Watching videos of Mera Gao Power always leaves you with a good feeling. They typically start showing a village in darkness and a woman struggling with work in the light of a kerosene lamp and end by showing bright LED lights and smiling faces. Provide solar-powered lights to villages that had never seen electricity, let the villagers pay for it out of their savings on kerosene spends—way to go!
The going was good in the beginning. MGP lit up the first village in December 2011 and by mid-2013, had covered 300 villages. Its NRI-founder, Nikhil Jaisinghani, said in a conference in 2013 that he had a “scaleable model” and 30 per cent rate of return was possible.
Henri Winand runs a fuel-cell company. Fuel cells run on hydrogen to produce energy. So why has Intelligent Energy, Winand’s firm, just agreed a deal to manage some 16,000 diesel-powered mobile network towers in India?
One reason is that the deal will bring in an estimated £1 billion ($1.5 billion) in revenue for the company over the next decade. For a business that posted a £48-million loss on revenue of £13.6 million for the last full year, the income certainly helps. But the larger reason is that Winand plans, over time, to replace the diesel generators that power rural mobile towers in India with fuel cells. Winand can become his own best customer.
Winand’s plan might just work. Intelligent Energy has been in India since 2009, and already manages 10,000 of the country’s mobile towers, many of which are off-grid for eight hours a day. As the diesel generators that keep them running the rest of the time begin to mature, Winand has started replacing the majority of them with fuel cells. Speaking with Quartz before news of the new deal, Winand characterized the tower agreement with gleeful confidence: “We have eight-year visibility,” he said, referring to the minimum length of the contract. “It’s like a pension fund.”
SunEdison – the leading renewable energy developer – expands deeper into emerging markets.
In a conference room in midtown Manhattan on Tuesday, large screens glowed bright orange with the SunEdison logo. But the gathering was not a sales pitch for SunEdison, argued the company’s CEO, Ahmad Chatila.
“We hope next year there will be many more companies here with us, and many more after that,” Chatila told the audience during an impromptu address.
The company was front and center, however. At the Eradication of Darkness Summit this week, SunEdison announced plans to bring electricity to 20 million people by 2020, with an interim goal of lighting up 1 million homes in 2015.
The commitment would only address a fraction of the 1.3 billion people who live without electricity and the billion others who only have intermittent access to power. But it is a considerable pledge from a single company — and a helpful boost to the World Bank’s goal of getting 500 million people connected to power through private business investments.