The purpose of the Pay As You Go (PAYG) Solar Lighting Project is to serve the humanitarian goal of providing light and electronics charging capability to households which have no access to electricity. Helping to alleviate energy poverty has always been our ultimate aspiration. Ed and his team at Sundance Solar have been working diligently with Mark to develop a low-cost and viable solution that ties education, training, and 21st century technology and job skills to Aspire Youth while providing a service that is in great demand.
To do this, we have teamed up with Angaza (http://www.angazadesign.com/) and adopted their PAYG-Ready platform which is ultimately designed to use mobile technology to ‘virtually’ pay for their photovoltaic usage while virtually controlling the photovoltaic system’s ownership and accessibility. The Angaza platform allows for the flexibility of starting with a cash based system, working up towards a mobile money payment option. Angaza utilizes the already established and most successful mobile phone based financial service in the developing world; M-PESA.
Another contributor and partner in our developing PAYG Solar Lighting Project is One Million Lights (http://onemillionlights.org), whose mission is to improve the daily lives of children and adults by providing clean and healthy lighting. Their mission is to distribute one million solar lights to replace dangerous and polluting kerosene lamps, along with working with U.S. schools to increase awareness of global issues and the utilization of alternate energy.
Through Ed’s contact with corporate leaders from Angaza and One Million Lights, it was suggested that we should start with providing a ‘best value’ basic light. As the business evolves and grows, we could offer more products to the end user. Thus said, the lights chosen as our ‘baseline’ system is the Green Light Planet Eco Easy Buy system offered by Angaza (http://www.angazadesign.com/products/#-eco-easy-buy). Angaza’s software is already imbedded into the Eco Easy Buy making it easy for the Aspire Youth sales agents to monitor, activate and deactivate the lights.
Sundance Solar and Aspire Youth can monitor the sales, payments, and usage of the photovoltaic lanterns and even troubleshoot possible problems in real-time on the Angaza Hub online. Sales agents trained within the Aspire Youth program would have the Angaza app on an Android based smartphone. The Aspire Youth sales agent uses the app to enter new customers, receive payments and activate lights via a custom cable linking the phone to the lights.
Customers would make a down payment and the light would be activated for a specific period of time. At the project’s commencement, sales agents will accept cash payments, eventually progressing to mobile payment systems if demand permits. When the next payment comes due, the Angaza software imbedded into the photovoltaic unit causes the light to dim, letting the customer know they need to make another payment. The customer then meets the sales agent in a local kiosk open weekly/biweekly for service, makes a cash payment, and then sales agent activates the light for another period of time. The sales agent connects their smart phone to the photovoltaic unit by a cable, which activates the unit while also scanning diagnostics such as the battery charge level and reading system usage rates.
Angaza’s software allows for the sales agent’s smart phone to send a bidirectional signal; one which activates and runs diagnostics on the photovoltaic unit, while the other signal updates the hub which synchronizes the customer’s account status, monitors power usage, and calculates the sales agent’s commission. Virtual payments will be managed through the Angaza app which connects with M-PESA and deducts the money from their account. The process of payments and virtual account transfers repeats itself until light is paid off. When the unit is paid for in full, the sales agent then unlocks the light permanently. Thus, Angaza’s Android app allows for the Aspire Youth sales agent to permit energy activations while monitoring payment status, tracking commission, and diagnosing the unit ‘in-field.’
The PAYG Solar Lighting system will be set up according to the economic conditions, demands, and constraints in the communities we target. Different areas could have different plans. Different customers could have different plans. As demand increases, the payment options and the diversity and complexity of the photovoltaic systems with imbedded Angaza technology likewise increases. For example, the next generation of photovoltaic units will likely contain a USB charger for charging electronics. We will rely on Aspire Youth to pull together the data for determining where and how to best roll out the project.
Anticipated Impacts and Benefits of the Pay As You Go (PAYG) Solar Lighting Project
- Less of a fire hazard than kerosene lanterns, less fatalities due to dangerous and illegal hookups to the power grid
- Less air pollution and eye damage which comes from kerosene use indoors
- Less money spent on lighting compared to the long-term cost of kerosene
- More productive hours/more reading and study time
- Job creation for the unemployed and underserved
- Teaches impoverished youth about STEM topics, employment and business skills
- Innovation in emerging technology: Right now, no one is doing exactly what we propose to do with virtual payments for photovoltaics, so the market is wide open and the possibilities and impact are endless.
Recently, the business name for our PAYG solar lantern project was decided as “Kwelanga”, which is Zulu for “sunshine”.