Nigerian Startup Rensource Energy Raises $ 20 Million to Supply African Markets with Solar Energy

Nigerian startup Rensource Energy has raised a $ 20 million Series A round co-led by CRE Venture Capital and the Omidyar network.

The renewable energy company builds and operates solar micro-utility that provides electricity to commercial community structures, such as open-air trading bazaars.

Launched in 2016, the startup has shifted its operating strategy. “We’ve pivoted away from a residential focus…and we’re building much larger systems to become essentially the utility for these large urban markets we have a lot of in Nigeria,” Rensource Energy co-founder Ademola Adesina told TechCrunch.

Rensource Energy co-founder Ademola Adesina

The company has a partnership with German manufacturer BOS AG, with whom its designs specialized panels for it use case. Rensource also has developer teams in Nigeria and Europe for its software related programs.

In addition to becoming a micro-energy provider to Nigeria’s robust SME classes, the startup aims to offer them B2B services. With the $20 million round, Rensource is launching its Spaces Offline to Online platform for supply-chain services, including business-analytics and working capital options.

“It’s a mini-ERP tool. We’re trying bring a universe of people who are banked, but…still offline — their products are offline, they don’t track anything, and there’s no data behind their business — online,” said Adesina.

The benefit Rensource seeks to bring to Nigeria’s SMEs — at a profit for itself — is to lower overhead costs through better business practices and free them from the bane of generators.

Across marketplaces in West Africa, noisy, fuel-guzzling, and pollution producing generators are like an unwelcome, yet necessary business partner.

Lack of affordable and reliable electricity in Nigeria creates a massive real and opportunity cost to Africa’s largest economy.

Rensource’s micro-utility model deploys power clusters — made up of solar panels, batteries, and a power management system — adjacent to markets and commercial hubs. The energy application isn’t totally clean, as the startup still uses its own diesel backup system.

Rensourse has used this model to become an off-grid energy provider in six states in Nigeria, and powers the Sabon Gari market — one of the country’s largest, located in northern Kaduna state.

The company plans to expand to 100 markets within Nigeria and to additional African countries within 24 months, according to Adesina.

Rensource generates revenue from charging merchants daily, weekly, or monthly fees. “In 2017, we did a few hundred thousand dollars in revenue. Last year we did about $7 million in revenue, and this year we’ll do better than that,” CEO Ademola Adesina said.

The company doesn’t release official financials, but generated a small profit last year, according to Adesina. He named deploying more of its micro-utilities to new markets and diversifying services as the path to long-term profitability.

The company differentiates itself from many home-kit solar energy startups in Africa, such as M-Kopa, by becoming a renewable energy utility at scale.

Rensource’s CEO sees the model as a classic leapfrog tech business, effectively bypassing Nigeria’s existing electricity grid and providing a less capital intensive alternative to large (and often complicated) energy infrastructure projects.

READ MORE: Venturebuilder Launches to Help Off-Grid Solar Start-Ups Reach More People in Africa

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