FOR PBAR ONLY, Rights from Standard Microgrid

Reimagining Power in Sub-Saharan Africa

Standard Microgrid specializes in providing clean, modern, and affordable energy services to poor rural communities in Africa. The organization’s usage model lets people get low-cost, renewable energy when they need it to use to power the appliances they rely on the most.

“Our model is based on the premise that rural energy buyers are not concerned with buying energy per se, but rather with the benefits that energy provides, such as charged mobile phones. We sell services instead of energy, which allows us to optimize grid utilization, reinforce energy efficiency practices, and effectively turn a rural community into a collection of hyper-efficient smart homes,” said Brian Somers, Founder and CEO.

Rural electrification helps break the poverty cycle. Impoverished communities in Africa are often forced to rely on fossil fuels for energy needs, sometimes paying up to 100 times more for electricity than wealthier communities. Electrifying rural communities is often not economically viable for national utilities, and renewable energy, such as solar panels, can be expensive.

Standard Microgrid relies on proprietary, easy-to-deploy technology to deliver reliable, modern alternating current (AC) power services in harsh and remote environments. Each unit is contained within a 20-foot-long shipping container, and has the capacity to deliver power to approximately 150 customers, including small businesses, schools, health clinics, and households.

“What’s particularly meaningful about advising Standard Microgrid is the way our work enables the social enterprise to extend its reach.”

Timothy Hia, partner, Singapore

A Singapore-based team of Latham lawyers has previously assisted Standard Microgrid with the sale and operation of microgrids in Zambia, with intellectual property advisory support from colleagues in Latham’s New York office, and is now advising Standard Microgrid on an innovative agreement with CrossBoundary Energy Access regarding a public-private partnership between Standard Microgrid and the Zambian Rural Electrification Authority (REA) that will electrify 17 sites across two very remote island locations in Luapula, Zambia. In Zambia, approximately 67% of the population lacks electricity.

Under the arrangement, REA will build the electrical distribution network while Standard Microgrid will build the systems to power the network. Once built, Standard Microgrid will also have the right to operate the network for 20 years. As a social enterprise, Standard Microgrid has committed to re-investing revenue back into the business.

Constructing and operating a solar microgrid can be complex. Standard Microgrid simplifies the process by enabling remote demand-side control of the grid. It also has an app that sells prepaid energy services, reports energy use and misuse, and maximizes utilization of the unit’s generation capacity. Local entrepreneurs can utilize these cloud-based tools, including selling prepaid credit to community members.

In Zambia, Standard Microgrid serves power to over 7,000 people, using microgrids consisting of solar and energy storage, not requiring diesel back-up or fossil fuels. The company is busy building a 150-microgrid portfolio in Zambia, which will bring productive, reliable AC power to around 130,000 people in Zambia in the next few years. In addition to Zambia, Standard Microgrid works in Kenya, Tanzania, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

“Providing pro bono legal services to organizations inevitably gives us the chance to utilize our legal skills in the service of the public good. What’s particularly meaningful about advising Standard Microgrid is the way our work enables the social enterprise to extend its reach. With its legal needs bolstered, Standard Microgrid has been able to significantly and positively impact a broad swath of people in rural Africa,” said Singapore partner Timothy Hia, who leads the team advising this nonprofit. “So, by helping Standard Microgrid, our firm is able to help many others.”