With a population of 191 million and growing, Pakistan is quickly slated to become the 5th most populated country in the world. Currently over 70 million people lack access to electricity, while 74 million more are under-supplied. Pakistani cities are paralyzed by overburdened power grids and an influx of load shedding, a way of reducing demand by temporarily switching off energy distribution which effectively causes a blackout. A majority of the country’s population lives in rural areas outside of Pakistan’s energy grid–relying on dung, wood, kerosene, diesel generators, or flashlights to meet their energy needs. Increasing access to energy is a critical component of Pakistan’s path forward.
Shazia Khan and Jeremy Higgs co-founded EcoEnergy, a solar company to address the energy access gap in Pakistan. EcoEnergy sells electricity services to small business owners and households in off-grid areas for as little as $8 a month, allowing small business owners stay open an additional 7-10 hours per day. The mobile based platform allows customers to pre-pay for their electricity through a remotely monitored system.
Beginning in 2009, Khan and Higgs spent four years conducting extensive micro-level market research across 44,000 households to understand the challenges of off-grid communities. They unearthed that the most effective way to bring about an appetite for solar energy in areas of Pakistan where literacy is low and a massive behavioral change is required for adoption is by utilizing local talent. They began by selling over 13,000 different solar products and eventually moved to focus on solar home systems which act as a utility service provider. They concluded that decentralized solar panels were the best way to address the needs of the rural Pakistani population, as government-built power plants and lines are too expensive.
EcoEnergy’s hunch paid off–there’s no shortage of demand for their services, particularly among the small business owners they are targeting. The company boasts a repayment rate of 95% and is widely recognized for their work in Pakistan and abroad.
Shazia Khan was selected as a delegate to 2016 Global Entrepreneurship Summit hosted by President Obama at Stanford University, a two-time finalist of the prestigious C3E Women in Clean Energy Awards, and a panelist at 2015 UN Foundation Sustainable Energy for All Forum. Jeremy Higgs was a finalist at the Pakistan Innovation Foundation’s 2016 Innovations of Tomorrow in the Agriculture, Telenor’s go to market velocity accelerator, and a semi-finalist at 1776 Challenge Cup for Innovative Energy Solutions in 2015 hosted by Phillips Electric. EcoEnergy also won the National Geographic Society’s Great Energy Challenge, received a GSMA MECS Grant for Mobile Enabled Technologies in 2014, and has participated in 3 business accelerator programs. The company currently has strategic partnerships in place with Telenor and the International Finance Corporation’s Global Lighting Program.
EcoEnergy is in the process of closing their seed round and seeking series A investment at the end of 2017 to accelerate the use of their mobile application into rural areas to pay for energy services, in addition to potentially introducing a number of relevant products and services such as solar powered pumps, clean drinking water, and financial services.