BANGALORE, INDIA — In rural, emergent parts of the world, lack of infrastructure combined with low and unsteady incomes hinder energy affordability for many people. Nearly 3 billion people lack sufficient access to energy to power their homes. Many still rely on kerosine, a very flammable, dangerous, and outdated energy source. But, Simpa Networks, a tech firm out of Bangalore, aspires to make solar energy possible and affordable to the rural poor of India. The company has developed an innovative, low cost technological advancement that, paired with an innovative price model, works with low incomes prone to fluctuation, a solution that ultimately gives the user not just power, but the power to be eventually energy independent.
Becoming a market leader for no-battery, solar powered gadgets meant partnering with SELCO, a Bengaluru-based green energy firm. SELCO installs and handles customer service for 3 years after installation. The solar home energy system uses the patent-pending “Progressive Purchase” model. Progressive Purchase is composed of the tamper-proof Simpa Regulator that’s built into the system to track energy use and uploads that data to the Simpa Revenue Management System which can be accessed online or through SMS. Customers can track their use or pay their bill from their own phone or computer. A pay-as-you-go schedule ensures that customers can pay only for what they use so it’s income friendly. Once the system is paid off, the user gets free electricity for the remainder of the 10-year product life.
Paul Needham, formerly of Microsoft, is one of the founders of Simpa Newtworks. In a piece by Inc., he states that the emergent world is skipping a traditional energy grid setup in favor of single-structure alternatives. While solar power may be expensive in a nation like the U.S., there are small, rural Indian dwellings whose inhabitants are saving money from having solar panels affixed to their roofs. Simpa systems are affordable and cost anywhere from $150 to $500, which is why the pay-as-you-go method is necessary.
So far, the system has been very successful and there’s customer feedback to prove it. Bloomberg recently profiled Anand, a young twenty-something Indian farmer who pays for energy credits at the equivalent of $1 U.S. dollar for a weeks-worth of light. The Simpa system payment plan is designed to last three years, after which Anand expects to have 7 years of unlimited, free electricity. Before he bought into Simpa, Anand would walk for nearly an hour just to charge his phone and a great portion of his money would be spent on kerosine. Now, after a quick payment, he’s free to focus more on farming and other income generating activities. Stories like Anand’s are becoming more common the world over as micro-grids and solar home energy solutions give people energy independence.
– David Smith