Dhaka-based ME SOLshare Ltd. provides improved electricity access to low-income people living in rural Bangladesh. Through an e-interview, Sebastian Groh, the current director of SOLshare, told us about this great initiative to help Bangladesh achieve affordable electricity. Here are his responses:
1) Tell us a bit about yourself?
Sebastian is living and working in Bangladesh as the director of two newly founded companies, ME SOLshare Ltd. and ME Fosera BD Ltd. He is further project manager at MicroEnergy International (MEI) since 2009, a Berlin-based consulting company focusing on the linkage between microfinance and sustainable energy supply. Along his professional work, Sebastian is currently pursuing his PhD on the role of energy in development processes, energy poverty, and technical innovations.
Previous to his work at MEI, Sebastian worked on the trading floor at Commerzbank in Frankfurt, at ProCredit in El Salvador and Planet Finance in India. Sebastian holds a Bachelor in Economics from University of Mannheim (Germany) and Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (Spain) as well as a Masters in International Economics from the University of Goettingen (Germany), University of Pune (India) and Universidad José Matías Delgado (El Salvador).
Sebastian received an executive training on strategic leadership for microfinance from Harvard Business School and is a Stanford Ignite Fellow of 2013 from Stanford Graduate School of Business.
2) Tell us a bit about your company?
ME SOLshare is a Dhaka-based company founded in 2014. SOLshare is a platform provider for improved electricity access to low-income people in rural Bangladesh. Our box can interconnect new and existing solar systems to form microgrids. It specifically targets Bangladeshi households and small businesses in densely populated off-grid villages. These communities need flexible, stable, and sufficient electricity supply for lighting, phone charging, entertainment and business generating activities at an affordable price point. Today, close to 4 million solar home systems have already been installed in Bangladesh. These systems, however, do not reach the poorer segments of the rural areas mostly for reasons of affordability. Also, each of these systems produces surplus power that goes completely unused due to system design and the advent of super efficient direct current appliances. At the same time, people do not have enough energy for productive use engagements.
3) What inspired you to undertake such an initiative?
After having worked for a couple of years in a Berlin-based consultancy, MicroEnergy International, on the inter-linkage of microfinance and decentralized energy supply, in 2013, Sebastian participated in the Stanford Ignite Program—Powering Innovation and Entrepreneurship, where his idea behind SOLshare was selected and developed into a business model. After receiving very positive feedback from a panel of judges at the end of the program, he pursued SOLshare and flew to Bangladesh to set-up the company.
4) Could tell us a bit about the services of ME SOLshare?
ME SOLshare has developed a smart grid concept that is targeted for the Global South and has been tailored to the Bangladeshi market: a smart DC microgrid that manages and meters power flows between rural households and businesses. Solar panels and decentralized storage systems are added incrementally in a step by step manner so that supply is guaranteed while avoiding sunk costs of earlier investment. In addition to technological reasons for leapfrogging, market models that accompanied the mobile phone revolution such as sharing phones may serve as a precedent for these kinds of smart grids. The integration of productive use is just one of many logical steps of the post-installation development of every SOLshare smart nano-grid.
5) What’s the future for your project? What do you hope to achieve with your business? Are you currently looking for funding?
By 2019, 550,000 people can borrow electricity at an affordable cost, 2.2 million people can create additional income sources, 2.75 million people can live with less indoor smoke, and 10,000 tons reduction in CO2 emissions have been achieved.
SOLshare was recognized internationally and awarded as a finalist in the ‘2014 Best Climate Practices Contest on Energy Poverty Alleviation’ by the International Center for Climate Governance.