Nuru Energy: Rural Energy Entrepreneurship

SUMMARY: Nuru aims to replace kerosene lamps in rural households without electricity by offering the world’s most affordable off-grid light ($6) charged by a pedal-powered generator, the POWERCycle. We establish a network of POWERCycle-equipped entrepreneurs who sell lights and recharge them for a small fee, saving customers 85% over kerosene.

PROBLEM SPACE: 1.6B people do not have electricity, relying mostly on kerosene for light. Unfortunately, expenditures on kerosene and similar products amount for 10-40% of household income. Aside from being costly, kerosene lamps are also unhealthy (producing noxious fumes), dangerous (leading to countless fires/burns), polluting (emitting CO2), and inadequate (providing dim light).

SOLUTION: We are an award-winning, social enterprise providing off-grid energy to rural markets. We were inspired by human powered technologies, such as bicycles and hand-crank radios, so we designed a system that consists of:

1. The Nuru Light: Portable, rechargeable LED Lights, each many times brighter than the light produced by a typical kerosene lamp. The Nuru Light:
• gives over 25 hours of light with a full recharge; and
• is used individually in a variety of ways (head/neck lamp, hung up, resting on flat surface or bottle-mounted) or connected together (multiple Lights in various configurations)

2. Nuru POWERCycle: We saw that human power is the most reliable and efficient form of charging. So, we designed the Nuru Light to be recharged using the world’s first commercially-available pedal generator, the POWERCycle. With minimal human exertion (approx. one rotation per second), up to 5 Nuru Lights are recharged simultaneously in just under 20 minutes. The POWERCycle is 400x more efficient than most solar panels, producing 400 minutes of light per minute of gentle pedalling. Because it is human-powered, the POWERCycle is not affected by unpredictable weather patterns and can therefore recharge products anytime, anywhere.

We are deploying our innovative technology via our own network of microfranchises operated by village level entrepreneurs (VLE’s). We identify, select, and train VLE’s from local cooperatives, who once trained, receive a loan of 50 Lights from one of our microfinance partners. Customers then buy the Lights from the VLEs and return to them for recharging approximately every 5 days. This approach matches our philosophy of keeping the size of all payments small (upfront and recurring), to ensure that customers without savings can still afford our services.

We have sold 10,000 Lights and set up 70 VLEs in Rwanda, and we are beginning operations in Kenya, Uganda, and India.

CONTACT PERSON: [email protected]