E.ON Off Grid Solutions (EOGS) is a rural utility company which builds decentralised, container-based energy solutions. The company operates under the brand name Rafiki Power (Swahili for “Friendly Power”) in rural Tanzania and is engaged in developing and operating mini-grid projects to provide high-quality grid-equivalent electricity access in remote areas in Sub-Saharan Africa. To date, the company has installed eight mini-grids and is providing clean and affordable energy to more than 900 household and business customers. Rafiki Power’s hybrid systems (solar PV & battery) are packed and standardized in recycled 20ft containers which also accommodate space for a local businesses and product sales. Together with partner organisations, Rafiki Power offers productive use trainings to ensure that the sold products are used efficiently in order to increase local incomes and transform rural village economics in the long-run. The company utilizes its in-house developed technological software (AMMP: Advanced Mini-Grid Management Platform) for asset, grid and customer management. Being the key enabler for Rafiki Power’s operational efficiency and scalability, AMMP proves to be an essential key for long-term rural electrification.
Itaswi is a village of 1,000 people and is far away from the electricity grid and major infrastructure. Before Rafiki Power’s arrival, residents of Itaswi were dependent on traditional fuel sources such as charcoal for cooking and kerosene for lighting. Electricity was available only for wealthy business people who own diesel generators or solar home systems. The situation thus creates a gap of life quality and access to services for within the village.
EOGS developed a containerised hybrid system including a 7.15 kWp solar PV array and battery storage. The system runs on 48 V of AC, allowing customers to connect almost any household appliances and enjoy the flexibility in their electricity consumption and enable the connection of productive use systems.
The recycled 20-foot container is divided into two parts: the back house with all electrical equipment and a kiosk in the front that a local entrepreneur operates his or her business (with a refrigerator, battery charging station etc.). The kiosk also serves as an access point for on-the-ground customer service and electrical appliance sales. Surrounding the power system, grid and smart metering extends to 135 households and businesses.
The business model is based on mobile money prepaid electricity sales. This avoids cost-inefficient cash handling and allows EOGS’s customers to be timely informed of their consumption and balance and to purchase energy 24/7 at their own convenience. In addition to sales of electricity, EOGS strengthens its business model by providing value-added services including sales and distribution of electrical appliances (e.g. TV, sound systems, freezers, egg incubators, wood processing machines) and support on productive use of electricity (PUE). These value-added services not only drive EOGS’s revenue growth, but also empower local communities to reap the most benefits from access to electricity.
The installation in Itaswi is one out of eight similar projects from E.ON Off Grid Solutions in Tanzania done in 2016. With the commissioning and years of operation in Itaswi, EOGS has managed a steep learning curve aimed to reduce system costs, optimized the performance of operations and customer services as well as improving the overall business model.