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SkyPower: Founder and CEO responds to questions from Sun-Connect News

SkyPowers’ announcement to give away a total of 3.5 million SHS to rural households in Kenya and Bangladesh has led to a lively discussion.

A major point of criticism, which is raised again and again, relates to the consequences for the local economy: after all, the possibility is high that the local trade will not be encouraged by this donation but hindered. For example, all investors of M-Kopa should fear a not insignificant risk for their investment - especially since the donated SHS from SkyPower are similar in their technical design to those of M-Kopa.

A second aspect is the sheer donation size of estimated USD 300 million over five years. For comparison: this is the equivalent to the annual turnover of all the companies who report to IFC/GOGLA! Of course IFC/GOGLA do not record by far the total industry revenue, but a direct comparison is impressive (in terms of commitment of SkyPower) or disappointing (in terms of numbers, that the companies report to IFC/GOGLA).

 

SkyPower itself remained silent about the current discussion. One reason for Sun-Connect News to directly inquire with the company. Kerry Adler, Founder and CEO of SkyPower has commented on some questions from Sun-Connect News:

The amount of the donation has raised the question about the economic power of SkyPower. Some rumors are afloat that the company is not able at all to fulfill such donation. Thereto Kerry Adler replied: "We really do not take or place much stock in rumors or attacks on our successes or our plans by the media. SkyPower is the largest solar developer in the world today and we have developed and built over 30 utility scale projects and have a backlog of over $80B. Our reputation speaks for itself. Our recent projects and gifting commitments has raised some eyebrows, however, we truly do not waste our time with reporters or media reports that try to use our decision to not engage as cause for suspicion."

A second aspect relates to the motivation and objectives of SkyPower: is this donation just a high-publicity give-away, as appendage to a bigger deal? Or is there a deeper motivation behind that might also take into account the promotion of local enterprises? Kerry Adler: "There are numerous other groups who are trying to sell, lease, etc... However after several years in these markets it is clear that a more radical gifting and distribution program is needed because those who could afford a kit have bought one thru various means, yet most of rural Africa still remains in the dark. How long must we wait to address that? Does the gifting plans SkyPower really create a threat or an enhanced viable opportunity? Smart entrepreneurs would perhaps capitalize on the very basic system we are gifting and use this as a basis to provide add ons, enhanced systems as as offer their assistance in this unprecedented distribution efforts across various countries over the next 4-5 years."

Finally, a series of questions arise about the project and its execution:

Sun-Connect News: What is the plan for finding the households that will get these small solar kits? 

Kerry Adler: "Targeting rural Africa in concert with leading Aid Organizations."

Sun-Connect News: Are these solar kits your own products or from which manufacturer do you get them? 

Kerry Adler: "These are SkyPower Hone branded kits designed and manufactured to exceed IEC standards as well AFRICA Lighting Standards."

Sun-Connect News: According to your press release, the kits consist of panel, battery, LED lights, fan, radio, and USB port to charge mobile phones. Can you provide some more technical infor-mation? 

Kerry Adler: "We would be happy to share all the specifications with you in concert with our December media event where will unveil our program, participants, sponsoring and supporting organizations and timing of distribution program."

Sun-Connect News: What are your strategic plans for maintenance in case a household has problems with the donated solar kit or for replacement of the battery? 

Kerry Adler: "A free instant swap program for any non working units attributable to operating or manufacturing issues."

Sun-Connect News: Are there any other countries - beyond Kenya and Bangladesh - you are planning to provide the same gift for millions of households? 

Kerry Adler: "Yes, we will be making further announcements in the months to come."

 

The statements made by SkyPower answer some of the discussed issues within the off-grid industry. It will be interesting to assist to the media event announced for December, where SkyPower will reveal more details. Above all, it will be interesting to know to which other countries SkyPower will expand its action of donated solar home systems.

 

Harald Schützeichel for Sun-Connect News.