Impact Hub Manila Fellowship

Solar Sari-sari Store: Solution for Off-Grid Communities

There is a direct correlation between energy and development. As such, energy access is one of the Sustainable Development Goals because 1.3 billion people worldwide still do not have electricity. One of the basic use of energy is lighting which affects education, security, productivity, and health. Because of geographic and economic reasons, off-grid communities resort to kerosene and candles for lighting that are hazardous, expensive, less reliable, and has poor quality. These communities are also financially poor and are unable to acquire quality products.

Who faces this problem?

There are 3 customer levels for this product.

(1)  End-users that use conventional light sources such as candles and kerosene lamps. Kerosene lamps are known to be fire and health hazards. Kerosene lamps and candles are also more expensive if one looks at their quality of light and the amount of time that they can be used. Also, they do not have the financial capability to buy quality products such as solar home systems.

(2) Local entrepreneurs such as sari-sari store owners. They mostly likely sell kerosene and candles that are not only hazardous but also needs to be transported from the city or mainland. 

(3) NGOs, LGUs, and microfinance institutions that have advocacy on access to energy, livelihood, renewable energy, and community engagement. For the microfinance institution, it can also increase their portfolio for products and services offered.

How does your idea address this problem?

We at SolarSolutions, together with partners from Stanford University and SunPower Corporation, devised an innovative technical solution and appropriate financial model for these communities. We designed a solar-powered station that charges lamps. These lamps are rented out at a minimal fee ensuring affordability, economic viability and creating livelihood for local entrepreneurs. 

Technology. With solar photovoltaic technology, energy is generated where it is needed. Solar panels can be easily installed in a local community. Thus it can be deployed almost everywhere. The lamps uses LED bulbs and comes with lithium batteries that can last for 5 years. This means that these lamps are cheaper than kerosene and candles in the long run. 

Financial. These lamps are rented out at a minimal fee using a prepaid model. This means that the end-user can afford these lamps. The revenue ensures that initial investment is going to be paid back. Also, it is more sustainable than doling out lamps for free since the payment brings a sense of ownership for the end user.

Operations. Local entrepreneurs such as existing sari-sari store owners are tapped to operate the station. This way the station generates livelihood. If the sari-sari store sells kerosene, the lost income (due to customers using the lamps) will be replaced by the income from the solar-powered charging station.

This is more than just an idea. We are actually on our fourth iteration for this product. Our previous versions are already serving about 200 families in Smokey Mountain, Tondo Manila and another one to open in BASECO Manila this year. Our fourth version is drawn from the learning onfthe previous ones and we believe that it is already a scalable model.

What’s new and unique about your idea?

The Solar Sari-Sari Store is a more sustainable solution to the lighting and energy problem of off-grid communities compared to existing and proposed solutions. We have tackled four interlinked aspects of sustainability which are Technology, Social, Economic, and Environment.

Technology

  • Does not have moving parts. This means no degradation due to wear and tear, and thus more reliable. 
  • Ensures NO replacement parts needed for the next 5 years by design. The less reliable component of an off-grid system is the battery or the storage device which may have parts to replaced/replenished, These typically could only last for a few months to a year or two depending on use. However, our LED lamps use Lithium batteries that can last for 5 years. Also, a big improvement from previous versions is that the charging station per se does not have batteries. 
  • Provides a product with NO maintenance other than cleaning the solar panel

Social

  • Offers affordable LED lamps that can last for 2-3 days 
  • Provides LED lamps that will improve education and productivity
  • Creates livelihood
  • Employs local entrepreneurs  
  • Does not disrupt income from kerosene dealers as they can be the owners of the Solar Sari-Sari Store

Economic

  • Generates revenue stream that ensures a payback for the initial investment in about 2 years, well faster than when parts need to be replaced.
  • Less operations and maintenance cost. This is because of no replacement parts needed in the next 5 years and solar energy generates electricity locally. This is critical as most off-grid communities are remote and challenging to reach for maintenance.

Environment

  • Utilizes a renewable energy with no harmful emissions
  • Less waste because of less replacement parts 

How are you going to earn money?

The Solar Sari-Sari Store is financially self-sustainable by itself because of the revenue that it generates.  The end-users are able to use and charge the lamps at a minimal fee. They will have savings, non-hazardous light source at home, and better and longer lighting for livelihood and education purposes during the night.  This means that SolarSolutions can own and operate these stations as well.

Our customers are also NGOs and LGUs with the same advocacy on helping off-grid communities. They can purchase our product and we can also offer our consultancy services on how to operate these stations.

Lastly, we can sell directly to local sari-sari store owners who would like to offer a safer, and more sustainable energy solution to their respective neighborhood.

Do you already have customers?

Yes, we already have customers and their feedback is captured in the following video:http://www.solarsolutions.ph/3s/ 

The video is about the first two versions of the product which is also called a Solar Service Station or 3S. The end-users are grateful because they can already study and make assignments during the night. Some users were also able to use the LED lamps for their livelihood. This is attested by our community NGO partner, Tulay ng Kabataan. Our operations NGO partner and now owner of the station, Life Project 4 Youth, are able to train and provide jobs to young mothers.

Who is in your team?

The SolarSolutions team come from different background with advanced degrees and expertise.


Rey Guerrero-  Co-Founder. Graduated Electronics and Communications Magna cum Laude in Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU) . He has filled in roles in R&D and failure analysis in his previous employment with Blue Chip Designs, Analog Devices,and SunPower Corporation. He also holds a Masters degree from Ateneo de Manila University and currently a PhD student in University of the Philippines (UP).


Raffy Concepcion – Co-Founder. BS in Electronics and Communications Engineering from ADMUand and MS in Technology Management at UP.  Runs Sales and Marketing efforts of SolarSolutions


Rick Laping – Community Engagement ManagerGraduated AB Philosophy. He is currently a community development specialist and a site manager of a community-based solar service station


Kenneth Abellanosa – Principal EngineerMechanical Engineering graduate from Xavier University and currently head engineer and project implementer at SolarSolutions. He makes fast and flexible solar power systems for communities.


Reese Macabebe- Co-FounderA faculty member at the Department of Electronics Communications and Computer Engineering (ECCE) at ADMU who holds a PhD in Physics. She is involved in extensive research on solar photovoltaic systems with several papers published on solar cell characterization


Aison Garcia – Co-FounderA lawyer from the Ateneo-based legal NGO Saligan. Previously  a legal consultant at the Department of Agrarian Reform. He graduated with a degree in Math from ADMU and law at UP. He is currently finishing his Masters in London.


Fr. Javy Alpasa – Board MemberSJ Jesuit priest and social entrepreneur. TED fellow. He teaches at the Ateneo Graduate School of Business. Sits on the board of several social enterprises including co-founded enterprises Rags to Riches community and Uma Republika.


Vince Rapisura – Board MemberPresident and CEO, SEDPI Group of Social Enterprises; Faculty, ADMU; Program Manager, Ateneo Microfinance Capacity Building Program. Graduated from ADMU and the Asian Institute of Management


Eric Santillan – Board MemberA Social Entrepreneur and Leadership consultant based in Singapore. He designs innovative schemes that captures opportunities  and minimizes risks for the company


For more information, you may also visit the SolarSolutions website at http://www.solarsolutions.ph.

Have you already founded/incorporated your company?

Yes

What is the intended positive impact on the environment and/or society of your venture?

SolarSolutions aims to empower communities and individuals through renewable energy. Through the use of renewable energy, we are able to mitigate the effects of climate change due to conventional energy sources. The station does not emit harmful chemicals and generate less waste.

Also, with an appropriate deployment strategy, it can foster community building as the station can be a community-wide effort to provide sustainable and quality energy. Lastly, by simply not giving lamps for free, we do not promote the idea that we are better than people in off-grid communities but that we are partners in striving for development.

How will the Fellowship Program enable you to achieve your ambitions?

With the Fellowship Program, we hope that we can improve packaging our product. We then can further reach out to more clients. With more clients and revenue in the next 1-2 years, we intend to develop our fifth iteration that goes beyond the problem of lighting but also on cold storage, telecommunications and information services. This is aligned in our vision to make the Solar Sari-sari Store the complete energy station for off-grid communities.

Are you living in the Philippines?

Yes

edited on 24th July 2016, 06:07 by Rey Guerrero
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