Here comes the sun… to relieve you from the burden of electricity bills

Posted April 25, 2018

Technical University on Moldova, pilot PV install. Photo credit: Otilia Vlasov, UNDP.

A landlocked, fairly picturesque and wine-friendly country, Moldova has another ace in her sleeve for visitors and locals: 2,400 annual hours of warm, gentle sun.

In Moldova, where around 74 percent of the energy is imported and in the last five years the energy prices increased by more than 50 percent, solar energy has high potential. Yet so far it has been underused. Few players are at the beginning of the journey of unlocking the power of solar energy.

Though legislation is in place, costs associated with the technology are still too high.

In a not-so parallel universe, however, a company named ElectriCChain promotes blockchain technology in the solar photovoltaic industry. The company is working to incentivise the production of renewable energy through what is called a “SolarCoin Digital Asset” as a reward. To date, more than 6.4 million MWh of solar power have been granted SolarCoins, across 58 countries - enough to power the city of Amsterdam and its city dwellers during one year!

In the same not-so-parallel universe, there is another company called The Sun Exchange, an online marketplace where anyone can purchase solar cells and have them power businesses and community buildings in the sunniest locations on earth. Utilizing Blockchain technology, The Sun Exchange's platform facilitates the micro-leasing of solar cells to hospitals, factories, schools and other buildings with large roof surfaces. In 2018, Sun Exchange plans to deploy solar projects worth millions of USD across Africa, Latin America, Middle East and many other emerging and sunny markets.

Going back to sunny Moldova, we at UNDP recently decided to test a new business model to engage with the above-mentioned private sector companies and connect them to a strategic local beneficiary, most probably the Technical University of Moldova, in order to increase access to locally abundant and affordable solar energy.

Sounds fantastic, but how would it work?

The Technical University of Moldova wants to install a solar power plant on its roof, but the equipment is expensive and due to lack of experiences with solar in Moldova, external support is needed. This is where the the Sun Exchange platform comes in. Targeting 1MWp of solar cells available, the Sun Exchange community, made up of people from all around the world, will be able to purchase a number of solar cells in the facility, choosing how much power they want to purchase.

For the first time ever in Moldova, Sun Exchange platform will also grant the SolarCoin cryptocurrency as a reward for the production of renewable energy. This model is also innovative because it is giving everyday people a sense of ownership. A win-win situation: the local university will get reliable, cheap solar power and investors a steady source of income essentially coming straight from the sun.

The repayment of the initial project is done by the university that will continue to pay the same electricity bill as before, with the difference being that now the energy used will be 100 percent green.

The generated cryptocurrency goes back to the solar cells owners during the reimbursement period, to recover the purchase price in about 8-13 years’ time and they will continue to receive rental income for a total of 20 years. All the SolarCoins that are produced after this period remain on the university’s account and could be further invested into similar projects and expansion of the model.

To scale this approach up, UNDP Moldova will establish a SolarFund, a pilot fund scheduled for launch in June 2018, to support a national campaign on raising awareness on solar energy, its role in sustainable development and how private sector investment could boost the achievement of specific Sustainable Development Goals and targets related to green energy and renewables

Institutions and households with appropriate roof properties will also be able to participate in the program or self-finance their installments, thus earning and trading SolarCoins within the network.

If you have any feedback for us, either comment below or get in touch with Dumitru Vasilescu at UNDP Moldova, Francois Sonnet at ElectriCChain and Abraham Cambridge from TheSunExchange, and Robert Pasicko and Marina Petrovic from UNDP Istanbul Regional Hub.