Off-Grid Solar Startup Bringing Affordable, Reliable Electricity to Haiti

October 19, 2015

Image Credit: Wikimedia

Haitian off-grid utility startup RE-VOLT is on a mission to bring affordable and reliable electricity to families in rural Haiti and is running a crowdfunding campaign to help fund the expansion of its service to more customers, according to a recent announcement.

RE-VOLT recently launched a campaign on crowdfunding site Indiegogo in order to raise the working capital necessary to grow its customer base on La Gonave to 2,000 households or 10,000 people by January 2016.

Through the installation of a system consisting of a solar panel, a control / power storage unit, several lights and a phone charger, RE-VOLT is bringing power to the people in rural Haitian homes for the first time. Customers are charged a low monthly fee of 250 Haitian Gourdes (about USD $5) and pay for the service through Digicel’s Mon Cash mobile banking platform. The units themselves contain a cellular antenna allowing RE-VOLT to manage payments and maintenance remotely.

Founded by Digicel Haiti chairman, Maarten Boute, RE-VOLT currently serves over 800 customer households, or about 4,000 people, on the island of La Gonave, one of the most isolated and impoverished communities in Haiti. An on-the-ground sales team made up of La Gonave locals goes door-to-door to find new customers and makes regular visits to open-air markets, a central part of daily life in rural Haiti. The team also performs basic maintenance and troubleshooting on installed systems.

The idea for RE-VOLT’s business model came to Boute over five years ago in the aftermath of Haiti’s devastating 2010 earthquake, the announcement said. At the time, he was two months into his tenure as CEO of Digicel Haiti, having previously served as the company’s chief operating officer.

Under Boute’s leadership, Digicel Haiti’s subscriber base grew from under 2 million customers in 2010 to over 4.5 million in 2014, when Boute relinquished his duties as Digicel Haiti’s CEO to co-found RE-VOLT along with former Digicel executive, Darragh Dolan.

The idea was a regular topic of conversation between Boute and Dolan, a chartered accountant and former professional mountain climber who at the time was Digicel Haiti’s Head of Special Projects. Dolan and Boute were prompted to launch RE-VOLT last year because both felt that the time was right for a variety of reasons, including higher daily household demand for electricity due to the increasing penetration of power-hungry smartphones and the plummeting price of solar system components, such as solar panels and batteries.

Elsewhere in Haiti, social enterprise Kuli Kuli is working with the Clinton Foundation, Smallholder Farmers Alliance (SFA) and local partners to nurture local moringa cultivation for use in Haiti and abroad to provide a sustainable livelihood to women moringa farmers.

In other off-grid development news, Iluméxico, a Mexican social enterprise focused on solar power, recently joined the Business Call to Action (BCtA) with a commitment to bring its Solar Home Systems to 50,000 off-the-grid rural homes — approximately 300,000 people — by 2020. The company said it plans to increase its “ILU Centros” support network from 5 to 50 locations nationwide and strengthen alliances with both public and private institutions.


Author: `