Off-grid energy solutions are proving a livelihood game changer to many of the world's poor, though a myriad of issues remain in the field of 'energy-access'. The energy access sector is busy with innovators, attempting to answer problems around access to credit, product standards, aftersales, reach & scalability. At Scene we are innovating to try and find solutions to one of these issues; lack of human capacity and effective supply chains for after-sales and maintenance, through our project in India, Urjaa Samadhan. Building on Urjaa Samadhan, we are now looking to work on the issue of access to credit for end-users and small developers, through enabling the ESCo model, with Chile as a pilot location.

Co-funded by Innovate UK and in partnership with Ciudad Luz (Chile), Cloud Solar will involve the creation and piloting of remote monitoring, actuation and payment technologies in off-grid solar. The project aims are two-fold; 1) To allow off-grid solar developers to be able to employ the Energy Services Company (ESCo) business model through better monitoring and control of their systems; 2) To enable users to access solar energy services without taking the risk of paying for the full system up front.

The rationale driving the project is that those who lack access to modern electricity services, or are looking to access modern electricity for the first time, deserve the option to do so without major financial risk. I believe that those with the means should make renewable energy, whether through solar, wind, hydro etc., available as a service, rather than only through outright purchase of generation equipment. The risk is often better placed on the shoulders of those who can afford things to go wrong from time to time.

One way of shifting the risk from the user to the developer is to use the ESCo model, in which the user does not own the equipment, but pays for the energy service that they use (much like the vast majority of energy consumers in highly developed energy systems). To enable the ESCo model we need to increase the functionality and oversight offered by off-grid energy technologies, in turn increasing developers' ability to raise finance for project development. Cloud Solar will work to produce a product suite which does just that.


The public project description is copied below. Please get in touch with any enquiries:

Cloud Solar is a collaboration between Chilean distributed solar energy developer, Ciudad Luz, and British distributed energy specialists, Scene. Together they aim to adapt existing technology, created by Scene, to develop products for the Chilean market that would allow a pay as you go solar service market offering to form. This would allow poorer, remote and more sceptical potential users of solar energy are able to access solar services, without having to pay for the equipment outright.

For this to be possible, sophisticated monitoring, control and communications technology will be used to reduce risk for project financiers, and to ensure that the user only pays for what they use. An additional aspect of the project is to incorporate mobile payment functionality, so that users are able to pre-pay for their energy use in a quick and administratively efficient manner.