Bill Gates bets on Arnergy to boost Nigeria’s solar power

Faced with a population boom that has sent carbon emissions soaring and stretched power supplies to breaking point, Nigeria is challenged with a herculean task that requires about 200,000 megawatts of electricity and an investment of over $100 billion in the next 20 years to sufficiently provide reliable power supply.

To solve this challenge, Arnergy, a Nigerian solar energy solutions firm, is attracting capital from some of the biggest global investors including Bill Gates-led Breakthrough Energy Ventures as the challenge to light up Africa attracts opportunity and investment.

The $1 billion Gates-led Breakthrough Energy Ventures, which counts for 24 other billionaires as co-investors, has put money into some 40 startups including Arnergy that are developing clean energy technologies for everything.

As a result of these initiatives, Arnergy provides reliable, affordable solar systems to homes, small and medium enterprises and work with distribution partners across Nigeria to end epileptic power supply, high fossil fuel operating expenses, and high unemployment rate.

“Beyond powering homes, the partnership with Bill Gates-led fund is also driving more problem-solving innovations, which is also developing local content in Nigeria and creating more opportunities for young Nigerians,” Femi Adeyemo, CEO of Arnergy, told BusinessDay.

For most Nigerians, the initiative is a welcome development in solving issues surrounding climate change and energy poverty, which is one of the significant limitations to thriving entrepreneurial growth in Africa’s biggest economy.

The development would also empower businesses, create job opportunities, and reduce carbon emissions while ensuring a safer environment for our nation and, by extension, the world.

The company’s $9 million equity funding has fuelled her business models, presented opportunities for partnerships and deployed 600 systems to customers that include the Nigerian branches of Citibank and KPMG, as well as industrial conglomerate Dangote Group.

“Here, it’s not a function of ‘It’s good for the climate’ alone—it’s also even good for the pockets,” Adeyemo told Forbes.

Arnergy also leverages the Internet of Things (IoT) to provide real-time monitoring of energy yield, energy consumption, and advisory data points that help consume energy efficiently. Her big data optimise climate data including weather and solar irradiation to optimise and reduce total cost of ownership, leading to provision of affordable energy solutions to homes and business across emerging markets, starting with Nigeria.

“Each of our 5-kilowatt modular systems is displacing diesel and petrol generators on a daily basis,” according to Adeyemo, a former telecoms engineer.

Other funding participants include All On Energy, the Nigerian impact investor funded by oil company Shell; European Union-backed ElectriFI and the Norwegian Investment Fund for Developing Countries.

Most of the startups Breakthrough Energy Ventures funds address three solutions Bill Gates says are necessary for the clean-energy transition: Long-duration storage, nuclear energy and carbon capture, and power transmission.

“What’s needed are affordable ways to bring clean energy to nearly a billion people who deserve more access to electricity,” Gates said in a video that is part of his personal blog, Gates Notes. “That’s why I’m making investments in clean, affordable, and reliable ways to generate electricity, and I’m encouraging others to do the same.”

Some of the clean energy innovations Breakthrough Energy Ventures invests in are moonshots, and the technology may take a decade or more to develop. But finding solutions is imperative. “If we’re going to avoid a climate disaster, we have to get from 51 billion [tons of greenhouse gases] to zero in just 30 years,” the group says on its website.

The fund raised another $1 billion earlier this year to bankroll more startups, with Gates as the largest investor. Some of the 24 other billionaire backers include Indian tycoon Mukesh Ambani, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, Bloomberg LP founder Michael Bloomberg, Virgin Group founder Richard Branson, Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma, and mutual fund giant Fidelity CEO Abigail Johnson.