Sub-Saharan Africa’s share of the world’s population without access to electricity stood at 77% in 2020, according to reports. Furthermore, the average daily power supply in some of Africa’s largest cities is less than 12 hours. As a result, people and businesses find other options and substitutes, such as generators, to deal with their power problems; however, these solutions can be expensive to use or affect the climate.
While solar grids and panels are another viable option and have compelling end-user use cases, there is still an opportunity to market products aimed at utility companies, and this is where Beacon Power Services (BPS) plays. The energy technology company, which provides data and network management solutions to help Africa’s power sector distribute electricity more efficiently, announced today that it has closed a $2.7 million seed round.
Founder and CEO Bimbola Addis, an aerospace engineer, started the company in 2014 after working for several years for a power turbine manufacturer and as an investment banker covering the US energy sector. For the latter, most of his clients included electrical companies, service providers and manufacturers. In an interview with TechCrunch, he said these experiences gave him access to the application of technology in the energy sector and he saw an opportunity to apply this in Nigeria and across Africa.
Adisa launched BPS in 2014 to address inadequate power supply from power distribution companies. The US and Nigeria-based utility company provides energy management and analytics software for utilities. Its AI-enabled grid management platform, Adora, solves one of the two main problems facing electricity distribution companies in Africa.
The software offers real-time visibility into grid performance for electric companies and connects to every utility grid asset and customer node on the grid, enabling energy providers to prevent outages and identify grid losses, respond quickly to them, and distribute electricity more efficiently. “The result is that utilities can operate more efficiently, recover more revenue, and by reducing outages, customers get increased electricity supply (more hours delivered daily), so everyone wins,” BFS said in an email response to TechCrunch about how Adora works.
The other problem is focused on data, which is addressed by the company’s proprietary platform called the Customer and Asset Information Management System (CAIM). Utilities in Africa struggle to maintain an accurate database of their customers, assets and network topology (the connection between assets and customers). CAIMs solves this by taking into account the unique conditions in which utilities in Africa operate, such as poor address systems, and helps them digitize their data, which serves as a basis for network improvements.
“Africa is home to some of the fastest growing cities in the world, but when most people think of energy access in Africa, they think of rural areas with little or no access to electricity. However, it is impossible for Africa to develop without significantly improving electricity access and reliability in its major cities,” the Adisa CEO said in a statement. “When we realized that solutions designed for mature markets were failing to address the unique infrastructure challenges facing Africa, we developed a solution specifically for the continent’s energy companies to improve the day-to-day grid supply of electricity.”
Adisa told TechCrunch that BPS has grown from one utility company in Nigeria to four utilities in two countries, including Ghana, covering more than 8 million customers (residential and business). BPS’s business model involves working with customers as partners for the long term, not just to sell products, Adisa said. As such, the company can defer most of the upfront costs of implementing its technology in exchange for service-based payments commensurate with the value it creates.
The eight-year-old energy services company says it differs from other platforms because it provides “local solutions that take into account the local operating environment in Africa.” For example, most off-the-shelf solutions built for mature markets do not take into account the frequency of outages experienced in Africa or network communication issues, but BPS claims its solutions have solved this.
The company’s seed round was led by Seedstars Africa Ventures with participation from Persistent Energy, Kepple Africa Ventures, Factor[e] and Oridun Capital Management. Speaking about the investment, Maxim Bouan, Managing Partner at Seedstars Africa Ventures, said: “As a society we have recognized climate change as one of the biggest threats to our generation and it is critical that we use smart capital to support entrepreneurs in Africa who create innovative and localized solutions to address this challenge.”
The new funding would allow BPS to improve its current products (product upgrades to add new features and incorporate automation) and expand into new markets outside of Nigeria and Ghana, where it currently operates.