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Market News

 February 24, 2012
"Pay as you go" solar lights up world's newest country

 The world's newest country is the latest to install "pay as you go" solar systems pioneered by UK start-up Eight19.

The Cambridge-based company hopes to install 1,000 IndiGo systems, consisting of a battery, a solar panel, lights, and a phone charging device, in off-grid communities in South Sudan by the middle of this year.

Users will pay for the equipment on a weekly basis using $1 scratchcards validated via text message.

Eight19 has already started deploying the systems in rural villages in the Nimule region along with international charity WorldVenture. The company claims that using solar energy to power lighting, internet connections, and small electronic devices such as mobile phones costs less than half the kerosene-powered generators the system typically replaces.

"Pay-as-you-go solar is a grass root solution, which is particularly important in South Sudan, where there is a complete lack of infrastructure," said Thomas Bell, South Sudan director of projects at WorldVenture. "IndiGo has the potential to transform the energy market by enabling local energy production meaning that many people can access power without having to wait for the grid."

South Sudan, which only became independent in July, is the fourth African country where Eight19 has deployed IndiGo since its launch into Kenya last September.

The company, named after the eight minutes and 19 seconds it takes the sun's light to reach the Earth, has targeted bringing renewable power to the almost 1.7 billion people living off-grid, a goal shared by UN chief Ban Ki-moon's Sustainable Energy for All initiative.

The company launched an investment fund last month aiming to further the roll-out of IndiGo over 2012, ahead of an expected £10m funding round at the end of the year.

"The positive response and widespread interest in IndiGo since we launched it in Kenya six months ago has been fantastic and is fuelling our expansion," said chief executive Simon Bransfield Garth.

"We are working hard to deploy our units fast enough to keep up with the demand to further stimulate economic development in the world's youngest country."