Uganda-based solar energy company SolarNow has opened its first Kenyan branch in Kisumu. In just five years, the company supplied solar energy to 20,000 households, schools and companies. SolarNow created 420 jobs in Uganda since 2011 and is determined to replicate its success in Kenya. Journalists are welcome to cover the official opening in Kisumu.
Just as in Uganda, a large part of the Kenyan population is in dire need of real power for their houses and businesses, beyond small solar kits.
The majority of SolarNow’s customers are using the payment scheme, in which they pay for in 24 monthly instalments. “By offering the payment plan we guarantee that our customers receive the highest quality,” said Willem Nolens, CEO of SolarNow. “Everybody understands that if we distribute a system after having received only a small part of the payment, we are very confident that the product will last for many years. This approach leads to happy customers, many of whom have come back to us to purchase an extension for their system.”
SolarNow’s range of solar products starts with a system of 50 watts. It can be used to power six light bulbs and a radio, and can also charge mobile phones. Most popular is the 100-watt system, that can also power a television. “The largest system we can deliver supplies 5.000 watt, which is enough to power an entire school, including computers and printers,” Mr. Nolens said.
According to a study, carried out in October, 40% of SolarNow’s customers return to buy an upgrade for their system. The 50 watt system can for example be upgraded to a 100 watt system, just by adding some solar panels. 84% Of the users would recommend it to others, the study further indicated. Their main reason is saving energy costs: 96% of the respondents said they now spend less money on energy than before purchasing the system. Generator-users indicated they save as much as 9 US Dollar per month, while users of kerosene, batteries and candles each reduce their spending by about USD 2.5 per month.
Kenya’s larger market
SolarNow is eager to enter the Kenyan market. “This move is very interesting for us,” said Douglas Dullo, the Kenyan Sales Manager at SolarNow. “Many Kenyans are already used to solar lights, but only very few companies can deliver full systems,” Mr. Dullo said. “I am convinced our payment plan will also be successful in Kenya.”
CEO Willem Nolens is looking forward to his company’s next move: “After building a stable base in Uganda we can now significantly scale up,” he said. Mr. Nolens is also upbeat about another recent development. “We are increasingly moving towards supplying full packages, meaning we not only sell the solar system but also the appliances that can be connected to it. These are specially made for solar, and use 12 volts instead of the usual 220. These televisions, fridges and radios are extra energy efficient. Parents can buy a ‘school package’ for their children: this includes the lights that ensures they can study at night, as well as a tablet full of the latest educative programs. And when a farmer comes to inquire about a solar system, we will also give advice about an energy-friendly irrigation system.”