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How to replace candlelight with prepaid lamps

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Praktijkverhaal Solar Works

Even today, there are villages in Mozambique and Malawi that do not have electricity. The people there rely on candles for light. If they want to charge their phones, they have to go to another village. A company called SolarWorks! has a solution. It now supplies power to 70,000 people living in Mozambique and Malawi. The company’s solar panels generate enough energy for a household. This saves the households a lot of money.

Most of the systems SolarWorks! supplies are small ones for lighting homes and charging mobile phones. Its large systems can supply power for TVs, refrigerators and sound systems. All the systems use solar panels.

Prepaid system

Arnoud de Vroomen is CEO and co-founder of SolarWorks!. He explains that people in the villages where the company is active, use candles for light. SolarWorks! installs a system with 3 or more light sources and an outlet for charging phones in each home. Users then repay the costs over 2 or 3 years. Mr De Vroomen explains, “This costs them less money each day than they spend on candles or charging their phones right now. It is a prepaid system: if you do not pay, the lights will not go on.”

Larger systems for health care clinics

For this project, SolarWorks! is working together with the Energising Development Partnership Programme (EnDev). EnDev supports the development of energy supply systems in developing countries. The programme works with local companies as much as possible.

EnDev’s Results-Based Financing (RBF) scheme pays companies after they complete a project. The results the companies have achieved determine the amount they get. One example of a successful partnership took place in 2019. That year, a cyclone caused a lot of damage in Mozambique. Thanks to the RBF scheme, SolarWorks! continued supplying energy to its customers. Another good example is the larger systems sold by SolarWorks! These supply power to various local health care clinics in Mozambique and Malawi. As a result, the clinics have enough electricity, for example, to store vaccines. Mr De Vroomen states, “The Netherlands Enterprise Agency provided advance funding for these systems. The partnership was fast and efficient.”

Investing in employees

Most of the SolarWorks! employees are local people. The company also tries to employ equal numbers of men and women. Mr De Vroomen explains that companies must reflect society as a whole. “We provide ongoing training courses on communication, technology and our code of conduct. Our courses also address important themes such as behaviour that crosses moral boundaries.”

SolarWorks! works

SolarWorks! began as a graduation project by students at the Delft University of Technology. The company supplies energy to people with no access to electricity. So far, the company has supplied solar-powered products and services to 70,000 people in Mozambique and Malawi. It has done so with EnDev’s help. Its Solar Home systems have made SolarWorks! a market leader in the off-grid solar power sector in southern Africa.

Would you like to know more?

The Netherlands Enterprise Agency manages EnDev together with a German partner, Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ). It does this on behalf of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Learn more about the EnDev programme.