Husk Power Systems Raises $20m From Shell, Others to Scale Renewable Mini-Grids in Africa and Asia

Published Jan. 15, 2018

By Harshith Mallya for Your Story

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Husk Power Systems, a leading distributed utility company that provides reliable power to rural communities and businesses entirely from renewable energy sources, on Monday evening announced that it had raised a $20 million Series C round of equity funding.

Shell Technology Ventures LLC, Swedish development finance institution Swedfund International, and ENGIE Rassembleurs d’Energies, ENGIE group’s impact investment fund, participated in the round. Husk had earlier raised a Series A round in October 2012 and Series B in August 2014.

The story so far

Established in 2008, Husk introduced an off-grid power generation and distribution solution to serve rural customers in Bihar, one of India’s most energy deficient states. Husk claims to be the first company to use 100 percent biomass gasification from rice husks to generate electricity for households and small businesses. The company has since evolved its business model and launched what it claims to be the world’s first hybrid powered mini-grid system that provides grid-compatible, highly reliable, and 24/7 power to customers.

Husk developed a proprietary system by combining and synchronising solar power system(PV), biomass gasification system, and batteries to deliver reliable, 24×7 power. It offers customers a flexible “pay-as-you-go” energy service, using a mobile-enabled smart metering system.

Husk notes that their systems are scalable, grid compatible, and secure against theft from power generation to delivery.

Husk currently comprises a 200-people strong team spanning India and Tanzania. Ninety percent of the team is currently based out of India.

Husk believes that their business model places the customer at the centre of their operations and also proactively advises them on productive uses of power. The company delivers reliable and affordable power to customers and has helped local entrepreneurs launch new businesses – including water purification plants and small manufacturing shops.

Husk currently designs, builds, owns, and operates one of the world’s lowest-cost hybrid power plants and distribution networks in India and Tanzania.

Our delivered cost, which consist of power generation, transmission and distribution and smart metering solution, comes to approximately US $2 per W. These are fully installed and cater to approximately 300 connected customers. - Manoj Sinha, CEO and Co-founder of Husk Power Systems

In addition to providing access to off-grid energy, Husk also sells household and commercial appliances to local communities, from TVs and freezers to biomass gasification system to power Ag-processing units.

Anne Chassagnette, ENGIE Director of CSR and ViP of ENGIE Rassembleurs d’Energies, noted in a statement that the efficient and replicable business model of Husk and its ability to provide productive use fits perfectly with her firms goal of promoting sustainable energy for all. 

We are very excited to step further into collective decentralised solutions that will further enhance the social and environmental impact of our portfolio. - Anne Chassagnette, ENGIE Director of CSR and ViP of ENGIE Rassembleurs d’Energies

Sector overview and future plans

Currently operating 75 mini-grids in Asia and Africa, Husk aims to accelerate its growth to develop what the International Energy Agency estimates as a $190 billion mini-grid market leading up to 2030. On the global front, SolarCity is another company that is looking to get people off the regular electric grid by using full-service solar power systems for homes and businesses and also providing custom design, financing, installation & monitoring. Tesla had acquired SolarCity for an estimated $2 billion in November 2016.

Along with its strategic investors, Husk is looking to grow rapidly over the next four years and envisions adding over 300 mini-grids in India and Tanzania, deploying 15 MW of 100 percent renewable power plant assets that would eliminate 150,000 tons of CO2 per year (equivalent to eliminating 56 million liters of diesel per year). These mini-grids will serve over 100,000 customers.

With the backing from multiple strategic investors, Manoj feels confident in achieving the company's long-term vision of becoming the world’s largest rural utility company providing 24/7, 100 percent renewable, and affordable power to drive inclusive and sustainable development in growth markets.

We believe that mini-grids are the most capital-efficient way to help reach 100 percent national electrification goals. - Manoj Sinha, CEO and Co-founder of Husk Power Systems

Brian Davis, VP, Integrated Energy Solutions for New Energies at Shell, believes that decentralised solutions will play an important role in providing productive energy to customers who currently lack reliable power. “This investment is an important step for our Energy Access portfolio and we look forward to helping the business to scale and reach its growth aspirations."

Gerth Svensson, CEO of Swedfund, noted that they were pleased to be part of Husk’s expansion, where their long-term capital and experience of evolving sustainable businesses will give multiple effects for the whole society. "Access to reliable electricity drives development and is essential for job creation, women empowerment and combating poverty. The private sector plays a central role when electrifying the rural areas of developing countries."

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