01 Dec Agents of Resilience: Entrepreneurs Creating Sustainable Climate Solutions, Part II
Lighting Central America
As so many of you know, COP26 Climate Summit leaders, such as Damilola Ogunbiyi, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Sustainable Energy for All, are calling on governments, policy makers, impact investors, and other leaders across the globe to “radically rethink how we deliver energy services” because “[w]e are running out of time, and we have no choice but to be decisive and commit to the collaboration and financing necessary to make a just equitable and inclusive energy transition possible.”
While off-grid energy is rapidly growing in sub-Saharan Africa, regions like Latin America, and especially countries in Central America, seem to be left behind, mainly because more people in these countries are connected to utility power. But millions of people living in the more remote areas of Central America are not part of this energy transition, and still do not have access to reliable, clean energy.
Many local entrepreneurs are working to fix that. One of these entrepreneurs is Juan Fermín Rodríguez, Co-Founder of Kingo, an investee of the SEAF Colombia Agribusiness Fund (SCAF). Rodríguez founded Kingo with the goal of providing solar energy to off-the-grid villages in Latin America that traditional electric companies cannot reach, enabling families living in remote areas to access clean power for lighting and electronic appliances. Through the proprietary hardware and software technology he developed, Kingo provides prepaid solar power to 25,000 families in Guatemala and Colombia. Users can pay daily, weekly, or monthly and can request free system installs and upgrades. Instead of installing wires or some other type of cumbersome infrastructure, Kingo harnesses solar energy which by 2022 will become the most inexpensive, sustainable global energy source, to provide thousands of families in Central America with sustainable and safe solutions for light and power.
Kingo’s sustainable solar technology is not only lighting Central America, but it is also substantially improving the lives of communities and households:
- Saving money: Kingo’s technology is cheaper for families than purchasing a month’s supply of candles, and families are no longer having to travel miles to charge their cell phones which also costs them money;
- Increasing productivity: Families are more productive, able to work more hours safely or pursue hobbies or an education;
- Supporting education: Children are seeing a 250% increase in their study time due to having longer hours of light in the home;
- Providing health benefits: No one is experiencing burns or breathing in toxic smoke from burning candles and/or biomass in their homes.
While Kingo started out offering small 15-watt systems that could power three lightbulbs and charge a cellphone, Kingo recognized the need for, and started developing, advanced innovative technology to bring power and internet to off-grid communities. These systems have the power to transform rural schools, and Kingo is now installing their systems in schools across 300 rural communities in Guatemala. Powering and enabling education in rural communities substantially improves the quality of life and futures for so many families in the region.
In addition to increasing access to education, Kingo is also working on productivity enhancement solutions for rural small and medium enterprises, such as bundle services that would include efficient refrigerators and/or power terminals that would allow community convenience stores to sell cold beverages or become payment gateways for banks.
Supporting entrepreneurs like Rodríguez and his company Kingo, and by extension, the lives of thousands living in these off-grid areas in Latin America, is a valuable market opportunity for impact investors. But more importantly, it is also an opportunity to ensure that everyone benefits from an energy transition that is truly inclusive, making real, measurable change in communities across the world.
SEAF Chief Executive Officer
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