Challenge: Introducing a new technology to remote communities
Solution: Making the community part of the solution
Today, more than one billion people are living without electricity. Jaza Energy is helping to light the way for those in some of the most remote areas on earth using an innovative form of clean technology. The New Brunswick company has recently partnered with the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency to build a network of renewable energy hubs in Sub-Saharan Africa for communities beyond the electrical grid.
The solar energy stations Jaza Energy is currently building in Tanzania offer people an easy and affordable way to light their homes, recharge their cellphone batteries, and run small appliances – all while reducing their carbon footprint. “We need to find renewable energy solutions,” says co-founder and CEO Jeff Schnurr.
Today, he notes, many people rely on kerosene for lighting, which is both toxic and expensive. “We’ve been able to find a way to do this, a way that is less expensive than what they are currently paying.”
After meeting with local officials and residents, Jaza Energy leases land, builds what it calls a central solar Energy Hub, hires women in the community to staff the hub, and then, let there be light! The facilities provide power to charge portable battery packs, which are then brought home and used as a power source. “It’s like a propane tank swap. That’s essentially what our customers do,” says Jeff.
Jeff got the idea for energy storage after working in Tanzania for a few years. He called an engineering friend, Sebastian Manchester, and Jaza Energy was born. Today the company, founded in 2015, employs 17 people. The role it plays in providing renewable energy to remote communities is unique, says Jeff. “There are other players trying to solve the problem, but we are in new territory. Literally. Others are focused on urban areas.”
For the company co-founders, their business is about more than the bottom line. Not only is their product environmentally friendly, but hiring local women to run the Energy Hubs sends an important message to a new generation of young women – and offers greater hope to those in the community. “We liked the empowerment component,” says Jeff. “Job candidates cheer each other on.”
Regardless of where your business is located or the products and services you offer, an intrinsic connection is essential to success, says Jeff. “If your beliefs are strong enough, you’ll find a way. That’s what innovation is all about.”
Partnerships focused on driving innovation and the development of new technologies, such as the one with the Government of Canada, are crucial to Jaza Energy’s growth. With support from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA), the government is helping Jaza Energy commercialize its product in Tanzania. A recent investment of $475,000 will go towards the building of 48 energy hubs, each capable of delivering energy to over 100 homes.
Jaza Energy is a prime example of how innovation and resourcefulness fuel Atlantic Canada’s economy, at home and beyond.
For more information on programs and services available to businesses in Atlantic Canada call 1-800-561-7862 or go to canada.ca/acoa.