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Bringing innovative clean energy to Myanmar with Greenlight Planet

Daw Hla Thein lives in one of the 38,000 villages in Myanmar that do not have access to grid electricity. Like her neighbours, she relies on candles as a source of light. This reliance is not only costly, but inefficient as well. However, alternative energy options are hard to come by for people like Daw; either they are too expensive, time-consuming to acquire or low in quality. The average cost of grid extensions in Myanmar is approximately USD 900 per household making it unaffordable for low income families like Daw’s.

To identify solutions to problems like these, UNCDF’s CleanStart and SHIFT programmes partner with private sector organisations to support alternative energy financing models for low-income people. One such example of this is UNCDF’s partnership with Greenlight Planet in Myanmar. Greenlight Planet provides affordable Sun King solar home systems and lamps with a flexible payment solution for customers. Greenlight Planet’s unique EasyBuy technology affords the households the ability to pay for products in small regular instalments over time, allowing low income families to own and use solar products in line with their typical cash flow. So far, over 600 families have benefitted from EasyBuy solar products provided by Greenlight Planet.

On a recent trip to Taikkyi Township, located approximately three hours north of Yangon, staff members from UNCDF and the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) had the opportunity to interview members of the local community and learn about how people are benefiting from Greenlight Planet’s products.

Greenlight Planet goes beyond providing simply a lighting product/service, they work with local communities to create livelihoods that allow households to earn extra income. Community members receive sales training so they can become agents in providing others with a cost-saving and sustainable solar system. These agent entrepreneurs link communities with the product, generating income for their families, while providing communities access to the clean energy solutions they need.

Greenlight Planet Myanmar recently launched its first story in Bago, Myanmar

Once paid for, the customer retains the solar system permanently for their ongoing use. For Daw, the new Sun King solar power lamp eases her concerns.

“The light makes me feel safe. I am afraid of electricity because of electric shocks [before experienced by neighbours who used low quality solar products] but this (device) makes me feel safe”. -- Daw Hla Thein

Win Myint, a factory owner, also highlights the benefit of the Sun King solar system for his business. He no longer needs to travel every day to charge his battery to provide light for his employees.

"The solar system is very convenient for me, especially as the agent comes to collect payment. I can spend more time with my family and at my business now." - Win Myint
U Aung Nanig is a Sun King entrepreneur. He recently registered for Wave Money (another UNCDF SHIFT investment) to make mobile payments and earn commission from Greenlight Planet.

Due to the nature of work for many low-income individuals, alternatives to electricity are often either unaffordable or time-consuming to acquire. Greenlight Planet’s innovative business model and variety of products not only serves as a solution to both of those problems, but offers the added benefit of providing crucial sales skills to the agents it employs, thereby enriching the communities they serve. U Aung Nanig is an entrepreneur who now earns an income from selling the Greenlight system. He is now registered with Wave Money’s e-wallet (UNCDF’s SHIFT programme has also co-invested in financial innovations being undertaken by Wave Money) to make mobile payments and earn his commission from Greenlight Planet.

"This is the first time I have used this type of service [mobile wallet]. It is better than cash. If I have cash maybe I will spend all my money but now it is kept safe in my phone.” - U Aung Nanig, Greenlight Planet entrepreneur

Some households have expressed their uncertainty over payment plans. These questions show the need for product roll-out to integrate awareness on service options. UNCDF SHIFT will continue to work with Greenlight Planet to ensure clients understand their options and the benefits of using this service.

UNCDF’s CleanStart and Shaping Inclusive Finance Transformations (SHIFT) programmes jointly launched the Energy Access Challenge to build new markets and innovatively lower the affordability barrier for low-income consumers who want to pay for modern clean energy.

U Myint Saung is the top seller in his village for Sun King solar system

About CleanStart

UNCDF’s CleanStart programme aims to increase the access to clean energy by innovating support for low-income consumers to transition to cleaner and more efficient energy and, in the process, reveal new markets and build national financing ecosystems ready to meet clean energy demand. CleanStart is supported by the Austrian Development Cooperation, Government of the Principality of Liechtenstein, the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad) and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida).

About Greenlight Planet

Greenlight Planet provides off-grid clean lighting solutions for low-income households in rural Myanmar. Greenlight develops and manufactures affordable solar products designed to help those living without service from the country’s electrical grid and enables its customers to receive a low-cost, safe and affordable source of light in their homes. Greenlight Planet has sold over 7 million solar systems till date across 60+ countries it has its distribution partners in and has produced more than 10 million Watts of electricity from rooftop solar installations.

ABOUT SHIFT

UNCDF’s Shaping Inclusive Finance Transformations (SHIFT) programme aims to expand women's economic empowerment through financial inclusion. SHIFT advances financial markets by changing the behaviour of market actors to stimulate investment, business innovations and regulatory reform in growing inclusive enterprises. SHIFT catalyses innovative partnerships to accelerate financial inclusion and women's economic participation in the least developed countries of the ASEAN and SAARC regions.

UNCDF’s SHIFT ASEAN programme is supported by the Australian Government.

Disclaimer

This publication has been funded by the Australian Government through the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. The views expressed in this publication are the author’s alone and are not necessarily the views of the Australian Government.

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