E.ON Off Grid Solutions
6 kW-peak Solar-PV/Battery hybrid mini-grid
Completed in 2016
E.ON Off Grid Solutions (“EOGS”) was founded within E.ON’s corporate start-up programme “:agile”, in July 2013. Under the brand name Rafiki Power, the company operates as a service provider for off-grid energy solutions in East Africa with offices in Düsseldorf (Germany) and Arusha (Tanzania). The current focus is on Tanzania, but it is foreseen to extend operations into other countries post-2016. Customer segments are villages and businesses without access to the national electricity grid. The technology focus is Solar Hybrid Systems (currently PV/Battery/Diesel).
Itaswi is a village of 1,000 people and is far away from the electricity grid and major infrastructure. Only inefficient and cost-intensive solutions, e.g. small diesel generators and kerosene lighting (so high fuel costs), were used for lightning, phone charging and electrical appliances. The situation was thus costly and hindered development.
There is a high amount of solar radiation in the region.
EOGS developed a containerised hybrid system including a 6 kWp Solar PV array (~40 kWh/day) and battery storage with 20 kWh useful capacity. The system runs on 230 V AC allowing customers to connect “standard appliances” being flexible in their consumption and enable the connection of productive use systems.
The recycled 20-foot container is divided into two parts: the back houses all electrical equipment and in the front is a kiosk (with a refrigerator, battery charging station etc.), enabling the community access to products as well as providing a first access point for customers. A minigrid including smart metering has been built to connect 130 households. EOGS uses aluminium underground cables as poles are expensive in Tanzania (25 mm backbone cable and 10 mm customer connection cable).
The whole system is based on mobile money prepaid electricity sales. This allows avoiding cost inefficient cash handling and customers to always be informed of their consumption and balance as well as being able to purchase energy 24/7 at their own convenience. Moreover, added value sales (the procurement of consumer goods (e.g. TVs) and productive use application (e.g. egg incubator, circular saw etc.), either prepaid or on credit) have been implemented to allow customers access the benefits electricity brings. The alternative would be a 5–6-hour bus trip over rough roads to the next bigger village. Until now EOGS has sold freezers, lightbulbs, subwoofer, TV’s (20) and clippers.
Finally, EOGS has implemented customer services that allow people to call a hotline in case of problems or questions, regular customer meetings for education purposes and introduction of how to use appliances. Since installation in February, unconnected customers are currently lining up and based on the 60 applications so far, EOGS is currently examining a grid extension for early 2017
The installation in Itaswi is one out of eight similar projects from E.ON Off Grid Solutions in Tanzania done in the last two years. With them, 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.