A Netherlands based off-grid solar provider, Nova Lumos Netherlands Holding B.V., has raised $90 million in financing from private equity investment and development banks to roll out pay-as-you-go solar power systems in Nigeria.
It’s the biggest fundraising round to date for the off-grid solar market, and hopes to provide cheaper and cleaner alternatives to kerosene for millions of people living in Africa. The Overseas Private Investment Corp. (OPIC) pledged $50 million of the $90 million total in debt funding, with an additional $40 million in equity coming from a group led by Pembani Remgro Infrastructure Fund and investors VLTCM and ICV.
Nova-Lumos created what it calls a “home power station in a box,” according to a 2013 report in Haaretz. The technology includes a solar panel activated by text messaging that can supply enough electricity to charge a cell phone, operate a radio, and illuminate a home.The company was founded in Israel in 2012 by Nir Marom and Davidi Vortman, and is now based in the Netherlands.
The U.S. State Department described the Nova-Lumos project as “highly innovative,” according to a press release. Other similar startups have successfully raised capital for innovative off-grid solar projects in parts of Africa and Asia. BBOXX Ltd from London recently raised $20 million financing, and in September d.light Energy raised $15 million. Lumos raised $35 million earlier this year.
OPIC made a $15 million commitment in late 2015 to Nova-Lumos to finance solar electricity in Nigerian homes and small businesses. Nigeria has less than 50% access to the national power grid, according to OPIC CEO and President Elizabeth L. Littlefield. “We want to be the largest alternative electricity company in the world and supply home systems producing clean electricity,” Vortman told Haaretz in 2013. “Our model allows consumers to pay for the electricity used without purchasing the whole system in advance. This is a huge revolution.”
OPIC is the U.S. government’s development finance institution. It mobilizes private capital to help solve critical development challenges and, in doing so, tries to advance U.S. foreign policy. Lumos’ business model is highly scalable in large part due to the company’s partnerships with mobile operators. In Nigeria, Lumos partnered with South Africa-based MTN, the largest telecommunications company in Nigeria with as many as 60 million subscribers.