Location: London, England
While electricity may seem available to a fault throughout the developed world, 1.6 billion people still live without any access to electricity. Many projects aim to remedy this problem, but few take the question of increasing energy access to it’s conclusion: why create access to electricity without creating access to all the possibilities that come with electricity? Electricity can expand lifestyles in ways beyond just fulfilling needs for communication and lighting. Going above and beyond to give developing countries modern entertainment can provide significant improvements to quality of life, a fact that few companies internalize in their business philosophy.
Filling this entrepreneurial void is BBOXX, a London-based company whose tagline is “The Solar Revolution.” BBOXX fully grasps what this revolution entails, which includes more than just providing solar panels. They market off-grid solar “kits” that include not only panels and batteries, but also control boxes and low-energy appliances such as radios, fans, media players, chargers, lights, TVs, and fridges. To efficiently sell these systems, they franchise out to local vendors while the central business ensures that all of their vendors are reliable and focused on BBOXX’s vision. BBOXX also offers the opportunity for local residents to build an Energy Kiosk that can be used to power an entire community, a venture which can pay back the investor’s costs within two years. Even those who can’t afford to invest in an Energy Kiosk can sell back some of their electricity to neighbors, a practice embraced by almost half of BBOXX’s customers. This practice generates valuable income for buyers, the majority of which are women-led households. This further increases BBOXX’s impact, as women’s financial security has been shown to be essential to economic development.
As of May 2014, BBOXX has sold 40,000 units that provide electricity to 120,000 people across 15 countries in southeast Asia, South America, and Africa. On average, customers save an average of $16 per month from reduced fuel expenses. Additionally, households that increased their income through additional lighted hours earned $49 per month more on average. BBOXX is aiming high for the future, planning to create a long-term payment system to increase financial access to their product with investment from Silicon Valley’s Khosla Impact Fund. BBOXX believes they can reach 20 million people by 2020 as they help those in developing countries establish a solar-powered lifestyle.
Environmental Impact: Avoided use of fossil fuels, including avoided emission of GHGs and harmful substances
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