Customer Stories / Devergy Expands Solar Power Possibilities in Africa

Devergy Expands Solar Power Possibilities in Africa

"The plug and play, flexible nature of Digi’s products was fundamental to get our services to market faster."
-Fabio de Pascale, Co-Founder, Devergy
css-inline-devergy.jpeg

Devergy is a social enterprise committed to providing an affordable and reliable source of energy to low-income people in developing countries. Founded in 2010, the service is based on village-sized energy micro-grids that provide solar power to households and businesses for the use of everyday products like lights and appliances such as refrigerators, TVs and radios.

Business Challenge

In Sub-Sahara Africa, roughly 500 million people live without access to electricity. The challenges of installing a power grid in remote and undeveloped areas are numerous. Devergy’s customers live in rural areas of the country where a power grid is nonexistent and residents do not have the money necessary to purchase a personal solar home system.

The average income of their customer base is less than $2 USD per day.

That’s why Devergy is reimagining how to deliver reliable electricity and move past the traditional power grid system. Using solar power and wireless technology, Devergy has built a sustainable business that’s helping villages in Tanzania and Ghana meet their energy needs.

Before Devergy came into the picture, kids would do homework by kerosene lamps, mobile phone charging could only be done with batteries, and kitchen stoves required firewood.

Solution

Devergy uses Digi XBee® technology for the communication network in its grids. Hundreds of nodes are connected with XBee–making the solar micro-grids smart, cost effective and manageable.

Additionally, they rely on Digi’s ConnectPort® X4 Gateway for its ZigBee to GPRS capabilities. Fabio, co-founder of Devergy says, “The plug and play, flexible nature of Digi’s products was fundamental to get our services to market faster.”
css-diagram-devergy.jpgThe gateway makes it possible to monitor the distributed solar grids remotely through Digi Device CloudSM. This reduces maintenance costs and helps ensure reliability.

The key feature of the system is a smart energy meter that powers the household or business with a pre-paid, pay-per-use approach. Customers add credit using a mobile commerce platform like Vodacom M-Pesa—similar to the system you would use for a pre-paid mobile phone or public transit pass.

Local representation of the company is ensured by the appointment of a village agent, who is selected based on recommendation by the village committee and trained by Devergy to perform technical support and sales. This ensures the customers always have a well-known and trusted counterpart in their community.

Results

Devergy’s customers receive an unprecedented service thanks to a system that is designed to require no user maintenance and is remotely monitored for faults, so that the reliability and availability of the service is unmatched.

After the installation of Devergy’s solar grids, residents spend as much as 20% less than what they were spending on kerosene for lighting and 50% less for phone charging. Not only does Devergy provide a clean, renewable and reliable source of energy, but it’s also substantially more affordable.

Devergy has successfully connected more than 1,000 customers since 2012 to reliable, clean and safe electricity sufficient to satisfy their needs for many years to come. Currently, they are active in two regions and quickly growing their customer base. In addition to Tanzania, the Devergy grids are also licensed to third parties in Ghana, where they power three villages.

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