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Edward remembers visiting his grandmother in the small village of Kalwanga, Uganda and how happy she was that he had come to help her with household chores. Edward would walk through the bushes where he would collect firewood for 2 hours daily. He would carry the wood back on his head to prepare supper when the kitchen would fill with smoke, covering the walls with black soot. Edward’s memories are shared by more than 500M households that still use open fires to cook their food and purify their water. These methods emit nearly 1B tons of greenhouse gases per year and cause deforestation. The World Health Organization reported that more than 3.5M deaths are caused by respiratory illness due to burning of biomass. That’s more than double the annual deaths attributed to malaria (1.2M) or HIV/AIDS (1.5M). High-quality, clean energy solutions exist but few companies can deliver these products at affordable prices to those that need them most
UpEnergy focuses on the marketing and logistics effort required to overcome the accessibility and affordability barriers to clean energy products. We are a technology agnostic company, sourcing locally appropriate products that we sell through both direct and partner sales channels. Our direct sales efforts allow us to gather market intelligence, which we transfer to our partner channels. Our carbon expertise enables us to issue and sell carbon offsets on qualifying products. For each year in use, our products generate roughly 2 tons of avoided CO2 emissions per unit or roughly $70 of carbon revenues over their useful life. This means that we can take a product that costs us roughly $25 and wholesale it at close to cost. Our partners then add their 20-25% margins and retail the product for roughly $30. Strong margins for partners build livelihoods and support higher sales volumes, which reduces our sourcing costs.
Since October 2011, we have sold over 17,000 high efficiency cookstoves, serving over 110,000 Ugandans with clean energy technologies. Since these products significantly reduce cooking time and fuel usage, we have collectively saved users over 7M hours in cooking time and over 2M hours in time not spent collecting wood assuming an average of just 6 months continuous use. Users that used to purchase wood for cooking have collectively saved over $500,000 in reduced fuel needs during this time. We have raised $290,000 in seed capital and are expected to close further funding in early 2013. We are expanding our product offering to include solar lights, water filtration units and microgrid solutions in 2013 as well as offering consumer financing solutions which will enable retailers to offer time payment, rent-to-own and free trial offers.
I work as the Sales Director at UpEnergy, where I focus on building an efficient, nationwide distribution network in Uganda. I manage the sales team’s day-to-day operations and provide strategic direction on sales models and engagement with savings and loan organizations. I previously worked with Barefoot Power, a solar company, where I was responsible for more than doubling Barefoot Power’s Ugandan distribution network to include 71 retailers and increasing sales by over 600% to 886 units / month. I hold a Business Administration degree from Makerere University Business School.
I serve as COO of UpEnergy, where I focus on operational management and development of our sales strategy. Whilst completing my MBA at UC Berkeley I co-founded my first social enterprise, a sustainability venture called Refill Revolution which was later acquired by True2O. Born and raised in South Africa, I’ve always been passionate about economic development in the region and had the good fortune to join the founding UpEnergy team. I started as the only full-time team member and was tasked with scaling a carbon-financed clean energy program into a sustainable, for-profit business.
UpEnergy benefits from the expertise of three of the most experienced cookstove project developers in the world. Matt Evans, Evan Haigler and Erik Wurster have collectively overseen the sale of over 500,000 cookstoves in more than 10 countries in the past 4 years.
Also on the founding team is Alex Rau, who has been involved in carbon markets since their inception in the ‘90s. Our implementation team in Uganda is made up of 7 full-time staff members and a team of 15 salespeople. The group is lead by Mark Mutaahi, a Ugandan national who recently returned to Uganda after completing his MBA at the University of Ottawa in Canada. Mark is supported by a passionate group of talented individuals whose experience ranges from marketing nutritional drinks for Danone, a French food product conglomerate, in Bangladesh and Poland to managing the finances of a Ugandan cookstove factory.