Following up on a story we published on Econet’s Home Power Station a few days ago, we have since received additional information from their PR company that will add more perspective.
Econet Solar International (ESI) announced at the AfricaCom conference that it plans to light-up at least 125,000 homes with its Home Power Stations® (HPS) across the African continent in 2014. The device, as indicated a few days ago, is designed to harness solar energy in order to provide affordable, clean and safe lighting to homes in off-grid communities. It’s already being successfully used by approximately 8,000 people in 2,000 homes across Zimbabwe according to Econet.
Here’s what we have since established.
- HPS has the infrastructure needed to provide a prepaid option for HPS customers (the IN platform and the GSM Network). Econet will also use data on a person’s air-time usage as part of their credit vetting process.
- The product contains a SIM card which enables the device to communicate with the cellular network and in turn makes it possible for the customer to pre-pay for energy usage, in the same way that they currently pay for airtime on their cell phone.
- As standard, the Econet Solar Home Power Station comes with wireless LED lights, the Home Power Station controller, a battery, a solar panel, cabling and mobile phone charging connectors. It has been designed to charge up to four accessories mainly the wireless bulbs which give up to 20 hours of light in low mode.
- In its research, Econet established that their target market spends an average of $9 on unsafe lighting like candles, kerosene lamps and other sources of lighting. So at $0.25 a day, users will save at least $2.50 per month by using this safer, eco-friendly alternative.
Now the interesting part is this: How long users will pay the $0.25 for? It takes approximately 2 years to cover the $200 cost of the device at $0.25 a day but we have confirmed with a source at the company that the $0.25 is a subscription that will be paid by the user perpetually. So in blunt terms, the user will be subscribing to use the solar power provided for free by the sun, even after the device is fully paid for. If a user fails to pay the subscription, the “service” will essentially be cut off.
However, since the product hasn’t launched commercially yet, and despite information we have received from our source at Econet, the company may still be working on the pricing model. We will have a clearer picture when the product is officially launched.
What are your thoughts on this device, do you think it’s fair business practice to offer subscription to solar power even after the device is paid for?