John Keane, CEO of SolarAid
When was the company created?
SolarAid was created in 2006, when there weren’t even solar products designed for low-income countries. We started production with a local assembly that worked making their own products cutting panels with glass cutters and using wooden panels as frames.
For 2-3 years after setting up our social enterprise, SunnyMoney, SunnyMoney entrepreneurs were producing solar panels to power radios, small lights and other products that required a small amount of power but made a big impact.
Then pioneers like d.light and Greenlight Planet started to manufacture pico lanterns, so production was no longer needed.
How did you decide what your next steps were?
Our main goal was not really to manufacture, but to end energy poverty through business-based solutions which would create access to solar lights and power.
So when production was no longer necessary, we focused our efforts more on catalysing solar markets, raising awareness, trust and demand for solar lights and creating access in last-mile rural areas.
As an example, along with d.light, education authorities, and in partnership with schools, we started a student campaign in Tanzania, selling lights through schools at a reduced price. It was so successful we multiplied sales exponentially and we couldn’t keep up with the demand. For a while, SunnyMoney was the leading last-mile seller of solar lights in the continent.
When they connected the water, milk production went up. They have enough light to read at night and for their son to do his homework. They also don’t have to go shopping for vegetables because the irrigation enables Jamleck’s wife to grow a vegetable garden that includes cabbage, kale, carrots, bananas, and even chillies!
Jamleck explains the many benefits and the great impact this product has made on his life, giving him peace of mind. He is able to spend more time with family and had a great increase in his gains as he says u0022I have no regrets; I’m only counting gains. This system makes a lot of things easier, especially in an area like ours where we are not connected to the grid.”
How long have you been a member of GOGLA and how do you think it adds value?
We have been members of GOGLA from the beginning and we’re grateful it exists. This is a fast-moving sector and GOGLA has evolved with it. At first, it was really very different from what it is now. It is adapting to continue adding value.
For us, its first value is convening the sector through the Global Off-Grid Solar Forum or the Working Groups. I think it also has a really good culture, so it’s a pleasure to interact with the different people in the team. That culture reflects in the work that GOGLA does.
Another asset is the policy work and the regional presence that GOGLA has built, with initiatives like the Community of Champions.
What does the future look like for your company?
The future for us is to continue innovating and learning, building partnerships, with the end goal of ending energy poverty.