SERVICING OFF-GRID COMMUNITIES WITH RENEWABLE ENERGY
The Jabula project was initiated to formulate a scalable model for a social enterprise using solar DC micro-grid technology
to alleviate power poverty in off-grid urban settlements. Jabula has been in existence for more than 30 years and is a
well-established “informal” settlement in Cape Town. It consists of 54 households that never had access to grid electricity.
Many of the households run small petrol generators at a cost of R20 (USD 1.43) per hour or up to R2,000 (USD 143) per month.
The cost for Zonke Energy’s service (basic electricity & appliances) is less than R1 (USD 0.07) per hour.
The Jabula project has been initiated, financed and implemented by Zonke Energy.
Specialized Solar Systems of George in South Africa supplied and installed the technology,
and contributed its invaluable understanding of the African renewable energy sector.
PROJECT MILESTONES AND THE WAY FORWARD
During August 2016 Zonke Energy installed a solar DC micro-grid (750 Wp) in Jabula that serves nine families with basic electricity. The installation included six lights, two mobile phone chargers and one radio in each client’s house. Some of the clients also chose to have a TV and DVD player. The appliances and the energy to run them are available to the client at a cost of less than R1 per hour. With their weekly or monthly payments the clients rent the appliances and a portion of the solar system. The installation also included a community street light.
Clients can make their cash payments within walking distance of their house at a “Tuck Shop”. The shop owner then registers the payment on a web-based platform from where a SMS is sent to the solar system to switch on the client’s electricity. The electricity switches off once the time credit is used up.
Our clients use significantly less kerosene and petrol since they have subscribed to our service. The savings from this reduced expenditure are higher than the fees payable to Zonke Energy. The net-effect for our clients often is more “cash in hand” at the end of the month. The inside lights reduce the risk of fire and allow children to complete their homework. The outside lights and the public street light potentially deter intruders. The radio provides information, the cell phone chargers provide continues communication and the TV provides entertainment.
Uptake by the community has been fast and the first solar system is at full capacity. Customer feedback is very positive and we are under the impression that the vast majority of the 45 remaining Jabula households is interested to become a client of Zonke Energy.