In East Africa, three renewable energy companies – Aceleron Energy, MeshPower and Vittoria Technology – have launched a battery innovation pilot focused on improving deployment speed, affordability, and longevity of mini-grid systems on the continent. Across sub-Saharan Africa, 600 million people lack access to electricity – and half would be best served by mini-grids according to the World Bank. Despite this potential, the sector’s progress has been slow due to several factors including high capital expenses, uncertain customer demand and restrictive financial environment. Addressing these challenges, the consortium’s pilot, “Scaling Affordable Mini-grids through Expandable 2nd Life Batteries,” aims to improve scalable battery technology and finance which are significant challenges for the most expensive component of a mini-grid system.
Addressing the Battery Barrier
Co-funded and supported by Innovate UK, the UK’s innovation agency, and its Energy Catalyst program, the project will pilot Vittoria Technology’s software-enabled battery leasing platform, Battery Bank Africa, and Aceleron’s scalable 2nd life Li-ion batteries, built in East Africa, at three MeshPower mini-grids in the region. Over the two-year project, the partners will trial phased battery expansion technologies alongside productive-use initiatives – aiming to demonstrate the technical, financial, and social impact benefits of the scalable ‘Storage-as-a-Service’ model – and its commercial potential across the continent.
To achieve this, the project activities will focus on three key objectives:
1) Prove the field ‘readiness’ of Battery Bank Africa’s software-enabled ‘Storage-as-a-Service’ solution providing advanced battery leasing for scalable, affordable mini-grid energy systems.
2) Demonstrate the suitability of Aceleron’s 2nd life Li-ion batteries for expandable mini-grid battery banks, with integrated remote monitoring and performance controls.
3) Assess the financial and technical efficiencies of ‘right-sized’ expandable mini-grid battery banks, designed for long-term scalability alongside community demand growth.
The partnership’s ultimate objective is to improve uptake, economics, and sustainability of mini-grid systems by proving the business case of Battery Bank Africa and Aceleron batteries for affordable, modular, scalable energy storage – capable of servicing the sector’s complex and growing storage demands.
“Through the right mix of technology, finance, and social innovation, mini-grids can catalyze a paradigm shift in the way we power the world – toward more affordable, localized, clean energy solutions. In fact, this shift has already started thanks to the steadfast efforts of energy access champions in sub-Saharan Africa and elsewhere. At Vittoria Technology, we are eager to play a part through Battery Bank Africa and this exciting new partnership enabled by Innovate UK’s Energy Catalyst support.”
Nathan Sermonis, CEO, Vittoria Technology
“At MeshPower, we believe in the power of electrification and productive uses to drive economic development, and the role mini-grids can play in this. We are excited by the potential of this project to help unlock mini-grid financing, and improve their sustainability.”
Richard Mori, CEO, MeshPower
“Our mission at Aceleron is to improve people’s access to sustainable energy everywhere. This project and its aim to improve people’s access to energy while making it more sustainable through the use of second life batteries, along with improved financial opportunities, fits entirely within our ethos and we’re eager to create a successful project with the partners.”
Amrit Chandan, CEO & Co-founder, Aceleron
Founded in 2020, Vittoria Technology is an award-winning social enterprise dedicated to achieving progress for people and the planet through sustainable access to clean, affordable electricity. Our international team applies technical design and creative interventions to scale renewable energy across developing markets in Africa, namely through our Battery Bank Africa (BBA) service. Optimized for mini-grid developers, BBA uses alternative financing, algorithmic software and an asset leasing approach to provide affordable advanced batteries to help scale the sector. www.vittoriatech.com Contact: Liam Murphy, firstname.lastname@example.org
MeshPower is an energy services company which started operating in Rwanda in 2014. They were an early pioneer in using mini-grids for rural electrification, using their smart DC mini-grids to lower the cost of reaching rural consumers. They now work across the energy spectrum, on commercial and industrial solar projects, larger AC PV mini-grids, clean cooking projects, EV charging and more. www.meshpower.co.rw Contact: Richard Mori, email@example.com
Aceleron is an award-winning clean technology company started when co-founders Amrit & Carlton dismantled and tested hundreds of battery packs and realised that batteries are not designed to be maintained. Anticipating a future with tonnes of unnecessary battery waste they designed a battery pack which is built with sustainability in mind. The world’s most sustainable lithium battery packs in a full circular economy approach, serviceable, upgradable and recyclable. Here at Aceleron we are motivated to empower global communities by increasing access to energy storage solutions for our customers around the world. www.aceleronenergy.com Contact: Laura Allerston, firstname.lastname@example.org
Innovate UK drives productivity and economic growth by supporting businesses to develop and realise the potential of new ideas. We connect businesses to the partners, customers and investors that can help them turn ideas into commercially successful products and services and business growth. We fund business and research collaborations to accelerate innovation and drive business investment into R&D. Our support is available to businesses across all economic sectors, value chains and UK regions. Innovate UK is part of UK Research and Innovation. www.innovateuk.ukri.org