Objectives Partners Project results and success stories Recommandations Deliverables
PROVEN: Promote best practice approaches of off-grid rural electrification using renewable
energies in rural Africa

Free Energy Foundation


The Free Energy Foundation is a not for profit organisation that aims to support entrepreneurs in developing countries to develop markets for solar energy systems.

It aims to share her knowledge, views and insights to enhance learning in the wider framework of solar electrification initiatives worldwide, to unleash the entrepreneurship and creativity of shopkeepers, sales agents and technicians.

Why ?

The Free Energy Foundation:
- was founded in 2003 because of the observed lack of understanding and support for small solar entrepreneurs in developing countries.
- is dedicated to improve the access of rural households in developing countries to solar energy for their electricity needs.
- supports the development of commercial market channels. It aims to help all actors in the local market with the capacities, tools and resources that they need to combine offering good service to the end-user with developing a viable solar business.

The energy challenge

Developing countries contain 80% of the world's population, but consume only 30% of the global commercial energy. World-wide, over 2 billion people still have no access to modern energy services.

Most of the increase in global energy consumption over the next generation is expected to take place in the developing world. Already, there is a tremendous demand in developing countries for the benefits of electrification - in the short term notably lights, radio, television, mobile phones and refrigeration. As energy consumption rises with increase in population and improving living standards, new ways to expand access to energy are being explored.

Solar or photovoltaic (PV) energy is widely perceived as a promising technology for electricity generation in remote locations in developing countries.

It is estimated that worldwide, over 13 million Solar Home Systems (SHS) had been installed in remote, rural locations by early 2000. An estimated one third of the systems were backed by foreign donor support in government programmes. Commercial market channels have supplied two thirds of the systems.

Focus on entrepreneurs

Private sector market channels have proven to be the most efficient and effective ways for reaching dispersed, remote, rural clients. By building and strengthening networks of actors involved in these marketing chains, the Free Energy Foundation and the entrepreneurs we work with make a contribution to the improvement of well-being and development of communities and individuals around the developing world.

Different delivery models can be suitable for reaching rural end users with high quality services and products. While in some countries cash and carry sales have driven the commercial market for solar panels to flourish, in other cases the market is more centred around electricity services, eg. through micro utility models. In again other countries, initial investors in solar were attracted by government/multilateral subsidies and finance schemes and commercial markets have hardly evolved.

In all these models however, small relatively independent rural entrepreneurs play a central and crucial role. Rural salesmen and installers are the spill in delivering products and services to end users, being involved in their own way, using their full knowledge of the local markets and circumstances.

Getting started

The initiative to start the Free Energy Foundation was taken early 2003 by the marketing team of Free Energy Europe, a Dutch/French manufacturer of amorphous silicon solar panels. Working with small and micro enterprises in developing countries, they soon realised that the key to succesful solar market development is to provide the right support to these rural entrepreneurs.

The Foundation starts by building on Free Energy Europe's considerable experience and extensive network of entrepreneurs in developing countries, but intends to work with all organisations and individuals who have the will and capacity to make a meaningful contribution to the promotion of solar electricity in rural areas in developing countries.


Free Energy Foundation knows that with tailor made assistance in marketing and technical issues, up-country entrepreneurs can live up to demonstrating their full potential of servicing a broad range of rural clients.

Involving local entrepreneurs in their own way will unleash the full power of entrepreneurship, reaching end users with affordable and quality energy services in markets with targeted penetration rates of over 80

Structure of PROVEN