We started 1b Global as a social enterprise because we believe in Renewable Energy for All. We have a simple but massive vision: to provide 1 billion low-income people who currently live without access to clean, safe, and affordable energy solutions. Allow us to first define the problem statement. Our customers are villagers in developing markets living off-grid. For instance, in Cambodia, there are around 5 million people who have no access to public electricity and our pilot qualitative research in 3 communities of Cambodia in 2018 indicated that some low income families still depends on car batteries to generate electricity, which is somehow unstable, costly, hazardous to health and environment as car batteries are charged by fossil fuel generators. Not only the charging fee is costly communities needs to spend more money on trips to get the car batteries charge as there are limited local car battery operators around their area. Current solutions such as home-solar kit are relatively expensive with high upfront cost. Communities need to spend USD 200-300 for a single solar that support a few light bulbs and one DVD player. Often, such solution also carries hidden costs such as storage battery replacement and inefficient electricity generation, thus – leaving a ‘need gap’ of a large addressable but underserved market. At the same time, during rainy season home-solar kit couldn't provide enough capacity that they need. Aside from the need of home electricity, most families in these communities are fishers and farmers. They also have to go to farm or fish at night. All of them use car batteries when they need to fish at night or go to standby at their farms. For local car battery operators, they also face challenges with using fossil fuel based generator. They need to spend around > USD 250 for a new generator and often need to spend more money for on-going maintenance. Our car battery operator respondent always complain that they need to standby while charging car batteries as there are risks if they left car batteries unattended. We believe that not only Cambodia is facing this energy issues. For instance, according data from world bank, in Myanmar, only 57% of the population get access to electricity while in Lao, there is still 13% of its population does not get access to electricity. In general, for Low income families, there are only 38% of the families can get access to electricity. We believe that lighting is very important for families both for home use as well as their daily occupation. Hence, our solution enables access to affordable, safe and quality lighting. There is no or at most a very low upfront cost to users. For example, in our pilot market – Cambodia, our customers subscribe to our energy services by paying less than USD 1 a week per household/family to light their homes. Our vision is to be an energy utility service enabler for underserved communities. We believe in a longer-term user relationship with our communities and not apply a “band-aid” approach in solution. The solution must consist of good quality with long runway for further technology advancement. Hence, we pick rechargeable lithium ion battery option supported by an already mature and well-scaled solar-based energy generation system. Our business model and solution consist of 3 key components:- (1) Provision of affordable pay-as-you-go good quality rechargeable batteries for low income families. We ensure that they pay less than USD 1 per week for basic lighting in their home and they don’t have pay for trips to get the batteries charged as we make sure charging system is located near their house. (2) Income sharing agreement with local car batteries operators. Our inclusive approach is to select existing car battery operators from the local community to manage the system. We will upgrade the operator's current fossil fuel generator system to a new solar-based energy generation and hi-utility re-chargeable battery system. The charging fee collected from users will cover the income sharing agreement with local car battery operators and the capital investment of the solar charging and storage system. We ensure that our car battery operator earn at least USD 10 per day. At the same time, they spend less time with charging car batteries (current generator needs car batteries operator to stand by until the battery is fully charged). This will enable greater productivity and engage in other livelihoods such as running a small grocer/shop or farming. (3) Project managed by local young woman leaders. We plan to partner with a social enterprise that provide lifelong mentorship and financing options to young woman leader in Asia. Each country’s identified communities will be managed by project manager from the social enterprise partner. They will monitor and evaluate each community and report back to our management team. This is to ensure each project will be successfully implemented and monitored in each community. It also enables acceleration of our vision to achieve energy access for the 1B who currently lives without a stable, safe and affordable electricity. Our focus is Asia. Once we have successfully implemented in these markets, we will look to expand into Africa and other countries as we know that globally 1 billion people are living without access to electricity.
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