Simpa Networks and its "solar on every Indian rooftop" vision

Simpa Networks and its "solar on every Indian rooftop" vision

At the end of the day, residential rooftop solar is a finance business. Whatever the business model - leasing, paygo, micro-finance - it's all about managing money, while on the investment side, it might be bundling small projects and securitizing them. So it's not surprising that the new CEO of Indian market leader Simpa Networks is a former CFO and banker - Piyush Mathur. 

Piyush Mathur, CEO, Simpa Networks

Piyush Mathur, CEO, Simpa Networks

Simpa, which has raised $29 million in different types of funding since its launch in 2011, has 35,000 customers in Uttar Pradesh, the Indian state with the highest number of unelectrified people. Simpa aims to enter more than 160 districts in five other energy-poor states -- Bihar, Odisha, Assam, Jharkhand and West Bengal. Simpa's partnership with local banks and financial institutions also means that most of their growth is now being financed off-balance sheet, a first for the sector globally, according to the company.

It is the largest rooftop solar leasing company in rural India, installing 80w to 800w per customer (most in the 100-200w range). The company's early focus on profitability has been achieved through a combination of technical and organizational innovation. Its newest rural branches are achieving profitability in less than half the time as their first ones that were set up in 2014/15. And its newest SmartPanel technology leverages IoT to further optimize costs and provide remote monitoring and control. 

"24x7 Power for All is the national goal and one which Simpa shares wholeheartedly,"  Mathur said.  "The rapidly falling price of home solar and more available financing means that unelectrified rural consumers now have choice, and rooftop solar will be a top choice whether it is stand-alone or grid-tied."

Later this year Simpa will formally launch a solar home system that comes with a LED TV with an in-built satellite receiver, so customers can watch free-to-air channels immediately on installation, without grid electricity. 

Simpa is also working with a number of partners to explore a pathway to quadruple the capacity of its rooftop systems and achieve an affordable solution that can provide minimum peak capacity of 8 hours per day and 3 hours per night.

A joint Call to Action in Zimbabwe

In a joint ‘Call to Action’, the Government of Zimbabwe, Private Sector and Civil Society Make Bold Commitments to Build the Distributed Renewable Energy Market and Accelerate Progress towards Universal Energy Access

The Government of Zimbabwe, civil society and private sector have joined forces  in a Call to Action on energy access. At the event in March, stakeholders made powerful commitments to undertake activities that will accelerate the growth of the distributed renewable energy (DRE) market. The DRE market – which includes all ‘off-grid’ technologies from basic solar lights to large, grid-compatible mini-grids – is essential to achieving universal energy access cheaply, sustainably and efficiently. It is essential for delivering energy access for Zimbabwe’s unelectrified population, which stands at 9 million people and is growing, as grid expansion fails to keep pace with population growth.

The Call to Action showcases the first ever recommendations from the Renewable Energy Association of Zimbabwe representing the private sector, and from civil society organisations working on energy access, as well as a range of commitments from stakeholders, including the Government of Zimbabwe, to take action in support of DRE market growth in 2017.

The cost of the energy access deficit is huge, and is borne by households, businesses and the government. According to the latest research, universal energy access would save Zimbabwean households $237.6 million on lighting alone. Additional savings can be expected on phone charging. The government would save money on kerosene and diesel subsidies. Increased economic productivity would lead to job creation and economic growth. There would also be improvements in respiratory health, reduced risk of burns or fires, and improvements in education, as a result of increased study at night.

The Renewable Energy Association of Zimbabwe (REAZ) makes the following recommendations:

·       Send a clear market signal through setting DRE targets – to attract companies and investors to the sector.

·       Explore options for incentivizing growth through reducing tax – reduced tax would enable companies to make products more affordable.

·       Promote quality – to ensure customers have a positive experience with distributed renewable technology.

·       Raise awareness – to build trust and demand for solar products.

·       Improve market data – so that companies and policymakers can make better-informed decisions.

·       Improve access to finance – so that companies can grow.

·       Consider establishing a ‘Green Fund’ with a fair and transparent tendering process – so that government and aid agency funding can be used to unlock private capital and drive DRE market growth, especially for mini-grids.

Zimbabwe’s leading civil society organisations active in the distributed renewable energy sector, including Practical Action, SNV, Hivos, Development Reality Institute (DRI), Wildlife Environment & Zimbabwe (WEZ), Ruzivo Trust, ZERO, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, Action 24 and UNICEF, make the following recommendations to Government and Private Sector:

CSO Recommendations to Government:

·       Adopt evidence-based policy & programming

·       Make a financial commitment to the Green Fund

·       Improve tender and licensing processes for mini-grids

·       Promote the use of DRE in Government service delivery

·       Support demand creation and capacity building

·       Ensure policy coherence through an inter-ministerial DRE working group

CSO Recommendations to Private Sector:

·       Make a commitment to stand for quality

·       Adopt a gender sensitive approach to business

·       Partner with civil society to create demand

·       Build the capacity of rural agents and distributors

The Government of Zimbabwe committed to:

·       Deliver public awareness campaigns – to help create demand and make it easier for companies to enter rural areas

·       Establish a DRE Database – to improve access to information for more informed decision-making

·       DRE Nodal Agency – this ‘one stop shop’ within Government would make it easier for companies to access information about policies and regulations needed to navigate the market

·       DRE Taskforce – this new body would coordinate stakeholder efforts to build the market, bringing together Government, private sector and other stakeholders to drive through reforms in support of DRE market growth.

·       Capacity and skills building – training government officials on how to support market growth, and providing technical training and business development support to DRE companies.

·       Fiscal incentives for DRE – conducting research into the impact of VAT/tariffs on DRE market growth, with view to engaging the Ministry of Finance to discuss possible VAT/tariff reductions.

·       Target-Setting – setting new energy access targets, using the SE4ALL Global Tracking Framework Tiers of Energy Access, tracking access at ‘household’ or ‘institution’ level.

·       Green Fund – consider developing a ‘Green Fund’, based on international and regional best practice, to extend financial assistance for setting up of private sector DRE projects. This fund would be independently managed, and would oversee a fair and transparent tender process.

Other stakeholders making commitments included UNICEF Zimbabwe, Veneka Power, Zonful Energy, SNV, Practical Action and UNDP. Highlights from these commitments included:

·       Private sector commitments to invest in rural distribution, to partner with civil society to create demand, and to work with partners to promote quality in the market.

·       Civil society and aid agency commitments to support demand creation activities, provide technical assistance to businesses, support government with policy development and help unlock access to finance.

The recommendations and commitments show that the DRE community – made up of companies, civil society organisations, investors and aid agencies – is united around a shared vision for how Zimbabwe can take advantage of distributed renewable energy to achieve ambitious energy access goals. They show that DRE stakeholders are ready and willing to working together to create the conditions for accelerated market growth.

The Call to Action event was facilitated by the Power for All campaign.

For more information: Contact Chiedza Mazaiwana (chiedza@powerforall.org)

 

News Release: Power for All Report Pinpoints Policies to Accelerate Energy Access for 1 Billion Rural Poor

April 4, 2017 — A groundbreaking report released today by Power for All identifies the five most important national energy policies needed to end electricity poverty for approximately 1 billion rural poor (mostly living in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia), and outlines the steps governments can take to implement those policies, in particular the integration of decentralized renewable (also known as distributed or “off-grid”) solutions into energy infrastructure planning and build-out.

The report centers on new quantitative and qualitative analysis from the Platform for Energy Access Knowledge (PEAK)—a joint project between the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory (RAEL), University of California, Berkeley and the Power for All campaign. PEAK examined the policies of five high-growth decentralized renewable energy (DRE) markets—India and Bangladesh in Asia, and Kenya, Tanzania and Ethiopia in Africa—to identify trends in energy policy that will help other countries replicate success.

In order to measure progress, the report also unveils an Energy Access Target Tracker (EATT), which for the first time indexes the 48 energy-poorest countries and their national energy access targets, and determines which are best prepared to achieve universal electrification and which are not. Currently, almost two-thirds of the countries lack a rural energy access target. The 48 countries together account for 540 million rural unelectrified, more than half of the global total.

A 2016 report by Power for All concluded that ending energy poverty by 2030—the focus of UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 7—can only be achieved for the rural poor by accelerating investment in decentralized renewable energy (DRE) solutions such as mini-grids and rooftop solar. The new report, titled “Decentralized Renewables: From Promise to Progress”, builds on those findings, with a focus on the need for policy leadership alongside increased access to finance. The analysis of the high-growth DRE markets identified key policy levers that have resulted in success. Those five policies are:

  • Reduction of import duties and tariffs on DRE related products

  • Support for the availability of local finance through loans and grants and microfinance

  • Establishment of energy access targets or national commitments to electrification

  • Establishment of rural electrification plans or programs that incorporate DRE

  • Technical regulation through established licensing procedures for mini-grid operators and through adoption of quality standards for products and services

But more than just identifying what policies are behind rapid rural energy access, the new report also addresses how to get there, by making key three recommendations on policy implementation and process, including:

  • Setting the target: include decentralized renewables in national policies and rural electrification plans

  • Ending the implementation gap: institute decentralized energy in integrated energy planning so that grid extension, mini-grids, and standalone systems are given equal consideration

  • Instituting collaborative policy design: DRE multi-stakeholder-led policy-making that includes government, private sector, funding and civil society actors

“Decentralized renewable energy is the key to unlocking SDG 7, and this report not only identifies the policies necessary to jumpstart that process, but for the first time outlines specific actions that help national governments successfully implement these policies,” said Rebekah Shirley, Power for All research director and co-author of the new report. “Energy access is possible, but only with political will and leadership at the national level.”

Turning its Call to Action into tangible results, Power for All recently hosted multi-stakeholder meetings in Sierra Leone, Nigeria and Zimbabwe, where governments, civil society and the private sector responded with clear commitments to accelerate energy access via DRE.

Mohammed Wasaram, managing director of Nigeria’s Rural Electrification Agency (REA) pledged that his organization would “continue to uphold its mandate to ensure the facilitation of entry of new market participants and continued development of local rural electrification ventures. REA recognizes the efforts of the Power for All initiative and commends them for serving as an organized focal point for such market participants in renewable energy and will continue to support such initiatives.”

 

Promise to Progress: A Policy Call to Action

A Policy Roadmap for Clean, Rapid Rural Electricity Access

One year ago, Power for All released a report that concluded that ending energy poverty by 2030 could only be achieved for the 1 billion rural poor by accelerating investment in decentralized renewable energy (DRE) solutions such as mini-grids and rooftop solar. In a new report, titled “Decentralized Renewables: From Promise to Progress” and released this week at the SEforALL Forum, we build on those findings, with a focus on the need for policy leadership alongside increased access to finance.

Using original quantitative analysis and on-the-ground insights from campaign partners, Power for All came up with some exciting findings: we identified five policies that national governments can adopt to reach universal energy access before 2030. We also developed three clear recommendations for how governments can work with the private sector and civil society to make implementation of those policies a reality, starting with the full integration of DRE into national energy market design.

To enable the sector to track policy progress, we also developed an index (which we'd love your feedback on to make it even more nuanced) that identifies which of the 48 most energy-poor countries are on track to achieve universal energy access (SDG7) and which have more work to do (currently almost two-thirds of them lack a rural energy access target).

And to test our our policy insights and turn them into tangible action at the national level, Power for All recently hosted multi-stakeholder meetings in Sierra Leone, Nigeria and Zimbabwe, where governments, civil society and the private sector responded to our new Call to Action with clear commitments to accelerate energy access via DRE.


We're excited to take these learning and apply them in even more countries. So please join Power for All and its partners as we work with policy-makers to take rapid action to end energy poverty.

 

Act Now

Act Now

To change the energy access trajectory we need to reach a huge audience: everyone from politicians to professors, energy users to investment bankers, local women's’ groups to tribal leaders. Help us spread the message and get this report in front of as many people as possible. While the traditional utilities have the cash, institutional reach and political influence, we have people power.

Suggested Tweets and Facebook Posts

  • NEW: Report IDs 5 policies to #endenergypovertyfaster & 3 steps to get there. Learn how at powerforall.org #SEforALLforum
  • Let's #endenergypovertyfaster with decentralized, clean energy. Find out how: powerforall.org #energyaccess #SEforALLforum 
  • Govts must set the target, end gaps & reform policy design to bring universal #energyaccess. NEW REPORT: powerforall.org
  • Learn what is required to #endenergypovertyfaster with @Power4All2025 's NEW REPORT: powerforall.org

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Fact Sheet: Tracking Energy Access Targets

Over 1.2 billion people worldwide live in energy poverty, yet many governments are missing key opportunities to use targets and policies to catalyze rural electrification and rapidly increase access to decentralized renewable energy solutions. 

This Fact Sheet and Index unveil the 'Promise to Progress' report's Energy Access Target Tracker which, for the first time:

  • Lists the 48 energy-poorest countries, 
  • Assesses their national energy access targets, and 
  • Determines which countries are best prepared to achieve universal electrification

Learn which countries are leading the way, and which could do better. 

Download the 'Energy Access Target Tracker' Fact Sheet PDF(103KB) 

Download the 'Energy Access Target Tracker' Index PDF(321KB)

 

Infographics

The State of Play

The policy environment for decentralized renewable energy plays a huge role in how fast electrification can proceed. This graph shows how many low energy access countries have enabling policies in place, and makes clear the logic behind our call for action.

Index of Energy Access Countries

How does your country rate on our policy tracker? 

 

Utilities vs DRE Companies

In the past, grid focused  generation was the only way people accessed power. But that is starting to change: the combined power of decentralized renewable energy companies would make the 8th biggest ‘utility’ in the world.

The Five Crucial Areas

From our research we know that there are 5 areas which are especially important for low energy access countries to look at as they seek to move end energy poverty through decentralized renewable energy.

The Call to Action

We also know that there are 3 specific actions which governments can take right now to start growing their decentralized renewable energy market. These are crucial to ending energy poverty faster, and we are calling on governments to implement them.