1. Our Biggest Crowd Investment To Date

    By Cindy Nawilis, community & operations lead

    In July 2012, SunFunder launched with a $4,000 solar crowd project to benefit 500 people in the Palawan islands of the Philippines. Since then, we have attracted more than $414,000 in hybrid capital investments for 20 more solar projects in  5 other countries. With that kind of track record and community support, we can now raise much larger crowd investments at a time for individual projects; last week, we successfully funded a $30,000 microgrid solar crowd project in India and launched a $50,000 solar crowd project in Ntungamo, Uganda.

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    Switch On Ntungamo is the fifth project that has been launched under SunFunder’s partnership with SolarNow. Our last project with SolarNow was successfully funded in just 14 days in February, so we’re excited to do even better now!

    Like previous projects with SolarNow, Switch On Ntungamo focuses on distributing 50W solar home systems to households in rural districts of Uganda. However, to further lower the cost of solar, SolarNow has extended their consumer financing from 12 month to 18 month payment plans. For this reason, they need more working capital loans upfront, which we feel confident that our community is ready to supply. You can learn more about the project details on our website, and please consider investing in the project:

    Let’s Prove Solar is Economically Viable and Ultimately Bankable

    With this project as with all of our projects, SunFunder is out to prove the economic viability of solar in emerging markets. Proving solar’s economic viability is necessary to unlock greater access to finance for solar companies in emerging markets. The world needs nearly $1 trillion in cumulative investment to achieve universal energy access by 2030 according to International Energy Agency. But right now, most North American and European banks and traditional solar financiers deem the off-grid solar sector too small, too risky and too experimental. Hence the sector is lacking the critical access to finance to grow, which impedes the global progress to achieve universal energy access by 2030.

    To ensure that capital investments flow into the off-grid solar sector, SunFunder provides people anywhere in the world a way to invest in off-grid solar projects and help startup solar companies scale. These crowd investments are complemented with private investments from accredited investors to meet the growing working capital needs of those solar companies, which is much larger than what crowd investments alone could supply. Switch On Ntungamo follows this hybrid capital model; the project’s $50,000 crowd investment is complemented by a $200,000 private investment from SunFunder’s private investment facility, the the Solar Empowerment Fund.



  2. Our Fastest Crowdfunding Yet

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    By Cindy Nawilis, community & operations lead

    Thank you to all of the 362 investors who fully funded our first microgrid solar project in India. You helped us set yet another new record on an exciting milestone, and words cannot express our gratitude for your support. 

    I see successes such as this as evidence that when given the outlet, people are eager to support the proliferation of solar around the world. Our reasons to do so may vary, but we all converge. For example, Thad Curtz actively invests in solar through SunFunder because it is one of the many ways he and his wife strive to reduce their carbon footprint. Another SunFunder has told us that as a college student, he has some money saved that he won’t be needing to use until he graduates. Since that money won’t be gaining much interest value just sitting in a savings bank account, he would rather put that money to good use by investing it in SunFunder projects and getting it repaid in time before he graduates. I invest because I’ve seen first hand in Indonesia what a difference a solar light makes for families that don’t have access to electricity and had been using kerosene lamps at night. Everyone has a unique motive to invest in solar through SunFunder. What’s yours?

    Tell us your reason for investing in SunFunder in the comments section of this blog or by emailing it to connect@sunfunder.com. We’ll then share them as its own blog post! And since we’ve got you energized about investing in solar, why not check out our latest solar project in Uganda and send a gift investment to someone you care about:

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  3. 5 Fully Repaid Projects

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    By Cindy Nawilis, community & operations lead

    When it rains, it pours. The sunnier version of this saying has definitely been true for SunFunder recently in relation to fully repaid projects. It only makes sense: more and more projects are getting fully repaid as time passes. Before we know it, we’ll have been doing this for 2 years!

    We received the final repayment of 1200 more solar lights for Copperbelt this week. The project benefited students and teachers in the Copperbelt district of Zambia with low-cost solar lanterns sold by SunnyMoney. Our sincerest thanks goes to all 146 of you who invested in this project.

    This week is extremely momentous for SunnyMoney. Not only did SunnyMoney fully repay this project, which is now their third with SunFunder that is fully repaid, they’ve also announced an incredible milestone: they have sold 1 million solar lights in Africa. This was a goal they had set in 2006, and they were able to accomplish it in just 8 years thanks to supporters like you.

    You can check out what one million solar lights mean in terms of the generated impact for African households on their website

    We congratulate the entire SunnyMoney and SolarAid team on this wonderful milestone, and we thank them for all their hard work! 


  4. There are more people in Africa with cellphones than there are with access to electricity. Isn’t it time we really deliver universal energy access?

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    Infographic depicting smart and “dumb” mobile phone numbers on the African continent. Data from Informa Telecoms & Media.



  5. You Are Proving the Economic Viability of Microgrid Solar

    By Cindy Nawilis, community & operations lead

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    If you have not yet invested in our latest project in India, you may want to get on it quickly. It’s 60% funded in just one week, which is quite the accomplishment considering that at $30,000, it is our largest crowdfunding target for a single project to date. It’s clear that our community (including you!) are responding very well to SunFunder’s expansion to India with Mera Gao Power and to our efforts to prove the economic viability of off-grid solar.

    This project is also our first microgrid solar project. It is different from other solar projects because microgrid solar lights up entire villages at a time, providing electricity to 25-30 households as a continuing service from a single installation. At just 40 cents a week, it’s cheaper, cleaner and overall better for each household than kerosene or diesel, the two incumbent energy sources most typically used in Sitapur district. 

    For those looking to understand how the numbers add up, here’s how it works. The cost of each Mera Gao Power migrogrid installation is $1,000. SunFunder’s loan will pay for approximately two-thirds of each microgrid, thus a loan size of $30,000 will effectively finance 50 microgrid installations, impacting 1,250 households. The average household size in the area is 5 people, so with a $30,000 we will impact 6,250 people with nightly access to 2 LED lights and phone charging. That’s enormous.

    So help us prove the economic viability of microgrid solar. If the proof of the pudding is in the eating, so the proof of solar is in the projects—the more projects you help fully fund, the more we have to show that solar works everywhere, even in the most remote parts of the world. 

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  6. SunFunder Expands to India With Our First Microgrid Solar Project

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    In India alone, 400 million people live without access to electricity. That’s half of Asia’s total off-grid population, and almost comparable to Africa’s off-grid population of 587 million people. It is critical that India gets addressed when solving the problems of global energy poverty. This is why SunFunder has partnered with Mera Gao Power to finance our very first solar project in India.  It is also our first microgrid solar project.

    Light and Information Access for Sitapur District

    We kick off our new partnership with a $30,000 project that will impact 6,250 people in Sitapur district of Uttar Pradesh. Families will benefit from Mera Gao Power’s solar microgrid, which supplies every house with 2 LED lights and a phone charger at a price that’s affordable for all: just 40 cents a week.

    The project’s impact is a small slice of India’s off-grid population, but it is a sure step toward a modern energy lifestyle. And for many of Mera Gao Power’s customers, this will be the first time they are experiencing light and phone charging at home. We invite you to join us in our effort to increase energy access in India.

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  7. 4 Projects Are Now 100% Repaid

    Our list of fully repaid projects keeps growing, and we are now at 4 projects that have crossed the finish line. This month Angaza Design made their final repayment for PAYGO Solar for Nairobi Slums, a project that kickstarted the distribution of the award-winning, pay-as-you-go solar product the SoLite 3 in Kenya. We send a huge thanks to the 91 early funders who helped in getting this project off the ground.

    With every project that gets fully repaid, the SunFunder community is proving out several critical points:

    • Solar energy is economically viable for low-income communities living without electricity. In fact, it is so viable that off-grid solar companies are profiting enough to pay back their loans while continuing to scale up to meet solar’s rising demand. 
    • Crowdfunding is catalytic. If not banks, who will help the off-grid solar companies build the necessary track record and credit history to become bankable? The answer is you. Your collective loans give them the opportunity to prove out their business models, and with the traction they’re making through paying back your loans, SunFunder can confidently approach accredited and institutional investors to follow suit.
    • Off-grid solar is bankable. The track record and traction that off-grid solar companies is gaining with SunFunder provides evidence to large financial institutions that these companies are not as risky as previously perceived and are in fact bankable. As the International Energy Agency has stated, the world needs nearly $1 trillion in cumulative investment to achieve universal energy access by 2030. The more we can leverage crowdfunding and other innovative, community-backed approaches to prove that the off-grid solar sector is worth the investment for big IFI’s like the World Bank, the better off the 1.3 billion unelectrified population will be in the coming years

    This means that every dollar that you put toward solar ends up being worth significantly more in the long run because of what it enables. We are grateful for your support, and we look forward to financing energy access some more with your help.



  8. Where Do The World’s Off-Grid Majority Live?

    By Cindy Nawilis, community & operations lead

    An overwhelming majority of the world’s off-grid population reside in Africa and Asia. This graph helps illustrate: 

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    But if you approach Asia’s off-grid population with a different angle, the problem doesn’t seem to be so dire. Asia’s off-grid population of 798 million makes up only 21% of Asia’s total population of nearly 3.7 billion people, and most of them live in India where a national solar mission is already underway. On the other hand, 8 out of 9 people in Sub-Sahara Africa lack access to electricity. This is why Africa is typically at the center stage of all energy access discussions. 

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    Here at SunFunder, we understand that both regions are equally important when tackling the problems of energy poverty. Aside from our first project in the Philippines back in 2012, SunFunder has been focusing mostly on solar projects in East Africa. That doesn’t mean that Asia is out of our minds; in fact, we’ll soon be back engaging in projects in Asia with a new partner that we are very excited to work with. 

    If you’ve signed up at SunFunder, you’ll hear about our newest project launch shortly. If you haven’t done so, we encourage you to sign up so you can be the first to know when the next project goes live. Thanks for tuning in!



  9. Energy Access Infographic

    Here’s a great infographic of the gravity of energy poverty from The Guardian

    Share it on your blog and Pinterest so more people are informed about this issue!

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  10. Renewable Energy for Power Africa

    By Cindy Nawilis, community & operations lead

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    Recently on Huffington Post, Doug Norten and University of California, Berkeley’s Daniel Kammen made a case for why renewable energy off-grid solutions (namely solar) is an effective approach for delivering energy access to Africa’s population living off-the-grid. The post is titled Energy Access and the True Cost of Fossil Fuel Projects in Africa, and it sheds light on a debate that’s happening now about how federal agencies can best provide support for sustainable energy access for the region in light of the Power Africa initiative, launched by President Obama last year, and the Electrify Africa Act, introduced by the House Committee on Foreign Affairs last year as well.

    The federal agency whose activity is in question is the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC). At the moment OPIC is facing policy changes that would determine what kind of energy access projects it will finance in the coming years. For context, the agency has shifted from providing $131 million in renewable energy projects in 2009 to now around $1 billion annually—roughly 30 percent of its total financing—to the developing world. This shift is not only aligned with the global imperative to reduce carbon emissions, but it has driven OPIC to invest increasingly in off-grid solutions, which benefits many solar companies that share the same mission as we do.

    However, there is now a push in the U.S. Congress to weaken the current policy in order to support new large scale investments in natural gas and grid extension in place of off-grid and renewable energy investments. The argument is that there is a tradeoff between access to electricity and focus on renewable energy, and that natural gas projects could result in more than 60 million additional people in poor nations gaining access to electricity, based on a paper published by Center for Global Development (CGD) in January 2014.

    The article written by Norten and Kammen on Huffington Post criticizes the paper’s findings. It explains why CGD’s overall estimate is questionable, citing reasons such as the use of obsolete data and omissions of crucial costs in CGD’s analysis. Norten and Kammen are not the only ones to have criticized the findings of the CGD paper; so did Michael Levi of Council on Foreign Relations, who advocated for a rational project-by-project assessment of potential OPIC investments. CGD responded back with a thoughtful post that encourages more constructive conversation that would help policymakers understand the issue better. Additionally, University of Colorado’s Roger Pielke also shared his thoughts on the CGD paper on his blog Science, Innovation, Politics, and concludes that the way to turn the tradeoff into a win-win situation is with a long-term commitment to energy innovation that would make clean energy cheaper.

    The debate is still ongoing, and it’s important that energy access practitioners and off-grid solar companies are aware of high-level conversations like this since the outcome could significantly influence their future work. We will be following the debate, and we will share with you the highlights. Where it is appropriate for players like us to step in and support any legislation that leads to greater support of off-grid solar, we will do so and encourage peer businesses and our community to consider the same. In the meantime, we welcome all insight and feedback from practitioners, researchers, and supporters regarding this topic.

     Satellite image of Earth at night by NASA.

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