The Founders’ Story

“In order to make a real dent in the problem of energy access in Africa, we needed to build a business that was financially sustainable.”

Hugh Whalan, PEG’s CEO, first took the leap into business with Energy in Common, which pioneered international crowdfunding for energy loans (funding products like solar home systems and cookstoves). It received money from lenders in 35 countries, and supported projects in Ghana, Tanzania and Nigeria. Despite early successes, the company was struggling to pay Hugh’s salary… turns out that people love to fund projects, but not overhead.

Hugh realized that in order to make a real dent in the problem of energy access in Africa, he needed to build a business that was financially sustainable. So he set up his second company, Impact Energies, which provided innovative financing for solar home systems in Ghana.

It was at Impact Energies that Hugh first met PEG's COO Nate Heller, and hired him as the West Africa Director.

Prior to joining, Nate had spent many years working in non-profit international development, both in West Africa and other parts of the world, and had finally come to believe that a business approach was the most scalable way to make an impact.

This led him to attend business school with the dream of starting a social enterprise in Africa. He had already spent 2 years in Ghana, and jumped at the chance to return and join Impact Energies.

“The company was at the point of raising its first serious round of financing when it was acquired.”

Impact Energies thrived in Ghana. Hugh and Nate partnered with 8 different microfinance institutions to provide end user financing to the customers they served, reaching 30,000 people with solar lanterns and solar home systems. In 2013, the company was at the point of raising its first serious round of financing when it was acquired by an NYC investment firm – the first-ever sale of an off-grid clean energy company.

After the sale of Impact Energies, Nate and Hugh teamed up to start PEG, which leveraged their unique experience in West Africa and background in distribution and financing to off-grid homes.

The early days were hard, but lots of fun. PAYG solar was nascent, particularly in West Africa where PEG was the first mover, and PEG was adopting an approach new to the industry. Rather than being completely vertically integrated. We chose to license other companies’ hardware and software and focus only on credit, distribution and profitably servicing customers. PEG has since paved the way for many companies that do the same thing.

In its first 12 months, PEG experimented with a few different technologies to make sure it was using the most commercially viable approach. We piloted the first commercial micro-grids in Ghana, but it was the PAYG solar home systems that really stood out as a product that was both needed by consumers and potentially profitable at scale.

“It was the PAYG solar home systems that really stood out as a product that was both needed by consumers and potentially profitable at scale.”

In late 2014, PEG fully turned our attention to PAYG solar. Before the first investment round in 2015, things were so tight that Nate and Hugh went more than 6 months without salary and also invested almost all of their own money into the business to keep it going. Thankfully, PEG received investment, and the company has gone from strength to strength since.

The PEG Timeline

  • 2015
       

    2015 - 

    Our team was 20 people strong.

    We started commercial operations selling PAYG solar home systems. The team at the start of the year was only 20 people.

  • 2016
       

    2016 - 

    PEG grew to 125 people.

    We entered Cote d’Ivoire, and we reached our first major milestone of financing solar home systems to over 100,000 people.

  • 2017
       

    2017 - 

    We closed Series B financing.

    Our growth accelerated and we reached 300 full time staff, delivering modern energy through financing solar home systems to over 210,000 people. We closed our Series B, taking our total funding to $21M USD.

  • 2018
       

    2018 - 

    We grew to over 410 full time staff.

    By the end of 2018, we had 410 staff from 18 different nationalities, and additional 550 commission-based sales people. We had 75 service centers across West Africa, and had started operations in Senegal, our third market. We delivered modern energy through financing solar home systems to over 350,000 people.

  • 2019
       

    2019 - 

    The year PEG brings life changing products to half a million people.

    We closed Series C financing, taking total funding to $50M USD. Our credit quality has improved 10 quarters in a row, and we are well on the way to reaching 500,000 people with our life changing solar products. We are now introducing solar irrigation pumps and larger solar home systems for productive use. The future is bright.

Over the next few years PEG intends to increase its footprint in West Africa, as we race to fulfill our vision of reaching millions of underserved households.