Despite having a population of 77 million-plus, the Democratic Republic of the Congo only has access to only 1.3 gigawatts of electricity, says Aaron Olson, a graduate research fellow at the University of Wisconsin Fusion Technology Institute. To understand how miniscule that figure is, Olson says, consider that Madison, WI, and the surrounding area—home to about 600,000 people—are powered by 1.5 gigawatts of electricity.
“The average Congolese household spends $22 a month on kerosene lamps inside their home and charging their cell phones,” Olson says, adding that this sum represents about one-quarter of a typical D.R.C. resident’s monthly income.
Olson is the co-founder of NovoMoto, a Madison-based startup that sells packages of solar panels, lamps, batteries, and other equipment to Congolese villages. The company uses a pay-as-you-go model, so that customers receive the equipment upfront and make relatively small weekly payments over a five-year period, says Mehrdad Arjmand, NovoMoto’s other co-founder. After five years, clients own the equipment, he says. Read the full story here.