Sao energy brings sustainable energy to primary healthcare center & surrounding households

A Case Study
Tim Ha
February 28, 2023

Who, What & Where

  • Project developer: SAO Energy
  • System: 50 households and 1 Primary Health Centre energized by mesh-grids
  • Location: Omolege, Ondo State, Nigeria
  • Completed: March 2022

The Company

SAO Energy, lead by Ayodeji Sotinrin, takes a holistic approach to improving livelihoods through energy access. They deploy renewable solutions for productive hubs like Primary Healthcare Centers (PHCs), Digital Learning Centres (DLCs) and schools, whilst also energizing surrounding households. SAO Energy has contracts with the Kwara and Ondo government to provide electricity for all of the Primary Healthcare Centres (PHCs) and Digital Learning Centres (DLCs) within the state.

The Challenge

Previously, SAO was trying to use Solar Home Systems (SHS) to energize PHCs and DLCs. They would procure equipment from various vendors in China but often faced issues with quality control and delayed deliveries. Additionally, their previous SHS solutions struggled to supply sufficient power, all day long, to fully enable productive hubs.

Renewable Solution

SAO transitioned from SHS to Okra for their first mesh-grid project in Omolege. The project was implemented in what SAO termed a “keymaker” business model, where higher energy consumption by productive hubs like PHCs offset the tariff for surrounding residential offtakers. This ensured that the majority of energy consumption was paid for by revenue generating customers. This was effectively enabled by the power-sharing ability of the mesh-grid, allowing the high power output (1.2kW) to be shared from the local PHC to nearby households.

Project Financing & Costs

SAO’s project model was optimized for:

  • A flat kWh tariff applied to each household with the goal of growing utilization over time
  • An average daily load of 220Wh/day
  • Two days of battery autonomy

Due to the ongoing installation, the actual costs for the project are yet to be realized. These are the most recently updated figures for 200 households:

  • $98,844.51 (200 Okra Kits with shipping)
  • CAPEX cost per connection: $494.22 (pre-OBF subsidy)
  • 8 year IRR
  • $8/month (₦5000/month) average revenue per user (ARPU)
  • 12 year IRR of 13%

Project Outcome

  • The number of medical patients that the PHC can attend to has increased as they now have reliable lighting (and energy) for treatments throughout the day and night. One major advantage as described by Dr. Kolawole (PHC manager) is the ability to deliver babies at night time.
  • 52% of end users are consuming less than 150Wh/day, making it difficult for project economics since it is lower than what the system was designed for. However, the community’s income has decreased in the past year since the initial survey, making the energy increasingly unaffordable. Using data received through the Harvest platform, SAO has been able to draw the insights needed to help fine-tune their tariff structure.
  • SAO intends on lowering the tariff in their pilot project to try and boost energy consumption utility for the community, which will ultimately lead to higher revenues in the long term.
  • SAO Energy successfully developed Nigeria’s first fully fledged mesh-grid and created an opportunity to learn more about what implementing novel technologies looks like in the off-grid Nigerian market.
  • During the installation, operations and logistics difficulties and fuel shortages negatively impacted figures related to predicted deployment cost, reliability and estimated timeline. Among these issues, it was Okra’s first time shipping to Nigeria and there were unexpected delays caused by sea freight blowing out delivery and customs clearance times to almost 6 months.

Okra Harvest’s household consumption data showing most users using less than 150Wh/day and allowing SAO to adjust their tariff structure.

Next Steps

A follow-up site visit for the second phase of installations is scheduled in February 2023 to Omolege to optimise the installation. This includes interconnecting standalone households and connecting an additional 100 households, bringing the total households energised by the pilot to 200. SAO has also been working to secure funding and agreements for scaleup across Ondo and Kwara state to an additional 100 PHCs and 30,000 households. Lessons from this pilot deployment will enable SAO Energy to reduce overall opex in subsequent deployments, as well as improve deployments of other mesh-grids in the future.

After a stint in the world of Electrical Engineering, Tim tapped into his creative side and worked as a freelance photographer and filmmaker in Cambodia for three years, with a focus on short documentaries for NGO’s. Now he’s able to combine his technical engineering skills with his love for telling stories and creating content at Okra.