Everywhere you look, the off-grid clean energy market is booming.
Sub-Saharan Africa is seeing 300 percent compound annual growth in off-grid lighting; Bangladesh is putting up 30,000 to 40,000 solar home systems every month; and d.light, a for-profit seller of solar lights, recently reached its 1 millionth customer.
If these numbers haven’t raised the attention of institutional investors, perhaps this will: half the planet’s population may be best served with pay-as-you-go solar technology, not grid services.
That’s cleantech’s next big frontier, according to energy expert Ted Hesser. I caught up with him after a recent presentation at Stanford University (video below) to get a better understanding of why he’s bullish on pay-as-you-go solar’s ability to end energy poverty — and to make investors a whole lot of money.
Ted’s thesis is simple: poverty and profit tend not to mix — except when it comes to solar power for the poor.
The best way to understand this is to consider the case of a villager in Tanzania. Let’s say she lives in a community where there is no grid, but she has a mobile phone or other device and really wants to keep it charged. So she opts for a small home solar system to cover basic needs like mobile charging.