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Photograph courtesy Elephant Energy


Great Energy Challenge Innovator: Elephant Energy

Project: Helping small-scale solar photovoltaics out-compete kerosene

Location: Zambezi, Kavango, Khomas, Otjozondjupa, Oshana, and Oshikoto regions of Namibia and the Southern Province in Zambia

Summary: In Namibia, while 70 percent of the urban population has access to the electric grid, only 15 percent of rural households do. Elephant Energy (EE) has developed solutions to the rural electrification challenge. EE operates a market-based distribution network to provide poor, rural customers with access to modern energy. In the last year alone, EE's products have impacted over 12,000 Namibians.

Since 2012, EE has been working in partnership with divi, Inc. to remain on the cutting edge of developing and pilot-testing pay-to-own solutions to small-scale solar lighting products. Through the use of innovative transfer technology, divi-enabled solar lights have the potential to remove the fundamental barriers to the distribution of solar-LED lights in rural poor communities, including limited access to capital, poor financing options and limited distribution channels.

Through the proposed project, EE intends to use the funding to take the field-tested divi-enabled products and move towards the next stage of lamp-to-lamp transfer innovation; to support scaling EE's distribution network into Zambia and evaluate the scalability and replicability of the model and the products; and to support in-country costs that will allow the organization to move towards financial sustainability.

With over six years of experience working in Namibia, EE is a trusted entity. With a demonstrated commitment to product innovation and to improving its distribution process, EE is helping to increase local economic stability, reduce the use of kerosene and the negative health, educational, economic and environmental outcomes that accompany its use, and to move the needle for unelectrified households.

Goal: To reduce the use of kerosene and other dirty fuels and increase access to small-scale solar PV products in rural, poor communities.

Project Participants: Julia Alvarez, executive director; Chris Fry, program director; Matt Vanderwerken, program manager; and at divi, Inc., engineers Kevin Allen, Mark Bianchi, and David Gelvin.

The Great Energy Challenge grant program, in collaboration with a distinguished group of scientists acting as the board of advisors, awards roughly a half-dozen grants per year. The goal of the grant program is to hasten the growth of promising, global energy solutions as a response to climate change, energy resource constraints and environmental limitations.

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