M-KOPA: Battery technology energising off-grid power solutions in East Africa

M-KOPA

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M-KOPA has made clean, safe electricity to more than 600,000 homes in East Africa with its solar home systems (SHS). Batteries lie at the core of these SHS, and have the greatest impact on customer satisfaction. This paper summarises research that M-KOPA Labs undertook1 to ensure that batteries acquired by M-KOPA support the long-life and reliability of the SHS in customers’ homes.

The battery is one of the most expensive and technically complex components in a SHS, however commoditised nature of the battery market means that the complexities of battery technologies can be overlooked by SHS providers. In practice, the impact of battery performance on customer experience, and willingness to repay, makes it a critical business consideration, as well as one of safety.

M-KOPA considers it important to understand how to deliver positive customer experience by: ensuring stable battery performance under variable sunlight and temperature conditions; mitigating against charging and discharging irregularities; and ensuring long-life of the batteries. Through the research undertaken by M-KOPA Labs (the research and development business unit of M-KOPA), M-KOPA has developed deeper expertise in these key areas. Working with academics and industry partners, M-KOPA has advanced its knowledge of battery efficacy and management to enable it to make informed decisions relating to:

  • which battery chemistries to use;
  • which suppliers to buy from and at what price;
  • which manufacturing processes and tests it should require from its suppliers;
  • how to manage the charging, shipping and storage of batteries;
  • how to monitor and manage a vast fleet of batteries in customers’ houses; and
  • when and how to replace and dispose of batteries safely and responsibly

This paper summarises some of the key learnings from this research and identifies the next areas of research that M-KOPA Labs is embarking upon.

Download the full study here: Battery Technology Energising Off Grid Power Solutions In East Africa

 

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