Nigerian startup GRIT Systems has developed the G1 smart meter, aimed at addressing the challenges of lack of data and inadequate finance models for solar hybrid.
Founder Ifedayo Oladapo claims the G1 will “change your life”.
“Each year in Nigeria we spend in excess of US$11 billion fuelling generators, maintenance and depreciation not included,” he said.
“Landlords and tenants squabble over shared energy costs. Our national grid is fraught with challenges for consumers and utilities alike.”
Increasingly, renewables like solar are being seen as the answer to these problems. But Oladapo says financially justifying the switch – with its generally large upfront costs – is hard in the absence of data.
“So there is massive potential to reduce waste, increase efficiency and turn the tide towards renewable energy solutions,” he said. “To do this we need new data-driven ways of making informed decisions about how best to consume and produce electricity.”
His company, GRIT Systems, feels it has found the answer with the web-enabled G1 smart meter. The G1 measures power production and consumption in real-time from any number of power sources, such as generators, mini-grids or solar.
“We provide power consumers and providers at all scales with easy to access and understand information about their power consumption habits, and offer real workable solutions to cut the cost per unit of energy and to reduce overall energy consumption,” Oladapo says.
He gives an example.
“Not so long ago one of our clients would receive a text message every night at 2am. The message was sent by our G1 smart meter and informed him every time his generator was switched on outside business hours,” he said.
“This went on for over a week. My client was perplexed. What could they possibly have been using the generator for at 2am in a fast food restaurant? It turned out his security man could not afford to miss a single episode of the TV show “Lekki Wives” and so switched on this massive 150kVa generator just to watch.”
Identifying power usage trends like this – good or bad – allows consumers to save money and ensure they are not being cheated. Power producers, meanwhile, are offered insights that allow for novel methods of power demand management, guaranteed collection of bills and detection of power theft.
“The challenges of the Nigerian power sector present a unique opportunity to build the most robust and flexible distributed power sharing systems that exist anywhere in the world, and the G1 smart meter is the cornerstone,” says Oladapo.
“It provides the data and control infrastructure to enable more innovation and sustainable business models in the power sector, empowering consumers with affordable and reliable electricity. We are gathering the kind of high granularity data that initiatives like President Obama’s Power Africa will require to succeed.”
The first G1 prototype was built in Oladapo’s garage 18 months ago, but a second, more affordable device – available on a rent-to-own scheme – is set to become available in October. The startup is currently funded by the Lagos-based Co-Creation Hub (CcHub).
“Our first generation device is quite expensive. Even so we have standing orders for all the 20 devices that were built in my garage in Lagos in the space of a few months,” he says.
“We have had demand for nearly 1,000 meters in the space of a couple of weeks leading up to this second device. We’ve chosen to focus on those clients who have the greatest need, and will to reduce the energy costs of estates, banks and other franchises.”
Oladapo sees plenty of potential in Nigeria for the G1, and is looking to raise US$2 million to put 10 thousand meters on the market by the third quarter of next year, which he considers to be a “reasonable and organic” growth rate.
“The market size in Nigeria alone is worth over US$5 billion. So there is plenty of space for scaling on the horizon. For now we will to focus on Nigeria, a challenging but the biggest and most worthwhile under-electrified market. Once we make it here we can make it anywhere.”