A new start-up company, RE-VOLT, is helping to bring reliable and affordable electricity to families in rural Haiti and has launched a crowdfunding campaign to help fund a service expansion. The system is a combination of a solar panel, control/power storage unit, lights and a phone charger. Founded by Digicel Haiti chairman, Maarten Boute, the RE-VOLT campaign hopes to raise the working capital necessary to grow its customer base on La Gonave to 2,000 households or 10,000 people by January 2016.
Customers are charged a low monthly fee of 250 Haitian Gourdes (about USD $5) and pay for the service through Digicel’s Mon Cash mobile banking platform. The units themselves contain a cellular antenna allowing RE-VOLT to manage payments and maintenance remotely. An on-ground team handles basic maintenance and troubleshooting on installed systems.
“To their tremendous credit, Digicel Group chairman Denis O’Brien and the Digicel board decided to commit even more capital to Haiti after the earthquake,” said Boute. “Others might have walked away at that point, but they decided to double down instead.”
The idea for RE-VOLT’s business model came to Boute over five years ago in the aftermath of Haiti’s devastating 2010 earthquake. At the time, he was two months into his tenure as CEO of Digicel Haiti, having previously served as the company’s chief operating officer.
According to Boute, “At the start of that period of expansion, Digicel already had a strong subscriber base in cities like Port-au-Prince. The biggest opportunity to grow the business was in rural areas, and, as we expanded our network there, we began to realize how much of a problem energy-poverty was. It became very clear to us that there was a huge business opportunity to provide affordable, reliable energy to these people – as well as it being a morally compelling thing to do as well.”