As the leading off-grid, Pay-As-You-Go (PAYGo) solar and mini-grid solutions provider in Africa, ENGIE Energy Access is dedicated toward electrifying Sub-Saharan Africa, including the most deprived communities. The company provides micro-loans that allow householders to acquire solar panels and batteries, so that they can access sustainable, clean electricity, that benefits the environment and often replaces the usage of polluting diesel generators and other fossil fuels. More than 7 million lives across nine countries have already been impacted thanks to these installations, through access to light, education and everyday appliances.
Investing for good
Now ENGIE Energy Access is innovating with smart finance to benefit even more communities. “We are evolving our business model, explained Etienne Gehain, Digital Innovation Officer at ENGIE. “Until recently, ENGIE Energy Access was receiving funding through conventional financial institutions, often at high interest rates. We are now also looking at different funding channels and turning to cryptocurrencies and blockchain technologies.”
ENGIE Energy Access is working with Energy Web, an international non-profit organization created in 2017 with the support of 10 global energy companies, including ENGIE. It has established a blockchain technology well adapted to the use cases of energy, which allows for example to connect various devices, such as solar panels, wind turbines and batteries, to supply clean electricity to as many people as possible, and includes a cryptocurrency called Energy Web Tokens (EWT).
“We are now offering EWT owners a chance to fund our electrification projects in African homes,” added Etienne Gehain. “This decentralized mechanism is truly innovative, because for the first time, it is linking token value, which tends to be highly speculative, to a specific industrial activity. Based on the crowdfunding principle, it is also a win-win situation, since equipment users benefit from a preferential interest rate and lenders are sure of their repayment, with ENGIE Energy Access as a guarantor.”
The $100,000 question
ENGIE Energy Access is working towards impacting millions of lives across Sub-Saharan Africa by 2025. This decentralized funding approach that supports the creation of clean, solidarity-based energy access will be instrumental to achieving that goal.
“This innovation should accelerate our deployment,” said Stefan Zelazny, Head of Digital & IT at ENGIE Energy Access. “We are in the POC* phase. In May, we will launch a first campaign with the aim of raising USD$100,000 from EWT owners. This will enable us to roll out solar panels and batteries to approximately 100 homes in Rwanda and Zambia and give us the key insights for the planned ramp-up phase later this year. We expect this will prove the relevancy of this model and the kickstart of many more campaigns to come!”
Cryptocurrencies, blockchains, crowdfunding, solar panels… With this unique project, ENGIE Energy Access and Energy Web Foundation are certainly giving new meaning to smart finance.