DURBAN, South Africa--()--Econet Solar, a company which designs and sells a range of solar-powered electronic and lighting products, today unveiled the Home Power Station, a revolutionary, standalone electricity solution designed for those in areas where there is no access to the grid or a source of sustainable, reliable power – around 70% of Africa.
The first generation of Econet Solar’s new product will provide lighting, and power to charge cell phones, on a pre-paid basis, using the same systems and in the same way airtime is purchased for mobile phones. This mechanism removes the requirement for high upfront costs which have until now prevented hundreds of millions of people across Africa benefiting from solar powered lighting systems in their home. 96% of mobile subscriptions in Africa are on a pre-paid/pay as you go basis, a payment method with which African people are familiar.
The Home Power Station uses a solar panel to charge a battery which provides power for four lights and a cell phone charger. It is Econet’s intention that future generations of the product will serve homes of all sizes as the business model is fully scalable. It is the first solar power system that is paid for via pre-paid cell phones using Econet Solar’s unique and fully patented power control module linking the Home Power Station to the cell phone network. The product will begin trials in several countries in the coming weeks and is expected to be commercially available in the first half of 2012, before subsequently being rolled out in other African countries.
Setting it apart from alternatives currently available on the market, the Home Power Station will be available at a small upfront cost, with customers paying for the electricity generated as they use it. Econet Solar will be working closely with its parent company, Econet Wireless, to make the Home Power Station available to its millions of cell phone customers in Africa. In time, Econet Solar will seek to establish licensing agreements with other mobile network operators in developing countries to make the product available to their respective customer bases.
Commenting on the launch of the Home Power Station, Strive Masiyiwa, founder and executive chairman of Econet Wireless said: “More than five hundred million people in Africa are living in areas where there is no access to a reliable source of power. If we are to improve the lives and prospects of Africans living beyond the reach of the grid, it is imperative that we find practical and sustainable solutions to meet their needs. Whilst there are already well-intentioned solar powered lighting systems on the market, the reality is that they are just too expensive for people to afford. We are launching the Home Power Station to change all that.
“The Home Power Station uses proven technology in a revolutionary way in order to make power available on a pre-paid basis, just like airtime on a cell phone. Forecasters expect that Africa will have 735 million cell phone users by the end of next year and we’ll be looking to leverage the proven ability of telecoms companies like Econet Wireless to roll-out this product quickly. People who are today living without access to reliable and sustainable power for lighting will have it on a pre-paid basis from next year."
The Econet Solar Home Power Station includes four LED lights, the Home Power Station controller, a battery, a solar panel, cabling and a cell phone charger. It has been designed to light, up to four rooms of 3x3 meters each for a period of up to five hours a day using only the power of the sun. The system is easy to install and comes with a comprehensive instruction manual. The photovoltaic solar panel replenishes one day’s usage in half a day’s sunshine.
Strive Masiyiwa added: “We believe the Home Power Station can have a transformational social impact. It will reduce the need for people to use kerosene indoors and ensure that homes and small business can be lit after dark. That means children can continue reading into the evening and businesses can stay open longer. The Home Power Station can play a significant part in improving the standard of living for millions of people.”
NOTES TO EDITORS
About the Home Power Station
The Econet Solar Home Power Station is a revolutionary, standalone electricity solution designed for those living in off-grid communities. It has been designed to supply, on a pre-paid basis, affordable lighting for small homes and cell phone charging.
The Home Power Station consists of a solar panel, a battery pack, an energy management module, LED (light emitting diode) lights and a cell phone charger.
A range of solar power products are already on the market but often the up-front cost of purchasing the equipment is too high for those who would like and would benefit from the product. Econet Solar is taking an innovative approach which will allow its customers to take the Home Power Station at a small upfront cost and pay for electricity as they use it.
The product contains a SIM card – the same as those used in cell phone handsets – which enables the device to communicate with the cellular network and in turn makes it possible for the customer to pre-paid for energy usage, in the same way that they currently pay for airtime on their cell phone.
The Econet Solar Home Power Station is a product which uses proven technology in a revolutionary way. Econet Solar has a chance to contribute at an important time in African history and it is determined to help light up the 70% of Africa that does not already have access to electricity.
Reliability and affordability
The Home Power System is designed to replace existing candle and kerosene lighting options which are dangerous, non environmentally-friendly and expensive. The Home Power Station customer pays for the service via their pre-paid cell phone.
As standard, the Econet Solar Home Power Station includes four LED lights, the Home Power Station controller, a battery, a solar panel, cabling and a mobile phone charger. It has been designed to light up to four rooms of 3x3 meters each for a period of up to five hours a day. The system is easy to install and comes with a comprehensive instruction manual, as well as a helpful “frequently asked questions” booklet.
Econet Solar has designed the Home Power Station to be robust and reliable so that each part of the system requires minimal maintenance following installation; the battery is intended to last for over five years. The control box is deliberately lightweight and compact so that it can be placed in a secure and discreet location in the customer’s home. The photovoltaic solar panel replenishes one day’s usage in half a day’s sunshine.
The Home Power Station is designed to be:
Easy to Use - activated on the purchase of prepaid airtime allocated for energy usage and is deactivated when the available credit is consumed.
Reliable - The Home Power Station is reliable and powerful. It is designed for dependable performance, even during the poorest solar conditions of the year.
Efficient – the Home Power Station automatically switches off lights when daylight is detected, saving energy supply and the customer’s credit.
Fair - deactivating when tampering or abuse is detected.
Transparent - monitoring the efficiency of energy applications. The Home Power System displays the battery condition, charge status, when energy levels are low, when battery power is low, when credit balance is running low and the GSM communication status.
It is anticipated that the Econet Solar Home Power Station will impact positively on both income generating activity and living standards. The reliable LED lighting will extend the work day of small businesses by between 30% and 50%. Furthermore, we believe that the system will substantially improve working conditions, meaning that less time and calories need to be spent obtaining fuel for lighting. Time can be spent more productively on business, education and childcare.
Promotion of education - extending study time
Studies have shown that enhanced lighting conditions correlate directly to improved learning. With reliable and affordable lighting, children can read after dark and complete homework in the evening at home.
The Econet Solar Home Power Station removes the need for kerosene lamps which emit air pollutants like black carbon. These impurities are proven to lead to asthma, bronchitis, tuberculosis, heart disease and lung cancer. The World Health Organization documents that more premature deaths per year were due to indoor air pollution in 2003 than malaria and HIV/AIDS combined.
Improve safety by reducing fire hazards
Every year, thousands of lethal fires are caused by kerosene lanterns and candles. In South Africa it is estimated that over 46,000 dwellings each year are burned to the ground as a result of fires.
Impact on Environment
Whilst kerosene lamps provide only 1% of global lighting, they are responsible for 20% of lighting related CO2 emissions and consume 3% of the world’s oil supply.
About Econet Solar
Econet Solar designs and sells a range of solar-powered electronic and lighting products including lanterns, torches and cell phone chargers. Econet Solar is a subsidiary of Econet Wireless a diversified telecommunications group with operations and investments in Africa, Europe, South America and the East Asia Pacific Rim.
Econet Solar was set up to provide solar-powered products and services to the many communities around the world which do not already have access to grid electricity, starting with countries in Africa. Econet Solar launched its first product, a solar powered lantern, in 2010 in partnership with its parent company Econet Wireless. It has since sold thousands of lanterns to customers who are now using them and enjoying the benefits of sustainably powered lighting.
Econet Solar’s product range also includes a compact room light and book light; a torch and a lockable cell phone charger which allows customers to securely leave it unattended in the sun during the day, delivering optimal results.
By working in partnership with its parent Econet Wireless, a successful mobile operator with millions of customers in Africa, Econet Solar has powerful distribution capabilities and from launching a product can make it available to customers directly and quickly.
About Econet Wireless
Econet Wireless is a diversified telecommunications group with operations and investments in Africa, Europe, South America and the East Asia Pacific Rim. Econet Wireless has operations in the core areas of internet, fixed wireless, fibre cable, satellite transmission, transaction processing services, mobile assurance and money transfer.
The Mauiritian-registered group is headquartered in South Africa and currently has operations and investment interests in telecoms businesses in: Bolivia, Botswana, Burundi, The Democratic Republic of Congo, The Dominican Republic, Haiti, Kenya, Lesotho, Mauritius, New Zealand, Nigeria, South Africa, the UK, Zambia and Zimbabwe.