Bboxx, Orange launch solar mini-grid project in the DRC under anchor business community model

The mini-grid projects will be powered by solar and aims to connect more than 600 households by the end of the year. Image: Bboxx.

Off-grid pay-as-you-go solar provider Bboxx has partnered with telecommunications company Orange to launch a new solar mini-grid project to help accelerate clean energy access for households across the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The programme will employ an ‘Anchor Business Community’ (ABC) model, a strategy of rural energy development under which companies target anchor customers – initial, large customers who provide a substantial order – to reduce the operational risk in areas of uncertain demand. This then incentivises and facilitates the electrification of the wider community.

Less than 10% of the DRC’s population has access to electricity, second only to Nigeria in terms of the number of people without access.

Partnering with DRC solar engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) company GoShop, Bboxx has created a joint venture company to build a hybrid mini-grid plant that will supply energy to Orange’s telecoms infrastructure. It will generate 85% of its energy through solar panels, connecting the local community around the telecom tower with clean power.

The company aims to connect more than 600 households in the DRC city of Bukavu by the end of 2022 and is working with the rural energy agency to access a subsidy programme for low-income customers.

“Using this innovative and cost-effective ABC model, Bboxx plans to launch 24 additional mini-grid projects with Orange across the DRC over the coming months, electrifying 150,000 people by 2024 and directly addressing the electrification challenge in the country,” the company said in a statement.

“These kinds of partnerships are vital towards connecting more customers across Africa to essential modern utilities, transforming even more lives and ultimately unlocking more potential,” said Mansoor Hamayun, CEO and co-founder of Bboxx.

Last year, Bboxx and University College London (UCL) released a report that said access to off-grid electricity should be seen as a key mechanism to drive rural development and improve economic wellbeing and living standards in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), a strategy also promoted by research firm Wood Mackenzie, which said a new type of energy system may emerge in the region as a result.

Following that, PV Tech Premium spoke with WoodMac’s then principal analyst in its Energy Transition Practice, Ben Attia, to explore how neo-colonialism in the energy sector has hampered SSA’s pursuit of energy independence.

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