshaw Project: on-call rickshaw service run by people with disabilities (PWDs)
- heARTwork: build skills of PWDs through art products

Are you are eligible to attend the Accelerator event in Cambridge and subsequent events in London, UK in January, 2015?

yes

Will you require a visa to enter the UK?

Are you are a current Unilever employee?

randomness