Greenlight Planet aiming to help Papua New Guineans ‘climb the energy ladder’


After successfully launching solar-powered devices in Asia and Africa, Greenlight Planet expanded into Papua New Guinea in 2016 and has been instrumental in the solar sector’s phenomenal growth across the country. Lisa Smyth discovers what’s next for the for-profit social enterprise.

Once chicken farmers in Lae started using solar power, they have experienced cost savings and increased profits. Credit: Greenlight Planet / Sun King

The recent International Finance Corporation (IFC) report on Papua New Guinea’s solar market showed an increase of households powered by solar jumping from two per cent in 2012, to 60 per cent in 2017.

One of the companies contributing to this solar revolution is Greenlight Planet, a socially-driven enterprise that, in the last 10 years, has contributed towards uplifting the lives of over 45 million users in under- and un-electrified regions around the world.

‘We believe that for people to rise out of poverty, they need basic amenities to be made affordable, not “free”. As a “for-profit” social business, we track and monitor our social impact, just as we do our bottom line and other commercial metrics,’ explains Sanaullah Fathi, Asia and Pacific Business Leader for Greenlight Planet.

Demand drives supply

While the Government of Papua New Guinea has set a target of 70 per cent electrification by 2030, currently only 13 per cent of Papua New Guineans are connected to the electricity grid, meaning the market for off-grid solar solutions is vast in a country of nearly eight million people.

‘Our expansion into PNG was organic and driven primarily by the huge need and demand for clean energy in the country,’ says Fathi. ‘Across Sub-Saharan Africa we had already seen our decentralised, plug-and-play solar systems establish themselves as viable energy alternatives, especially in geographically remote regions. We were confident that our solutions could help bring connectivity to off-grid populations in PNG like they had proven to in other parts of the world.’

‘Street vendors are also a popular customer base, with Sun King lamps allowing many businesses to remain open for an additional four to six hours, and reportedly increasing household income by 25 per cent.’

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By working with distribution and financing partners such as NGF Limited, Solar Solutions, Chemica, Farmset, Tininga and the Kokoda Track Foundation, Greenlight Planet’s Sun King products are now sold in almost every province in PNG.

Nearly all Sun King products come with USB charging capability, making them an attractive choice for lighting as well as mobile charging needs.

Chicken farmers in Lae who used to spend K40 on fuel to keep the lights on at night have experienced cost savings, and increased profits, from using solar lamps. Street vendors are also a popular customer base, with the lamps allowing many businesses to remain open for an additional four-to-six hours, and reportedly increasing household income by 25 per cent.

Climbing the energy ladder

Small business have extended their opening hours. Credit: Greenlight Plant / Sun King

As more and more households use solar to charge lamps, fans, phones and smaller household appliances, there is a growing interest to ‘climb the energy ladder’ and purchase large-scale entertainment and information electronics, and larger solar systems through which to use them.

This year, the company has put its first solar home system that comes with a television on the market in PNG. The Sun King Home 400 includes solar panels and battery with a maximum 100 hours run-time, a television, two bright tube lights, two hanging lamps, and a motion-sensing security light.

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