Lumos Global has emerged as a leader among the roster of pioneering off-grid household solar energy start-ups conveying the benefits of safe, affordable and environmentally friendly electricity to communities across a widening swath of the African continent.
What’s unprecedented, and truly great, about these nascent off-grid household solar energy businesses is that they’re literally putting power in the hands of local communities and entrepreneurs – the power to chart their own course for sustainable development, as well as the power of electricity. Yet more encouragingly, national governments have recognized the tremendous advantages and benefits, and they’re changing market regulations and taking other actions to support them.
On Feb. 20, South Africa-based MTN – Africa’s largest mobile telecoms provider – launched a nationwide rollout of its “Mobile Electricity Service, powered by Lumos” off-grid home solar product and service in Nigeria. Working in partnership with Lumos, MTN Nigeria plans to bring the mobile pay-go solar energy system-as-a-service to 1 million Nigerians this year alone, according to a local news report.
Safe, Reliable, Emissions-Free Electricity for Less Than 50 US Cents a Day
Lumos’s off-grid solar household system includes a solar PV panel that’s linked to a smart meter and system controller that enables customers to switch on and power a growing variety of DC household equipment – from LED lights and lamps that double as USB-based battery chargers to fans, computers and TVs – 24×7 for at costs as low Nigerian naira (NGN) 150 per day (about US$0.50), according to MTN and Lumos.
Customers pay for Lumos’s off-grid solar energy equipment and devices as they use them. MTN’s popular mobile e-payments service makes it possible for Nigerians, as well as those living in other central and East African countries, to pay for electricity on-demand as they need and can afford it.
Multilateral sustainable energy programs and development banks, such as Power Africa and USAID, and mobile telecoms providers such as MTN have been instrumental in establishing the foundation and basis for Lumos and other pioneering African off-grid household solar energy start-ups to succeed. African governments and international private sector venture capital and private equity investors have followed suit.
Favorable renewable energy economics led Nigerian Vice President Yemi Asinbajo to announce the launch of a national Solar Home Systems (SHS) program on the outskirts of Abuja, the capital city, earlier this month. Africa-focused private equity firms invested over $60 million in Nigerian mobile pay-go solar provider Mobilsol and Netherlands-based Lumos Global in 4Q 2016, according to a Bloomberg New Energy Finance report.
A Powerful Wave of Change
In addition to affordable, safe, emissions-free electricity, MTN’s partnership with Lumos Global is opening up substantial, sustainable development-based business and employment opportunities.
Nigeria was the first African country in which Lumos and MTN began offering mobile pay-go off-grid solar household services and products. More than 150,000 Nigerians are benefiting, and that’s prior to the launch of MTN’s Mobile Electricity Service, according to the companies.
“The MTN and Lumos partnership is poised to scale clean and affordable, off-grid power across all of Nigeria. With the backing of OPIC and Power Africa, MTN and Lumos plan to bring electricity to over 1 million Nigerians this year. The solar technology of Lumos and the easy payment process with MTN airtime provides a seamless customer experience for Nigerians looking for modern clean electricity,” MTN management stated.
Yuri Tsitrinbaum, Lumos Nigeria CEO said: “Together with MTN, we are committed to supporting Nigeria’s efforts to address power access challenges and pledge to increase our contribution to spreading clean energy solutions that will impact the lives of millions of Nigerians living off-grid”.
“We are very excited about this major milestone, which will enable us to accelerate our growth in Nigeria and improve the lives of millions,” added Lumos co-founder and CEO Davidi Vortman. “Having the backing of institutions such as OPIC and Power Africa provides a vote of confidence in our plans and helps spread our service across Nigeria.”
Andrew is a well seasoned and traveled freelance reporter and editor, covering the the nexus where new energy technology, markets, ecosystems and political economy intersect and overlap.