Thursday, 27 March 2014
In Africa and Asia over 1.5 billion people do not have access to stable supply of electricity, either none at all or supply that is so unreliable as not to be considered as available. Families and businesses resort to using kerosene as their light source.
Barefoot power is putting an end to this by becoming the most successful off grid power company in it's field...
Barefoot Power was established in 2005 by Harry Andrews and Stewart Craine. Both Harry and Stewart worked for Tasmanian Hydro as project engineers and had installed micro hydro in developing economies across Asia and the South Pacific.
The projects exposed Harry and Stewart to the vast lack of access to electricity that exists in Asia and Africa. The exposure started what has become one of the most successful off grid power companies in its field having supplied in excess of 2 MW of power, 1w per installation.
Barefoot now employs 100 staff, has offices in 6 countries, supplies over 33 countries on a regular basis and it is estimated to have improved the living conditions of over 4 million people, and this impact is accelerating.
In Africa and Asia over 1.5 billion people do not have access to stable supply of electricity, either none at all or supply that is so unreliable as not to be considered as available. Families and businesses resort to using kerosene as their light source. Kerosene is not only an inefficient energy source; it has large health consequences that is, noxious gases that result in complete families displaying symptoms of induced asthma, headache and burns (from dwelling fire). Education and productivity levels are also low as a result of poor lighting after sunset.
In Africa and India there exists a large proportion of the population at the "Bottom of the Pyramid" in socio economic terms this demographic group earn less than $2.50 per day, when considering that kerosene for lighting can cost up to $2 per week for 2-3 hours of light per day, a large proportion of disposable income is used for inefficient light alone.
Barefoot has sourced, designed and supplied small solar powered lights based on LED light sources, these lights were originally less than 1.5w but as access continues to grow systems can now be as high as 6w for a family dwelling, yes this is sufficient power to light a complete home these products are generally referred to as Pico Solar.
The business model is based on customers being able to repay the investment for the light over a 10 - 13 week period, the product then provides cost free lighting for another 2 years, some products still come in for replacement batteries after 5 years of use.
Barefoot Power is not a charity, its culture and belief is based on the 3 P's principle, People, Profit and Planet, certainly the Planet is well respected with Solar lighting having so far replaced over 400,000 tonnes of carbon, People have enhanced lives and with Profit this applies to both Barefoot who reinvests profits in developing products and markets and our Entrepreneurs. Our Entrepreneurs were the original engine of the business model, Barefoot trains local people in product, business and service, this allows for the MFE (Micro Franchise Entrepreneurs) to establish a small business and earn an income. Barefoot further supports this by providing credit in the form of a small number of products that are only paid for when sold. In 8 years Barefoot has trained over 5,000 MFEs and MFE's still account for 30% of Barefoot Power's revenue.
The barriers in the market consist predominately of 2, consumer finance and distribution. Customers needing product are faced with a large barrier when desiring to purchase a product, government support, NGO programs originally assisted in establishing demand, now as large multinational companies (MNC) recognise the vast market that is available more sophistication is developing in financing such as commercial bank schemes (micro loans), Pay as you Go Systems, Crowd financing where Barefoot is a field partner of the Kiva platform.
Distribution remains key, MNC's by nature find it difficult to distribute in the target geographies by means of example, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) a country roughly one quarter the size of Western Europe has less than 500 kms of sealed road, this is a strategic advantage that Barefoot has in the market, its ability to reach the last mile.
Barefoot Power products were originally simple LED NiCad battery lights. Power was between 0.5 w and 1.0 w. (Circa 2005-6)
The first development in product was to cease using NiCad batteries and adding the ability to charge mobile phones (2007 – 9)
Systems grew in size up to 5w and the ability to light 4 rooms and having a motion activated, waterproof light for outside security (2009 – 11)
The latest range of products are now based on Lithium Ion Phosphate battery technology, power up to 60w and are capable of running 15" LED TV, and small refrigerators, all power sources and accessory products are either design and sourced or simply sourced by Barefoot but all are quality assured by Barefoot China staff.
- 1st place in 3 out of 4 categories in Lighting Africa Awards(2nd place in the 4th category)
- 2012 Ashden Award
- G20 SME Financing Challenge Award
- Australian Sustainability Award for Sustainable Small Companyof the Year
- Katerva Award for Energy & Power
- Featured in the Forbes Global Cleantech 100
Barefoot is now entering its next phase of growth, partnered with several MNC's demand is continuing to accelerate, shipments are planned to exceed 10,000 units per week and our impact in African, Latin American and Indian lives will pass 10 million within the coming years