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40 Companies & Organizations Bringing Solar Power to the Developing World

One of the things I love about the Zayed Future Energy Prize is that it has introduced me to numerous cleantech leaders I hadn’t previously heard or read about. It especially does this for me in one particular segment of the cleantech market: companies and organizations serving the developing world.

These companies and organizations are making a tremendous difference: cleaning up our climate (especially when they help to cut the use of diesel generators, kerosene lighting, and the burning of coal), helping the poorest people in the world gain access to electricity, and even saving lives through the provision of cheap and clean electricity. They’re also creating jobs for tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of people.

Bennu SolarWith this article, I was initially planning to highlight approximately a dozen cleantech companies and organizations that are bringing solar power to the developing world. Then I ran across a website that shares the names and websites of solar companies and organizations based in developing countries around the world. So I expanded the list to 40 such companies and organizations. You can find even more solar companies and organizations at Bennu Solar. It lists them by country, with countries separated into 4 regions: Developing Asia, Oceania; Africa; Latin America; Middle East.

1. As mentioned above, Bennu Solar has put together a great resource for anyone interested in solar power in the developing world. It also offers consulting regarding the supply of solar technology to the rural poor, and it offers procurement support. All of that work is great, but its solar resource list is now one of my favorite solar resources on the internet.

2. SELCO, a 2014 Zayed Future Energy Prize finalist, is a solar service pioneer based in India that has been in business since 1995! It has distributed approximately 1.5 million solar home lighting systems since its inception. It has hundreds of employees and about 40 service centers across India.

3. Practical Action, another 2014 Zayed Future Energy Prize finalist, does similar work but from a nonprofit angle. It brings technological solutions such as solar to developing countries such as Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Kenya, Rwanda, Peru, Bolivia, Nepal, India, Zimbabwe, and Sudan. Aside from solar power and solar-powered water pumps, it also helps to bring in fireless cookers, biogas, micro hydro power, small-scale wind power, and other cleantech solutions.

4. d.light was actually a 2013 Zayed Future Energy Prize winner (in the Small and Medium Enterprise category). It is a for-profit social enterprise that is aiming to “empower the lives” of 50 million people by 2015 and 100 million people by 2020. It both manufactures and distributes solar lighting and solar power products to people in 62 countries throughout the developing world who don’t have access to reliable power. Founded in 2004, it now services 12,000 retail outlets and has 10 field offices and 5 regional hubs. It employs over 300 people directly, and hundreds more indirectly.

5. A 2013 Zayed Future Energy Prize finalist, Mainstream Renewable Power focuses more on wind power than solar power, as it brings clean energy to larger groups of people per sale and wind power is more cost-competitive than solar (as well as basically everything else) at a larger scale. Also, Mainstream Renewable Power serves many developed countries, but it also serves some developing regions.

6. Another 2013 Zayed Future Energy Prize finalist, Grameen Shakti has been helping people in the developing world go solar since 1996. It has delivered almost 1.5 million solar home systems as well as about 30,000 biogas plants and over 800,000 improved cooking stoves. It has trained over 40,000 people in the use of these technologies. Its market-based programs are focused on helping the rural poor of Bangladesh.

7. Bright Green Energy Foundation is another organization serving the Bangladeshi market. It has installed over 100,000 solar home systems, with about 5,000 solar home systems installed per month. Through May 2014, it states that it has benefited over 7.5 million rural people. Bright Green Energy Foundation’s founder, Dipal Barua, was actually the first Zayed Future Energy Prize winner, in 2009.

8. Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha is yet another nonprofit serving solar in Bangladeshi, but it is doing so in a unique way. It operates 54 floating schools, libraries, health clinics, and training centres which include wireless internet and are powered by solar panels. It is serving approximately 100,000 people in flood-prone areas of Bangladesh.

9. Abellon Clean Energy was the 2014 Zayed Future Energy Prize winner in the Small & Medium Enterprise category. Founded in 2008, Abellon Clean Energy mostly focuses on bringing sustainable bioenergy technologies to people in India, Ghana, parts of Europe, and parts of North America. However, with solar power’s increasing competitiveness, it is also working to bring a unique “Solar Agri-Electric Model” to the rural world.

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10. Orb Energy was a 2012 Zayed Future Energy Prize finalist in the SME & NGO category (those two categories were combined back in 2012). It serves the Indian market. It sells, installs, and services solar PV systems, solar hot water systems, solar lighting, and solar-powered air conditioning.

11. Little Sun has perhaps the cutest solar light on the planet. The solar LED is making its way to people in Zimbabwe, Uganda, Kenya, Burundi, Senegal, Ethiopia, Nigeria, South Africa, Europe, the United States, Canada, Australia, and Japan. It was launched in 2012 and over 165,000 of the solar LEDs have been distributed since then.

12. Since 2001, Sunlabob Renewable Energy has been delivering solar, small hydro, and other renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies to the rural poor in Laos and now also to governments, multilateral development agencies, multinational companies, NGOs across Southeast Asia, India, Africa and the Pacific.

13. Azuri is also bringing clean solar energy to off-grid customers in various emerging markets, but with a twist. It lets people pay for solar power slowly over time using mobile phone scratch cards. The payment system is called Indigo.

14. M-KOPA Solar is helping people go solar in Kenya in its own way as well. It is an asset financing company that uses mobile phone technology for various purposes. Its proprietary and patented technology “combines embedded GSM + mobile payments to revolutionize asset financing in emerging markets,” allowing “accounting + customer relationship management + inventory tracking in one complete system.”

15. Eight19 produces flexible, lightweight, printed solar cells that can be used in various applications off the grid. Eight19 also launched Indigo in 2011 before it was spun out with Azuri in 2012.

16. BBOX is one of the first solar companies focused on the developing world that I ran across. It currently serves 14 countries (Rwanda, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Burkina Faso, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, Senegal, Congo, Uganda, Kenya, Peru, Mauritania, Comoros, South Sudan, Colombia, Haiti, Sudan, Zambia, and Pacific Islands) and it offers a wide range of solar products. It offers various sizes of plug-and-play solar kits that pack up into what looks like an old boombox, and it sells accompanying accessories such as fans, TVs, lights, motion sensors, shavers, mobile phone chargers, DVD players, radios, and refrigerators.

17. LUTW, since 2006, has been working with rural indigenous Mayan communities in the Western Highlands of Guatemala, helping them to switch from dirty kerosene lighting to solar-powered lighting. Bringing solar has also saved the Mayans from long treks to charge their cell phones.

18. Quetsol is bringing solar power and LEDs to Guatemalans for a lower price than dirty kerosene lighting and diesel electricity. Payments are made through cell phones.

19. Sustainable Energy Services Afghanistan (SESA) is electrifying rural Afghanistan communities via solar power, small hydro power, wind power, geothermal power, and biogas. For the most part, this is replacing dirty and expensive diesel power.

20. Another Afghanistan solar company, Zularistan offers solar modules, solar LED systems, solar cookers, solar water heaters, solar water purification systems, solar water pumps, solar refrigerators, off-grid inverters, batteries, and more.

21. One more solar company in Afghanistan, Afghan Solar actually has a logo very similar to BP’s and BP is a partner. It offers a variety of solar solutions and claims to be “the first and largest in Afghanistan.”

22. SPCG Public Company Limited (SPCG) is installing solar across Thailand, both on rooftops and as stand-alone solar farms. It is the first and largest solar farm developer in Thailand.

23. Good Return is an organization serving the Philippines, Nepal, Timor Leste, Tonga, Fiji, Indonesia, and Cambodia. What it does is connect product suppliers, distributors, and customers in these regions and provide them with training to keep the connection growing. In particular, it brings in micro-finance institutions (MFIs) and facilitates access to renewable energy resources like solar power, biogas, wind power, micro hydro, as well as to energy efficient products, such as fuel-efficient stoves.

24. Focusing on rural Cambodia, PicoSol provides workshops and trains people on solar power matters. It seems that PicoSol isn’t a solar power installer or developer, but it empowers Cambodians to start up solar businesses and go solar themselves.

25. KCSolar is a full-service solar company serving Cambodia, the only full-service solar company in the country and the largest solar company of any sort. It offers stand-alone solar power systems of various sizes, an “Outback Power Set,” microgrids, and more.

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26. Kamworks, meanwhile, doesn’t claim to be the largest but claims to be the most experienced solar company in Cambodia. Started in 2006, it offers custom-designed off-grid solar systems for water pumping, electricity, and refrigeration; custom-designed grid-connected solar solutions for general electricity needs and grid backup; and plug-and-play solar home systems and an award-winning MoonLight solar lantern.

27. Since 1998, Clay Energy has been bringing solar power, wind power, and hydro power to Fiji. However, its focus seems to be solar. It has expanded out beyond Fiji and now serves other Pacific islands.

28. Contained Energy offers a wide variety of solar products in Indonesia, Pacific Islands, and other tropical and remote areas. It is a full service company, offering design, installation, maintenance, plug-and-play systems, financing, or rental. It also offers consultancy and energy audits.

29. Kopernik has brought solar power technologies, clean-burning biomass cookstoves, water filters, and other clean technologies to over 200,000 people in 19 developing countries, such as India, the Philippines, Indonesia, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Uganda, Kenya, Burundi, Niger, Benin, Ghana, and Haiti. As its tagline states, it is “serving the last mile,” the “most remote parts of the developing world.”

30. Barefoot College shows again that innovation isn’t over. Its story is worth a read. And its work is much broader than the solar solutions it provides, but since this article is about solar power, the reason Barefoot College is on the list is because it provides solar lighting, parabolic solar cookers, solar water heaters, and solar desalination plants to those living in rural India.

31. Pollinate Energy serves the urban poor rather than the rural poor in India. What it does is train “Pollinators” who bring solar power and clean cookstoves to dedicated communities, to which they are often closely connected. Pollinate Energy provides these entrepreneurs with “business in a bag,” which includes training, smart phones, data management, stock loans, market research, products, service support, and a transportation allowance.

32. Surana Ventures Limited isn’t an installer or developer of solar projects, but it is a solar technology manufacturer based in India that is serving the Indian market and also providing good clean energy jobs in the process.

33. ENVenture, working in India and Uganda, aptly notes, “there are many high-quality and affordable technologies available that combat poverty. However, they are not reaching the people that need them.” ENVenture helps more of these technologies reach people in need by creating a network of stores in rural villages. It is a nonprofit organization but goes in and sets up for-profit companies in the locations it serves.

34. Simpa Networks offers pay-as-you-go solar to people in India. “Simpa sells distributed energy solutions on a ‘Progressive Purchase’ basis to underserved consumers in emerging markets,” the company notes. Customers put in a small down payment and then pay for electricity using a pre-pay system. All the payments go toward the eventual purchase of their solar power system.

35. Essmart delivers solar lighting, clean cookstoves, water filters, solar chargers, and other life-improving technologies to local mom-and-pop retail shops in India, which the founders note is where many rural people in developing countries “shop for all their consumer needs” and is also “their source of information on new goods.”

36. Solar Universe India started selling solar garden lights in India in 2003. It now sells a large range of solar and other cleantech products in approximately 20 countries around the world. It has offices in Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia, India, and Ireland; and it advises rural electrification organizations in Africa and Asia. It offers consumer, commercial-scale, and community products.

37. ONergy, yet another India-based social enterprise, has been providing solar products to underserved households and institutions in India since 2009. It estimates that it has improved the lives of 120,000 people so far, via the distribution of solar lanterns, rooftop solar power systems, solar water heating systems, solar inverters, solar street lighting, clean cookstoves, solar TVs, solar computers, solar microgrids, and solar irrigation systems.

38. Gram Power, another company based in and serving the Indian market, focuses its efforts on microgrids. Using a pay-as-you-go model, it serves rural Indian communities, while also serving telecom companies, state electricity distribution companies, and private commercial or industrial establishments.

39. Waaree is an Indian manufacturer of solar modules, but it also provides EPC services for solar power plants, installs rooftop solar power and solar hot water systems, and distributes solar lighting, solar cookers, solar mobile phone chargers, and solar bags.

40. Mono Eco Green Energy is based in Togo and serves Togo as well as other African countries. It sells and installs solar panel systems, solar lights, solar hot water heaters, solar air conditioning, solar water pumps, solar chargers, solar-powered refrigerators, solar-powered fans, electric scooters, and more.

That’s an inspiring list, isn’t it? Again, that’s not a comprehensive list of companies and organizations serving people in the developing world. Bennu Solar lists even more, organized by region and country, and I’m sure that Bennu Solar’s list isn’t at all comprehensive either.

But if you see a gap in the solar market in a developing country or more (there are still many gaps), consider jumping in and starting a company yourself. The world needs many more companies and organizations like the ones listed above.

By the way, if you think we missed a clear leader in some important developing country markets, let us know by including the info in a comment below.

Originally published on Sustainnovate.