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How $90m funding raise by Zola Electric can light up millions of homes in Africa

Janet Martins resides in Ibafo community, a local government close to Nigeria’s commercial capital. Like many women, she needs power for her daily needs in taking care of her family’s essential needs.

Yet this seemingly straightforward task is complicated by a myriad of challenges commonplace across the country.

To change this narrative, Zola Electric has closed a $90 million capital funding to enter fresh markets and drive distributed renewable energy in Nigeria and other African countries.

The company was founded in 2012 by Erica Mackey, Xavier Helgesen, and Joshua Pierce, to provide different solutions associated with energy access problems across Africa, and recently expanded to Asia and South America.

“More than 2.2 billion people in the world lack access to reliable and affordable energy. We needed an energy ladder and a series of products that were all connected in some ways but solve different problems for these 2.2 billion people,” Bill Lenihan, Chief Executive Officer, ZOLA Electric, said.

The $90 million funding raised is a combination of debt and equity, $45 million each. This funding will be used to improve product development and commercial efforts aimed at building next-generation digital renewable energy.

“The world needs energy access, energy equality, and it needs to be done in a way that protects our environment while supporting economic development. Digital renewable energy can help us accomplish these weighty objectives, and as an energy access technology company, this is what we intend to achieve,” Lenihan said.

The equity bit was led by TotalEnergies Ventures, San Francisco based impact Venture Capital firm DBL Partners, Helios Investment Partners; Vulcan Capital, the investment arm of Paul Allen; Lyndon and Pete Rive (founders of Tesla-owned SolarCity), and New York-based utility-focused hedge fund Electron Capital Partners.

Read also: Zola Electric boosts access to solar with robust distribution scheme

“DBL’s mission has always been to drive top-tier venture capital returns and positive social and environmental change. ZOLA embodies our mission in every way as it is building the same success in clean energy in Africa and other emerging markets that we have had with clean energy investments in the United States. DBL firmly believes that access to clean, affordable, and reliable energy is a global movement, and the time is now.” Nancy Pfund, Founder and Managing Partner at DBL Partners, said.

The debt is being provided by some of the Energy Access lenders which include Field Marketing Organisations, the Dutch entrepreneurial development bank, and Sunfunder, a solar finance company providing debt capital to solar enterprises in emerging markets.

Proceeds obtained will be used to develop next generation hardware and software technology, which is focused on bringing reliable, affordable and clean energy to Africa, Asia and Latin America.

“Energy is reinventing itself, and we need to find a path to a low-carbon future while meeting the energy needs of society. Developing renewable energy solutions dedicated to emerging markets is key to reach this goal and represents a huge investment opportunity,” Edouard Bulteau, Principal at TotalEnergies Ventures, said.

ZOLA’s technology is on a mission to bring distributed, clean, digital energy solutions to those who lack reliable and affordable energy commonly referred to as the Energy Access sector.

The company’s batteries are installed in homes and businesses and are integrated into energy sources like grid, solar, battery, etc. to power any load. These solutions are managed by Vision- its Software as a Service System (SaaS), providing customers with data, analytics and control of their systems.

Having launched a product -Infinity last year, the company has been able to power any home or office appliance while integrated into any energy source like grid, solar or battery. The product works with power grids, solar panels and other power sources before switching to a ready energy source and storing it simultaneously.

“What we have is the semblance of an energy ladder where we can pretty much go into any market and solve any problem, no matter what. Now, there are still gaps in that technology and market segments that we haven’t addressed. And that’s where our development and capital is going, to fill out that energy ladder,” Lenihan said.

More than 1.5 million users and over 300,000 homes and businesses across over 10 countries use Zola products.

These products are distributed through integrators and developers which include EDF, Shell, Econet/DPA, and to emerging DRE (distributed renewable energy) integrators like Blue Camel in Nigeria.

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