Top 5 U.S. Innovators in African Energy

With nearly 600 million Africans without electricity, energy innovation in Africa has largely been directed at reducing the cost of electricity and making it more accessible through off-grid and distributed solutions. With some of the highest levels of R&D spending globally, the U.S. serves as a global pioneer in the deployment of cutting-edge technologies, along with new financing mechanisms that reduce upfront costs for users while maintaining for-profit business models for developers. From increasing battery capacity per dollar to implementing scalable Pay-As-You-Go (PAYG) models, U.S. energy and technology firms are importing American capital and innovation to address Africa’s most pressing power need.

SparkMeter – Washington, D.C.

Utilizing plug-and-play solutions, SparkMeter connects micro-grid and distribution utilities with rural communities characterized by difficult-to-access locations and low consumption end users. Flexible billing, enhanced customer communications and remote monitoring and control allow for low-cost and more efficient micro-grid management. Last August, the company secured $12 million in a Series A financing round led by Bill Gates’ Breakthrough Energy Ventures to launch its new digital solution, which communicates Smart Grid data insights to electricity distribution utilities in emerging markets. In sub-Saharan Africa, improved data collection and analysis could streamline operations and maximize efficiencies for distribution utilities, which face non-payment, electricity theft, insufficient transmission infrastructure and load management issues, among other key challenges.

Angaza – San Francisco, CA

Software provider Angaza is one of the leading pioneers of PAYG solutions that make solar power more affordable, combining decreasing prices of solar panels with flexible payment software and device metering technology. Last October, the company raised $13.5 million in a Series B funding round led by East African energy impact fund KawiSafi Ventures. The company’s platform brings data-driven market insights to off-grid power producers and distributors, as well as leverages cable-based, keypad and GSM technologies. Angaza has implemented its scalable payment software in 33 African countries to date and aims to bring affordable solar energy solutions to five million African households over the next five years.

NextGen Solar – Irvine, CA

Renewable energy company NextGen Solar builds and operates utility-scale, PV solar power plants across sub-Saharan Africa, utilizing a hybrid model of modern solar PV generation with legacy diesel plants. With existing operations in Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda, the company is seeking to install an additional 200 MW of installed solar generation capacity via 70 MW in Tanzania, 50 MW in Kenya, 35 MW in Ethiopia, 30 MW in Ghana and 15 MW in Nigeria, representing a combined investment of $600 million. Over the next five years, NextGen Solar will create 430,000 direct and indirect jobs and supply electricity to 3.7 million people in its target markets.

OffGridBox – Cambridge, MA

OffGridBox supplies 6x6x6, all-in-one shipping containers to rural communities across sub-Saharan Africa, which use solar energy to purify water and distribute power. The company’s trademark containers feature a solar panel array that captures and converts solar energy into direct current; an integrated inverter; and a battery pack that enables electricity to be used by a commercial grid or local, off-grid network. The containerized micro-grid solutions also include a water treatment system, in which some of the electricity is used to filter and sterilize untreated water; a water storage tank; and a water collection system with an integrated rain capture system. Last October, the company signed an agreement with Engie Energy Access to supply containerized systems to households in Kigali, Rwanda, supporting off-grid electrification targets.

Renewvia Energy – Atlanta, GA

Renewvia Energy Corporation develops, builds, finances, owns and operates mini-grid solar and storage systems in sub-Saharan Africa’s fastest growing off-grid markets, including Nigeria and Kenya. The mini-grid developer also provides turnkey solar installation, integrated financing and solar consulting services, with the aim of building and operating an additional 500 mini-grids on the continent by 2024. In June, the company secured a one-million-dollar commitment from impact investor Social Investment Managers and Advisors to build new solar mini-grids and electrify rural communities in Kenya by the of 2021, which will power more than 7,500 individuals and small- and medium-sized enterprises.

Energy Capital & Power (ECP) – in partnership with the African Energy Chamber’s U.S.-Africa Committee – invites U.S. companies, investors and organizations to participate in the first-ever U.S.-Africa Energy Forum (USAEF) (October 4-5, 2021, Houston, Texas), introducing American companies to African opportunities. To learn more about how U.S. firms can advance the agenda of sustainable, long-term investment in African energy, please visit www.USAfricaEnergy.com. To sponsor, speak or attend USAEF 2021, please contact Senior Director James Chester at james@energycapitalpower.com

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Grace Goodrich

Grace Goodrich

Grace Goodrich is a Field Editor at ECP, where she writes about the intersection of energy, policy and global finance in sub-Saharan Africa's fastest-growing economies. Grace produces our Africa Energy Series investment reports in Angola and Equatorial Guinea (2019), as well as co-authored African Energy Chamber: Road to Recovery (2021).

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