Nefco commissioned 60 Decibels, a global, tech-enabled impact measurement company, to conduct an independent verification of the Beyond the Grid Fund for Zambia (BGFZ). In April 2021, the team completed over 600 phone surveys with randomly selected customers of four participating Energy Service Providers (ESP) across Zambia. In addition, for 12% of the total sample, 60 Decibels commissioned in-person surveys through a partner. The objective was to verify the Energy Service Subscriptions (ESS) offered by the providers under the fund and to capture customer insights, including profiles, feedback, impact, satisfaction and experience.
“This impact study confirms the strong development impact of the Beyond the Grid Fund initiated by Sweden in Zambia. The results validate the rationale for Sweden to scale up its efforts to create access to basic and affordable, renewable energy services for people living outside national electricity grids. We expect to see further acceleration of growth and expansion in off-grid energy access as an outcome of the Beyond the Grid Fund for Africa,” commented Anna Maj Hultgård, Ambassador, Embassy of Sweden in Lusaka, Zambia.
Overall, energy products and services across all four companies are reaching underserved populations with high customer satisfaction and are improving people’s lives. The majority of customers shared that their quality of life had ‘very much improved’ because of access to the energy product or service (83%). This is significantly higher than the 60 Decibels Energy Benchmark of 50%.
“I have been helped a lot because I can save money for other basic needs, which has allowed me to provide for my family fully. Now they are able to eat at times three meals a day because I no longer spend on batteries and candles.” – Female, 89
“The 60 Decibels verification study adds colour and provides important insights to guide continued efforts to accelerate underserved people’s access to renewable energy. The lessons will be taken on board by Sida in our follow-up of the implementation of the Beyond the Grid Fund for Africa as well as in our continued efforts to engage in co-creating innovative programmes with partners, Swedish embassies and Sida’s Power Africa Team,” commented Ulf Källstig, Assistant Director General, Sida, Department for Africa.
Customer challenge rates, issue resolution, and customer service or after-sales support are areas to focus on. Over a third of the customers that 60 Decibels spoke to experienced a challenge using their energy product or service (36%). In 63% of cases, the issue had not yet been resolved. This is a key area for improvement and affects the potential scale and reach of companies, and reduces the possible impact for customers.
“The light is very good, but the battery did not last long. I only used the light for seven months and after that it died.” – Male, 47
There was no significant difference in the results by data collection method, further demonstrating the value of remote surveying.
The aggregate results are shared in the report to help stakeholders working in the energy access space to learn and benchmark against critical measures of success.
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The Beyond the Grid Fund for Africa is a multi-donor facility established and managed by the Nordic Environment Finance Corporation (Nefco). Nefco is an international financial institution focused on environmental and climate investments based in Helsinki, Finland. BGFA is implemented in partnership with the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership (REEEP), an international multilateral partnership based in Vienna, Austria, working to accelerate market-based deployment of renewable energy and energy-efficiency solutions in developing countries.
The current EUR 77 million BGFA programme, which is about to grow to EUR 88 million, was established in 2019 on Sweden’s initiative through the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida). Sweden is contributing SEK 635 million (EUR 60 million), with contributions from the Swedish embassies in the target countries. It has since been developed by Nefco into a multi-donor programme. Power Africa, an initiative administered by USAID, is providing an in-kind technical assistance contribution worth approx. EUR 4 million (USD 4.5 million) over three years to help operationalise the initiative and develop a pipeline of commercially viable projects within the framework of BGFA. Denmark, through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, joined the BGFA programme in December 2020, providing an initial EUR 5 million (DKK 37.5 million), and is expected to provide an additional EUR 10.8 million (DKK 80 million; subject to final parliamentary approval) to support the expansion to Uganda. Germany, through its development bank KfW, has joined the BGFA country programme for Zambia with a focus on mini-grids, providing EUR 7.5 million.
BGFA supports, in particular, the objective of Sustainable Development Goal 7, to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, modern energy for all by 2030, as well as the Paris Agreement on climate change and host country priorities.