In September 2018, Renewvia announced that its first two microgrid facilities, outfitted with the company’s innovative new mobile payment platform, were successfully up and running on the Islands of Ndeda and Ringiti in Kenya’s Lake Victoria region. These microgrids are the first safe source of energy available to the nearly 10,000 residents and businesses, whose only sources of power before were burning kerosene or petrol or the use of disposable batteries.
Across sub-Saharan Africa, two out of three people do not have access to electricity, but in Lake Victoria, entire island communities lack the ability to safely turn on the lights. To help solve this problem, the U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) partnered with Renewvia in 2017 to perform a national solar microgrid feasibility study for eight new microgrid plants totaling 1.5 megawatts (MW) of peak installed capacity in remote regions across Kenya through the Power Africa initiative. In June 2018, Renewvia co-founders Eric Domescik and Trey Jarrard commissioned the 10 kilowatt (kW) solar and battery-powered plant on Ndeda Island, accessible only via a 45-minute boat ride from the small lakeside town of Uyawi. The Renewvia team then doubled down on their impact in August 2018 with the new 20 kW facility on Ringiti Island, two and a half hours away by boat from the lakeside regional hub of Mbita, near Kenya’s southwest boarder. Prioritizing community engagement upfront and throughout the process, each facility includes a continued revenue stream from individual community inhabitants and local businesses through Renewvia’s mobile payment platform, using M-PESA and Commercial Bank of Africa to facilitate the transactions.
Within the first few weeks of turning on the power, several members from the community and business subscribers signed-up and began pre-paying to be connected. One year later, Renewvia has established over 200 connections with new equipment on the way to meet growing demand.