Pakistan has an abundance of energy poor villages and providing them with electricity is not an easy and affordable triumph to achieve. Hence, EcoEnergy Finance was established by a Pakistani-American, Shazia Khan who understood the plight of the rural Pakistanis who have been living in hazardous and energy scarce situations all their lives.
EcoEnergy Finance was not a start-up on a whim. Infact, the founders spent four years conducting a detailed and thorough micro-level research to identify each and every challenge of the people and worked on providing them with the most cost-effective energy products.
Today, EcoEnergy Finance is successful in providing high quality solar energy solutions to off-grid Pakistanis by a convenient pay as you go technology in which the people pay for only the energy which they consume.
About the Founders
EcoEnergy Finance was initially founded by Shazia Khan in 2009, a Pakistani American who used to visit her homeland often and be perplexed about the living conditions of the rural Pakistanis. Shazia graduated from Vermont Law School in 2003 with a degree in environmental law. She worked in the World Bank as a consultant with the Global Environment Facility and African Energy.
Jeremy Higgs, an Australian researcher working in Pakistan became part of EcoEnergy Finance in 2011. At that time, Jeremy was doing field surveys on energy access in Pakistan and was passionate about distributing energy across the country.
Hence, EcoEnergy Finance kicked off with Jeremy leading on ground operations and Shazia running EcoEnergy Finance from Washington D.C.
Motivation behind EcoEnergy Finance
The poverty stricken people living without a basic necessity of eco-friendly fuel and energy put Shazia in an unexplainable form of depression even when she was just a young girl and she used to visit her father’s hometown in Pakistan. For those people; animal dung served as cooking fuel, kerosene lamps were used to do homework after sunset and handheld fans were used to fight off the terrible heat waves.
There were various risks of fire, respiratory diseases and injuries. Moreover, greenhouse gases were being released in the environment causing irreversible damage to the fastly receding ozone layer.
Shazia was also concerned about the economic disadvantages that these villages faced due to no access to electricity. Businesses closed at sunset, dairy farmers had no access to refrigeration, cell phones could not be charged, and education was limited to daylight and a lot more.
Shazia realized how fortunate she was to be born and raised in America with unlimited luxuries at her disposal. The needs she could not imagine life without were inconceivable luxuries for the people of Pakistan. Hence, for her, giving something back to Pakistan would be the cause of unlimited happiness and pride.
She understood that the quickest and most effective way to convert a poverty ridden area into something successful would be to provide that area with energy access. Hence, this realization gave birth to her non-profit organization that would provide solar energy to thousands of households of Pakistan.
Collecting the data:
There was no micro-level data available for such off-grid areas. Hence, Shazia and Jeremy went off to collect the data from scratch. The data such as disposable income of households, problems faced without electricity, how much money they can spend to be equipped with solar energy, etc was vital for Shazia and Jeremy to gain a perspective and deeper understanding of the people’s problems.
The villages were so remote that some houses did not even have addresses and to gather data under these circumstances was a victory on its own.
Building a sustainable and financially viable model
It is easily understood that the people in off-grid areas do not have a high disposable income to spend on energy of any kind. A financially stable and reliable model was integral for the long term success of EcoEnergy Finance. The price point had to be something affordable for low income customers as well as something that could cover the costs for providing the product and service.
Product research and development
EcoEnergy Finance realized soon that making solar lanterns was not a viable and fully convenient option for the rural villages. A complete energy solution was the best option that could help in improving the socio economic standards of the people.
The employees had to be convinced to move from lanterns to solar utility service. Moreover, people had to be educated again regarding paying via mobile through pay-as-you-go rather than cash which was the normal practice with the lanterns. Mobile money was integral to have proper records of the customers, prevent theft of the cash carried by employees and easy discontinuation of services in case a customer failed to pay their dues.
EcoEnergy Finance is growing steadily and they hope to convert 50,000 villagers by 2020. The next move of EcoEnergy Finance is aimed towards Myanmar, Indonesia and Malaysia.
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