The energy kiosk model solution to rural electrification was developed in 2008 and was designed to allow places that were not connected to the national grid to have access to electricity with the means of a centrally located energy kiosk and portable battery. As one of the first solutions of this type at the time, the energy kiosk model won a number of awards and similar adaptations of this technology can now been seen.
What is an energy kiosk?
It acts as a centralised hub and is an essential part of the solution, which consists of 3 parts: generation, storage and distribution.
Generation – Depending on the consumption, different sizes and numbers of solar panels are installed on a metal frame which is then connected to the roof of the buildings. The wire are combined and connected to the devices in the kiosk. In our Rugaragara kiosk, hydro power is used instead.
Storage – To prevent power shortages and access to electricity at night, big storage batteries are installed, that are charged during sunshine. To manage the power flow we use a charge controller that is connected between the solar panels and the storage battery as well as an inverter. The inverter enables the system to use all kind of low power devices in the kiosk.
Distribution – Small battery boxes are used to make the electricity “portable”. Locals can then sign up to our renting scheme to use the boxes and exchange them for a small fee back at the kiosk once emptied.
In order to be sustainable, the energy kiosks must have a suitable business model. They are maintained a shopkeeper, who has been selected and trained by e.quinox from a variety of applicants. The shopkeeper is responsible for maintaining the electrical system, recharges the batteries and deals with customer affairs.
As mentioned above, the battery boxes are given out to customers against a small deposit as well as a fee upon recharge of the battery box. Once a battery is depleted, customers can return to the kiosk and exchanged for a fully charged one. This effectively provides a “Pay as you Go” service, hence making the solution affordable to poor families in rural areas, while covering the costs for equipment maintenance and salaries.
By additionally providing a full lighting solution, the battery boxes also offer a cheaper and safer alternative to expensive and hazardous kerosene lamps, which are currently widely used in areas like rural Rwanda. The pricing of recharges is also selected to be competitive with such sources.
Since its conception, 5 kiosks across Rwanda and Tanzania were installed and over the years a number of customers joined the scheme. Each kiosk was allocated a shopkeeper and a number of batteries were supplied for distribution. After running successfully for a number of years, the project was discontinued and the batteries were returned to the kiosk. This was so that available funding was spent on research and development of other technological solutions and it was found difficult to maintain the battery boxes and kiosks.
BBox, a spin-off company, founded by the members of e.quinox originally involved with the energy kiosk project are now implementing the energy kiosk model as well as other rural electrification technologies throughout Rwanda.