Econet Solar to power 125,000 homes with Home Power Station (HPS) by 2014

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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.

Econet Solar-Home Power Station
Home Power Station users will have to subscribe 25c a day

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?


  1. Joey K

    There are many companies now with similar products. Most designs use lighting ranging from 1W LED to 3W LEDs. With this power rating, the “Brightness” is too low to be really attractive to urban dwellers.10W LED lights would be better for these plug and play kits as their output is similar to “brighter” conventional 60W bulbs ( 800 lumens). Another option would be to make the Home power station adaptable to fit compact flourescent lighting. Then 11 W to 15 W CFLs could really light up a standard room low or medium density housing. This option also gives easy access to replacement bulbs when lights go out.

  2. Greg Kawere

    the part where u have to pay forever is a turnoff, if they launch it like that, i will definetly find a good chinese model & launch mine with a once off setup fee, just to make a point to econet not to fleece us dead.

  3. rwaivhi

    uhmm zvazvinhu

  4. fourwallsinaroom

    not advocating criminal activity but… Whats to stop me from taking the device apart and bypassing the 25c a day part? I mean surely all this is, is a panel…battery and inverter.

    1. Guest

      i doubt the 25c a day part will be built into the unit – i suspect that will be some contract with your ecocash bundle – and they have the rights to repossess the equipment if you dont pay

  5. Robert Ndlovu

    Hard times indeed.Paying Econet to get Solar energy ? Ah .Get a solar panel connect to your home why do I need a SIM card to do this ? AT times some of this so called creativity is really a load of bull.

    Not suprizing at all of late we have seen Econet selling Facebook services and selling Premium SMS services .

    Value added services indeed.But to pay for Solar using my SIM card ? What for when I can get a panel and connect it to my gadgets,

  6. Ash

    i do not see anything wrong with 25c model , if you use candles or zesa you pay more than that for lighting anyway, so here someone comes and gives you a device in advance and you pay off the device cost at +-$7.50 a month its as reasonable as it gets, if you are on Zesa prepaid electricity you would understand this argument better. For my folks in the rural areas sure i can pay $10 a month to make sure they have lighting and can charge their phones

    1. qwer

      The idea is quite interesting but what is not quite right is to be made a cash cow for econet untill you die, a once off payment would more appealing. 200 dollars is rather too exobitant I can buy my own panel, battery cables and dc light and fix my own Home Power System with less than 100 dollars.

  7. XXXX

    l do not know if l missed something in this article or l am just dense but it does not seem to me, to say how it works. l mean will they install solar panels, inverters, batteries etc for the $200? Or will they have some form of lines which will bring the energy. l am wondering how this would work? lf l am not mistaken it is prohibitively expensive to build power generation facilities, hence most power companies are by their nature monopolies.

    In a related issue what will govt and the energy regulator say about this. lt is no secret that Econet and the present govt do not share a cordial relationship. At the same time in my view moving into energy though being a good thing may result in regulatory issues like they experienced with ecocash, though mostly because the banks were not happy about losing their dominance of money related activities.

    Anyway whatever the outcome it should all be very interesting.

  8. eChaja

    You may be interested in a open source alternative, basically a entrepreneur can buy kits allowing a huge cost saving in assembly, packaging and shipping. This will allow units to be built where they are rquired and allowing a series of down the line enterprises to install the systems. They contain two vey bright 5 watt corn lights with a 300mm lamp shade, a cigarrette lighter charger and a 20watt solar panel with MPPT control. Batteires are not included. Connects with simple telephone cordage. Kits need basic skills to assemble and will retail at about $80,00

  9. bhunu

    As long as they install all the required kit and replace the battery and the lightening damaged inverter free of charge and provide a way of upgrading the assembly to give the user more power, then it may be worth it, but watch out for the murambatsvina tsunami when this thing gets too big for big brothers liking

  10. Shingi

    Econet has a capitalist tendency of treating the Zim masses as fools. Why should this be called a “Home Power Station” seriously. With high caps `HPS’ for that matter. This gadget does not even power a TV set. It would have made sense if the gadget was manufactured locally to create jobs for the micro entrepreneurs who are going to loose revenues from selling candles. However complements to Econet for the green initiative. 0.25c per day for life is a rip-off. Correct me if I am wrong.

    1. The Ethics are wrong

      I agree with you 100% i thought it would be connected to all ur house lights minimum at-least so that when magesti go u at-least have light in every room ….. and the continuous payment is a total rip off no ethics in that

  11. The Ethics are wrong

    Making people pay regularly for as long as you have this product is ethically wrong as they have no running costs for this product so basically after they get their money back in terms of the cost of making the product they are making 100% profit from people using THE SUN a natural resource. ETHICALLY WRONG.

  12. charles

    brilliant idea for the rural areas of africa

  13. john salako

    i bought this for my grandparents in kumusha, simple to set up, charges mobile phones, cheap, costs less that 200 bucks econet is aking for and very reliable, they have had it for four years now and the bulbs havent been changed. dont get ripped off