99 million households may be powered off-grid by 2020

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According to the Off-Grid Market Trends Report 2016, the off-grid power industry has attracted more than $511 million of investment to date. In 2015 it attracted $276 million in investment, a 15-fold increase since 2012.

Today more than 100 companies are actively focusing on stand-alone solar lanterns and solar home system kits. By mid-2015 they had sold about 20 million branded solar products.

The report underlines the potential of off-grid solar to improve energy access in the world. According to BNEF, 1.2 billion people living without access to the power grid spend about $27 billion annually on lighting and mobile-phone charging with kerosene, candles, battery flashlights. Solar-powered portable lights and home kits could offer them a better service at lower cost.

At the moment about 20 pay-as-you-go companies provide power to almost half a million customers, mainly in East Africa. That these products can be very successful shows in Kenya. There, already more than 30% of people living off the grid have a solar product at home, BNEF estimates.

However, as the report concludes, the real potential of off-grid solar is yet to be revealed as it goes beyond simple lighting and phone charging. In the near future solar home systems capable of powering appliances such as TVs and fans could capture an increasing market share. About 7 million off-grid households will be using solar-powered fans and 15 million households will have a solar-powered TV in 2020, the authors estimate.

Analysts estimated that the number of households relying on off-grid solar as their primary or secondary energy source will rise from 25 million in 2015 to 99 million by 2020.