Project Everest

Work Update

(Energy Assessment, Malawi, December 2017) A goodbye, but definitely not a final one

Mallory Dobner
Mallory Dobner | Dec 22, 2017 | in Knowledge Base

This month, the energy team in Malawi has come forwards in leaps and bounds. There have been improvements on both the technical and business aspects, and the project is moving forwards well.


The first major decision made by the team this month was to focus on Nancholi, and the lower income earners in Blantyre. The main issues that these demographics face are in physical and financial barriers. When they are unable to afford to live in an area already connected to the grid they are also unable to pay the high price to create infrastructure to connect themselves to this grid. As stated in previous posts this results in a dependence on kerosene, candles and coal, which creates a financial barrier as they are unable to save money to afford longer term solutions. This meant that the identified issues we would need to cater to would have to be low cost to suit the target socioeconomic status.


Throughout a design thinking activity the team conceptualised ModSol, a small scale, modular, solar solution. The team has created a minimum viable product (prototype with basic functions) and has tested this in the Nacholi region. Through our testing, and relationships built by the agriculture team, MolSol caught the attention of the village elders in Mlanga, where they requested to try the product. Through a weekend of testing, we were able to gather our largest data pool on this front.. Survey results are positive - an indication that there is a strong demand  for what we are offering and that further development on a small scale solar product is the right way to go. The prototype was iterated on many times, and the team ran into issues throughout the month with respect to the most effective direction to alleviate the identified issues. The main discussion point between the team was around the modularity aspects, would the technical aspects of making the system modular compared to a pre-packaged setup add enough value to justify the resources expended to get there?


Aside from the technical aspects of the prototype, the team has also been busy on developing the business considerations. A business plan, initial cost analysis and pricing strategy has been created. Our research looked at the way payment plans have worked in similar countries, and various paths forward have been identified in order for the next team to pick up where we left off. A business plan has been created, with a road map of the likely steps being handed over to the next team. We know that licences need to be obtained in order for the business to become legitimate in Malawi but are unsure about the steps that need to be taken in order to obtain these licences. MERA is the organisation that gives licenses to solar businesses, so we are suggesting that in that early days of January the team is to organise a meeting with them in order to begin the process of making ModSol a legitimate business in Malawi. From the teams meeting with RENEMA we also gained some contacts that are currently operating in the importing and selling space of solar and through a meeting with them they may be able to shed some light on the process, or become a potential importer.


Moving forward, over summer, we expect future teams to sell and iterate on two sets of prototypes, with a minimum of ten products sold in each set. The products need to be sold and feedback gained by those that purchase them. This will allow for iterations to be made based on that feedback. The product design at the end of the summer project period should look like a product that is able to be released to the greater market. There is such a large demand for stable energy in Nancholi that actually selling the products will not be the largest concern, managing the expectations and keeping up with demand of the general population is expected to be a much larger issue.


This month has been incredibly productive in terms of the progress for the energy project. Whilst there has been some minor setbacks with the lack of technical knowledge, as a whole, the team has worked incredibly hard and pushed this project further than I could have ever imagined at the start of this month. The handover and business plan give a solid grounding for the next team, with communities we have created relationships with fully on board to give feedback on future iterations of the prototype. There is the basis of market analysis that allows for a price point to be created, and data points that show there is strong support for this product in the communities.


From a very small team this has been a huge achievement, and I hope to continue to watch Corwin grow as he stays on with the project over summer, and follow Theo in his quest to dedicate his life to doing good in the world. I wish all the best to the incoming team, and hope they are able to follow in the large footprints left behind by the December crew.


Zikomo for your support, and looking forward to reading the achievements of the January crew!



edited on 23rd December 2017, 19:12 by Andrew Vild

Patrick Edwards Dec 23, 2017

Hey Mallory, great to see that you guys smashed it. I understand that this is something more for the January team, but where were you sourcing your solar panels from? Nic has mentioned in his post how we have formed a partnership with an agent of an Indonesian solar provider, Sundaya, who have humanitarian interests. As the agent is established in Timor-Leste, we required to partner with him, not directly relating to the company. With this connection, the Malawi team could have the opportunity to be the primary agent for Sundaya, distributing their products in Malawi.

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Wade Tink Jul 2, 2018

Status label added: Work Update

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