Hybrid Energy Systems – The Key to Sustainable Development in Emerging Markets

Posted by: Joe Landon, on August 11, 2016

In a little over a decade, Africa has gone from being a region largely without modern technology, to the second most mobile-connected continent on Earth. About 15% of Africa’s 1.1 billion inhabitants own a mobile phone. Mobile phones and the connectivity they bring play a critical role in the advancement of social and economic development and enable access to a wide range of services.

In this article, we examine how mobile phones are having a positive impact on the development of the populations in Africa, and we explain how mobile networks powered by hybrid energy help make this possible.


The World Bank estimates that almost two thirds of adults in sub-Saharan Africa do not have a bank account, yet the region is leading the world in the number of adults who use their mobile phones to send and receive money. For example, M-PESA is a mobile money transfer service launched in 2007 by Safaricom in Kenya. M-PESA currently provides services to more than 15 million Kenyans, representing over a third of the population. The success of M-PESA in Kenya is inspiring similar initiatives across the continent and many Africans now use mobile money to pay bills, buy goods and make payments to individuals. Money sent from relatives living overseas is also largely done using mobile banking.


Agriculture represents one of the largest occupations in Africa and the sector is notoriously at the behest of weather patterns and predatory agents and middlemen. Most of Africa’s farmers operate on a very small scale, without access to financing or technology. Mobile phones now allow access to weather information, market prices and micro-insurance plans. This means that farmers can make better decisions resulting in better financial returns and improved economic standing.


The potential for transforming Africa’s often dysfunctional educational system is immense. Mobile phones are less expensive and easier to operate than PCs, and they are increasingly used as tools for delivering educational content. Mobile phones have the potential to help reduce the numbers of school-age African children who are not currently receiving any formal education.


The World Health Organization estimates that nearly 30% of drugs supplied in developing countries are fake. Several initiatives exist to help identify counterfeit medication. They each follow the same steps and rely upon mobile technology. A security label with a scratch-off panel is placed on all protected products and consumers scratch off the panel at point of purchase to reveal a unique one-time use code. The code is sent via a free SMS or mobile app and the consumer receives a reply almost instantly indicating whether the product is genuine or suspicious. A useful consequence of this is that authorities can tell where a fake batch of drugs has entered the market, or when there is a spike in activity. They can also locate and trace stolen goods or illegally diverted medication.

Enabling These Benefits with Hybrid Energy

These are just a few of the benefits that mobile phones are making possible for Africa and other remote areas in emerging markets. None of these benefits are possible without cost-effective energy to power the telecom network. With mobile networks expanding at a rate far exceeding the expansion of power grids, conventional diesel generators are most commonly used in the absence of power infrastructure. Alternative energy sources need to be developed. Distributed hybrid power systems, capable of using a variety of energy sources, offer a cost-effective and sustainable means of meeting the power demands of mobile network operators across Africa and the world.

Planetary Power’s HyGen hybrid generator bridges the gap between conventional and alternative energy resources to provide a reliable solution for supplying energy off-grid. At Planetary Power, our vision is to create a new way to deliver power to the billions who live outside the reach of the power grid.