SolarWorks! started from Johannesburg in 2009, where co-founder Arnoud de Vroomen had moved to from the Netherlands with solar pico products for Southern Africa’s off-grid markets. What began with small appliances grew into large-scale energy services with the rise of the PAYG model.
Today, SolarWorks! supplies a wide range of solar home systems – from small systems that include lights and mobile-charging capacity to bigger ones that power televisions, refrigerators, and sewing machines. Customers pay small amounts every month using mobile money until eventually owning the appliance.
When SolarWorks! decided to change its business model from pico solar in Southern Africa to an energy service provider in Mozambique, the company counted with GET.invest Finance Catalyst assistance, building on support provided by the Energising Development programme. GET.invest’s advisors gave hands-on advice on the financial model and business plan, ensuring these key documents were sound and met the expectations of potential financiers. The advisors also brought SolarWorks! together with similar energy service providers and financiers to discuss the business idea and bring their experience to the investor pitch.
In 2019, the company scaled up with an amount equivalent to €3.5 million debt funding from the European Union’s impact investor ElectriFI; the first large debt facility for an off-grid company in Mozambique at the time.
While business in both countries is headed for further growth, the company has entered into the next stage with the Finance Catalyst. The focus is now on long-term strategic advice for future expansion, including how to better align the funding strategy with the future revenue model.
Future plans cover both new services and expansion into two additional countries in the region. The financing provided by ElectriFI in 2019 will enable the company to equip more than 100,000 households with solar home systems by 2021. Now the company intends to focus more on small businesses through productive energy use, such as solar irrigation systems to boost the local economy.
The evolution of SolarWorks! from a pico to a larger provider of solar energy services shows that solar home systems, in combination with PAYG, has become an attractive and viable model for hundreds of thousands of new users, and is beginning to make a real impact in productive use thanks to progress in low-consumption devices.
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