A staggering 700 million people worldwide still live without access to electricity, and with status quo efforts this number will increase by 2030. This massive challenge presents an exciting opportunity for mesh-grids, a technology that has rapidly established itself as a game-changer in this industry.
Okra Solar, known for pioneering mesh-grid technology, has just closed their Series-A round of financing to scale mesh-grid technology - with more than $12M of fresh financing including debt and equity with $7.85M raised on equity led by At One Ventures, along with FMO, Susquehanna Private Equity Investments LLLP, Autodesk Foundation and King Philanthropies. The debt financing was provided by EDFi.
In the challenging off-grid energy market where scalability is highly sensitive to cost viability, mesh-grids present a compelling solution to energy developers. Now there is another solution at their disposal when electrifying rural areas with growing energy demands.
Mesh-grids enable solar power to be generated at the source of individual homes, where excess power is then redistributed by Okra’s smart algorithms from one connection to the next to optimize utilization. What makes mesh-grids unique vs. traditional mini-grids or grid extension, is that rather than sending power long distances from a centralized generation house, power only travels between neighboring houses. This hyper-decentralized implementation reduces the cost of distribution (cables and poles) by up to 90% while maximizing up-time and power availability. This is especially pertinent as we move into a future where widespread copper shortages are expected. Okra’s B2B model supplies technology to last-mile energy utilities, who then energize last-mile households.
“With the compounding effects of population growth and growing industrialisation, energy consumption on the African continent will increase disproportionately in the coming decades. The IEA forecasts that total power generation capacity in Africa is expected to double to 510 GW by 2030. There is no reason for this new power generation capacity to come from dirty fossil fuel power. We can skip that phase entirely and build it correctly from the start – clean, renewable, and suited to the needs of this market,” notes Helen Lin, Partner, At One Ventures.
With mesh-grids already being deployed in 4 countries, energizing more than 14,000 people, the demand for the technology and the business model has been proven.
This successful Series-A investment is a beacon of light during a challenging fundraising climate and is especially inspiring because this technology is making a transformational impact to livelihoods in the Global South.
During the Series-A fundraising round Okra leveraged the support of GetInvest EU, a European programme that mobilizes investment in renewable energy in developing countries.
“FMO is proud to partner with Okra on their pioneering journey to leverage mesh-grid technology to help electrify rural areas and provide affordable power to last-mile households and businesses. We look forward to our collaboration with the Okra team and will actively leverage our value-add services to support their scaling ambitions,” says Marieke Roestenberg, Manager of FMO Ventures Program.
Having previously won the TechCrunch Hardware Battlefield award, Okra has a track record of pushing boundaries on the tech side. Recent product updates include automated network planning software using geospatial data and monitoring of commercial performance down to the asset level. On the hardware side, Okra Pods are now stackable so power output can be increased from 1.2kW AC up to 4.8kW AC power output. The latest version of the pods will also enable mesh-grids to be interconnectable to existing grid infrastructure.
When asked what the biggest challenge is for Okra Solar to scale “It’s clear that mesh-grids are the most efficient way to achieve last-mile electrification. It starts by ensuring off-grid people have access to basic services such as lighting, e-cooking and water pumping, and next, to have all of these people connect to the global digital economy. Now we need the regulations to keep up with exponential technology advancement for us to hit 100% electrification by 2030,” - said CEO Afnan Hannan.