South African startup Shakti Energy is piloting its alternative energy solutions in townships in the Western Cape, looking to establish energy entrepreneurs in informal settlements while tackling the fact over 3.4 million households in the country are not connected to the electricity grid.
The problem Shakti Energy has identified is even more potent across the rest of the continent, where over 500 million people suffer from “energy poverty”.
With 90 per cent of off-grid households in South Africa relying on expensive and potentially dangerous kerosene and candles for lighting, the startup has launched a series of cleaner, cheaper products it hopes will also encourage job creation in the townships.
Its Nuru LED light, which is portable and costs US$8, provides up to 20 hours of light on a full recharge, while in the POWERCycle Shakti has launched the world’s first commercially available pedal generator.
The POWERCycle, through 20 minutes of gentle pedalling, can fully recharge five Nuru lights, with a recharge costing US$1 a week for the consumer. Shakti’s Octopus technology can also be linked to the POWERCycle, and is able to recharge five mobile phones in one hour.
Shakti Energy plans to distribute its products through township entrepreneurs, who earn money through the sale and recharging of lights and mobile phones.
“Shakti Energy establishes energy entrepreneurs in informal settlements and rural areas that are not connected to the electricity grid to charge portable lights and mobile phones using a pedal powered generator,” Vijay Mitha, chief executive officer (CEO), told Disrupt Africa.
He said the startup planned to establish at least 500 groups of energy entrepreneurs over the next five years, creating jobs for over 2,000 individuals who will earn incomes of between ZAR4,000 (US$350) and ZAR8,000 (US$700) per month.
A recognised project for World Design Capital Cape Town 2014, Shakti Energy is initially piloting its products in the Western Cape before expanding to Gauteng and the Eastern Cape.