Over 1 billion people in the world lack access to electricity, with over 600 million of those living in Sub Saharan Africa. The cost to extend the grid to these areas is prohibitive, with investment costs of ~$1000 per connection vastly outweighing any potential revenue from the customer. Small lanterns and solar home systems are a cost effective way of getting a basic level of service, but they are not enough to drive economic development and income growth in these communities.
Our system combines a capable and powerful AC core, with cost effective and affordable DC connections. The high power AC core can power productive loads, such as mills and welders, which can boost productivity and incomes in the community, thus supporting economic development. The DC connections are for those who cannot afford or don't need a more expensive AC connection, and whose demands of lighting, phone charging, TV etc can be satisfied more cost effectively with our DC technology.
Our prime beneficiaries are the average households in rural, off-grid areas. We don't believe in cherry picking the richest households as customers, but providing a comprehensive service to everyone in the village.
Mission and Vision
We believe in connecting communities through technology. Primarily this means providing meaningful, useful power, at an affordable price and in a financially sustainable way. Supporting this we also provide internet services, as well as locally streamed educational and entertainment content. Through taking this multifaceted approach we are re-imagining what a utility can be, and how large a role it can play in developing the communities we work in.
Our core technology is in the DC side, with smart meters and power electronics combining with our powerful backend software which make it easy to manage a distributed customer base. We are now developing AC meters that integrate with the same system, allowing flexible tariffs for both AC and DC customers.
Our DC service is unique in the way in which customers pay for and consume the service. We operate a service model, where customers pay for service packages, just as they would with their mobile phone company. Instead of paying per kWh, which is a very abstract concept, they pay for more intuitive units, such as hours of light and numbers of phones charged. Our smart appliances, communicating with the central hub over the powerlines, enables this flexible and intuitive service. The customer benefits, thanks to easily understandable tariffs and predictable pricing. The operator benefits thanks to the ability to abstract away from energy pricing, pricing the service instead on the value to the end user instead of the energy cost. This allows more efficient monetization of certain consumption, such as phone charging, whilst also allowing us to cross subsidise between services. For example, a higher effective energy price for TV usage can be used to subsidise the cost of lighting, which is a more basic necessity for the poorest customers.
We have 2200 customers across 69 grids in Rwanda, with an eco-lodge in Southern Uganda. This makes MeshPower one of the largest microgrid operators in the region, with a deep understanding of how to operate in these regions successfully. Our DC technology is unique, and enables us to service low income communities in a cost-effective way. Now with our hybrid grids, we combine the best of AC and DC, with a cost for connection 5 times lower than that of a traditional AC microgrid, whilst still providing the core benefits.
Planned Goals and Milestones
We are currently developing our own AC smart meters and refining our internet access platform. Our flagship AC/DC site will be coming online soon, and will demonstrate a variety of businesses benefiting from the AC connection, alongside our tried and tested DC connections.