Rural Energy Foundation (REF) facilitates access to renewable energy to hundreds of thousands of rural people in sub-Saharan Africa. It does so by establishing and supporting entrepreneurs and technicians in solar energy products, by implementing awareness campaigns and by facilitating access to finance. The approach works: during the past 3 years REF facilitated access to electricity to more than 443,000 people at a cost of less than EUR 3 per connected person. Please see our one-pager for a brief introduction.

NEWS – REF wins world’s leading green energy awards

On July 1, 2010, REF was awarded an international Ashden Award in London, handed out by Sir David Attenborough. For more information, please download the  press release a more detailed case study on REF, and a brief documentary that the Ashden Award organization made about REF.
On March 23, 2010 REF received the Sustainable Energy Europe Award 2010 from EU Energy Commissioner Oettinger. For more information, please download the press release or watch the film the EU Sustainable Energy Campaign made about REF.

No access to electricity hinders development…
More than 70% of sub-Saharan Africa lacks access to electricity.  In rural areas this percentage exceeds 90%. People that have no electricity spend a lot of money on kerosene and batteries. Still they do not have access to television and modern communication means. Besides, the burning of kerosene is bad for the environment.

While good solutions exist…
Renewable energy household solutions, such as solar home systems, are highly attractive. Households can reduce their energy costs (kerosene, batteries), while access to electricity improves their development perspectives.  Energy expenses reduce, productivity increases, children can study after sunset.

But these solutions are not always available…
Solar energy is still hardly used in Africa. The key reason for this is that many entrepreneurs fail to see the market potential and lack the technical skills and financial capacity to develop a business in renewable energy.  Households are hardly aware of the benefits of solar energy products, so demand is limited. Many household lack the cash needed to make the upfront investment in a solar home system.

REF facilitates access to energy…
REF’s teams on the ground identify and support entrepreneurs to start and expand a business in solar energy products.  REF provides them with working capital and marketing tools. Once a critical mass of skilled retailers exists, REF initiates marketing campaigns to boost demand and designs and implements end-user credit schemes.

REF has teams on the ground in eight countries in sub-Saharan Africa. The focus is on solar home systems, but the distribution network is also increasingly capacitated to sell solar lanterns, fuel-efficient cook stoves and low-cost water filters. REF employs 39 renewable energy experts who are committed towards a market-oriented, no-nonsense and low-cost approach.

REF’s work is made possible by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs DOEN Foundation and private individuals.  REF employs funding where the impact is highest. REF’s high efficiency and sustainable approach have been internationally rewarded.

REF has built a network of 225 retailers across Africa.  Most retailers have adopted the SolarNow brand, a brand that stands for quality. REF supports these entrepreneurs and create linkages to stimulate a competitive market.  Our Solar.Now! retailers sold more than 44,000 solar home systems in 2009 alone. At September 30, 2010, REF had facilitated access to electricity to well over 443,000 people. Please download our 2010 plan 2009 annual report and our 2008 annual report for further details.

REF intends to facilitate access to renewable energy to 5 million people before the end of 2015, at a cost of less than EUR 3 per newly connected person. REF will achieve this by intensifying its market development activities in the 8 countries where it is active, by replicating its model in new countries, by introducing new technologies where appropriate and by establishing for-profit activities aiming at improving the affordability of renewable energy to lower-income households.