Welcome to “The Mini-Grid Business”. With nearly two decades of experience working with over 100 mini-grid companies across Africa and Asia, INENSUS created a podcast, which becomes your gateway to the world of rural electrification through mini-grids.


In each episode, Nico and his guests – seasoned experts who have navigated the complexities of the mini-grid sector – offer candid insights based on real-life experiences. Whether they’re individuals who have overcome significant challenges, policy makers shaping the sector’s frameworks and funding structures, or visionaries crafting the future of mini-grids, they all have unique perspectives to share.

From exploring successful pathways to profitability, to dissecting the reasons behind a company’s struggles, “The Mini-Grid Business” delves deep into both theory and practice. It questions the accepted status quo of the mini-grid sector, aiming to unearth new perspectives or expose misunderstandings that need addressing. This is a space for thought-provoking discussions, innovative ideas, and invaluable
knowledge exchange.

Whether you are an industry veteran, a newcomer, or simply curious about the transformative potential of mini-grids, this podcast invites you to challenge your thinking, learn from others, and engage with a community that’s shaping a brighter, more sustainable future.

So, tune in, and enjoy “The Mini-Grid Business”!

Mini-grid financial modeling

FEBRUARY 14, 2024

Embark on a journey to the heart of Africa’s energy business, where the intricate dance of numbers in financial modeling for mini-grids is demystified. This episode brings the expertise of Kellie Murungi and Diego Perez to the table, guiding listeners through the numerical narrative that underpins the viability and strategic direction of renewable mini-grid initiatives. Uncover how these models serve as a compass, pointing towards the most promising project locations, robust implementation plans, and astute pricing tactics, ensuring that the light of sustainable energy continues to spread across the continent.

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Mini-Grid Marketing and Advocacy

FEBRUARY 14, 2024

In this episode, my guests Penny-Jane Cooke and Brian Kawuma from Power for All, Abraham Mudasia from AMDA, and William Brent from Husk Power, unravel the intricacies of establishing professional campaigns and advocacy to amplify the mini-grid sector’s voice among policymakers, funders, financiers, and investors. We explore the synergies between marketing and advocacy, underscore the importance of backing mini-grid proponents within government ministries and regulatory bodies, and deliberate on potential sources of funding for these crucial activities. Finally, we discuss what effective messaging and appropriate communication channels might entail, aiming to craft strategies that resonate deeply with our intended audiences.

Dipta, Mike and host Nico provide a deep dive into solar mini-grid technology, discussing everything from the technical aspects of battery systems to designing distribution networks for rural villages in developing countries and distributed generation nodes to avoid medium voltage network backbones.

The INENSUS experts envision a future where standardized, plug-and-play systems dominate the mini-grid landscape, discuss how the integration of advanced battery technology and mesh networks could lead to more accessible, cost-effective, and diesel-free mini-grid solutions. Tune in for an episode that promises to transform your understanding of solar mini-grid technology.

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Solar mini-grid technology – trends and markets

JANUARY 31, 2024

Join us as we explore the future of solar mini-grid technology with INENSUS experts Dipta Majumder and Mike Arasa Ratemo. This episode illuminates the advancements in solar mini-grids, highlighting the shift from diesel generators to more eco-friendly solutions. We delve into component market price trends, the emergence of sodium-ion batteries, and the increasing influence of Chinese inverters, all pivotal in shaping the scalability and design of mini-grid systems.

Dipta, Mike and host Nico provide a deep dive into solar mini-grid technology, discussing everything from the technical aspects of battery systems to designing distribution networks for rural villages in developing countries and distributed generation nodes to avoid medium voltage network backbones.

The INENSUS experts envision a future where standardized, plug-and-play systems dominate the mini-grid landscape, discuss how the integration of advanced battery technology and mesh networks could lead to more accessible, cost-effective, and diesel-free mini-grid solutions. Tune in for an episode that promises to transform your understanding of solar mini-grid technology.

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Managing complexity – digital tools for the mini-grid space

JANUARY 17, 2024

The complexity of the mini-grid business stands at the forefront of Tobias Engelmeier from VIDA and Emily McAteer from Odyssey Energy’s discussion, hosted by Nico Peterschmidt from INENSUS / MicroPower Manager Open Source. They explore how software can be a pivotal tool in managing the multifaceted challenges of this sector.

Emily particularly highlights that the trajectory of mini-grid software development doesn’t deviate significantly from patterns observed in other industries. Typically, individual companies start by developing their own bespoke solutions. However, as the industry matures, enterprise software becomes more prevalent, offering enhanced services at a lower cost compared to the operation of in-house developed software. This transition is crucial for mini-grid companies and the broader sector, promising significant benefits in terms of improved efficiency and user experience, especially for those who are price-sensitive.

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Mini-grid logistics – daring the impossible

JANUARY 3, 2024

Every mini-grid construction is a high-stakes adventure, where the unexpected lurks at every turn. In this gripping podcast episode, my guests Chris Rollins and Davide Ceretti, take listeners on a thrilling journey into the heart of constructing solar mini-grids in Africa’s most challenging terrains.

They reveal the daunting obstacles they face, from navigating harsh landscapes without proper machinery to the unpredictability of transportation. They present solutions to some of the largest challenges in mini-grid logistics and construction.

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The mini-grid year 2023 wrapped up

DECEMBER 20, 2023

Explore the African mini-grid sector’s pivotal moments in 2023 in this year-end episode. Join Joanis Holzigel, COO of INENSUS, and host Nico Peterschmidt as they reflect on the year’s significant developments in mini-grids.

Tune in for insights and see you in 2024!

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Where to go next – Which countries are at the top of the funders’ list? PART 2

DECEMBER 13, 2023

Here is PART 2 of “Where to go next – Which countries are at the top of the funders’ list?”.


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Where to go next – Which countries are at the top of the funders’ list? PART 1

DECEMBER 6, 2023

Ever wondered how mini-grid grant funders think, decide and act? In this insightful episode, we’re thrilled to host a panel of experts from the forefront of funding Africa’s mini-grid sector. Join us as Benjamin Curnier from AFDB SEFA, Tatia Lemondzhava from World Bank ESMAP, and Dennis Nderitu from GEAPP delve into the mechanics of driving mini-grid initiatives across Africa. They’ll illuminate the strategic differences in funding pivotal projects by major institutions and the critical role of client governments in these endeavors. This is PART 1 of the discussion. PART 2 will be published one week after PART1.

We begin by exploring the respective approaches of SEFA, ESMAP World Bank, and GEAPP in funding mini-grid projects, revealing the complexities of coordinating among each other, with other sector stakeholders and especially with the client governments. Our guests shed light on the crucial data and analytics driving these initiatives, showcasing how mini-grids can effectively bridge the electricity access gap.

Shifting focus, we spotlight the African Mini-Grid Developers Association (AMDA) and its significant contributions in promoting mini-grids as a commercial reality. Hear about AMDA’s efforts in capacity building, regulatory dialogue, research, and access to capital, all aimed at transforming the African energy landscape. We discuss the importance of a unified private sector voice for effective government engagement.

This episode delves deep into the funding dynamics, revealing that it’s not just the banks but the governments that define the flow of funds, leveraging the banks’ knowledge and support for developing frameworks, laws, regulations, and procurement procedures. We highlight the vital role of private sector organizations like AMDA in these early decision-making steps and the necessity of building trust with governments through data-driven success stories.

Discover how organizations like GEAPP and SEFA are overcoming the ‘hen and egg’ challenge by providing catalytic donor finance, demonstrating successful business models, and generating opportunities without indebting governments. They play a pivotal role in informing governments about the mini-grid sector’s potential, carrying the opportunity cost on behalf of these governments.

With the belief that the mini-grid sector is rapidly building trust between governments and the private sector, we anticipate a surge in countries taking loans for private-sector mini-grid grants under programs like the World Bank’s DARES.

Tune in for a comprehensive understanding of the intertwined roles of development banks, donors, and governments in shaping the future of sustainable energy through mini-grids.

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A little mini-grid history (from an INENSUS perspective)

NOVEMBER 22, 2023

In this enlightening episode, join Jakob Schmidt-Reindahl and Nico Peterschmidt, co-founders of INENSUS and pioneers in the mini-grid domain, as they guide us through the evolution of third-generation mini-grids since the early 2000s. They delve into the significant developments in mini-grid policies, technological advancements, and funding over the past two decades.

Our speakers highlight the transformative journey of the mini-grid sector, transitioning from being driven primarily by NGOs, cooperatives, and development cooperation to a domain where the private sector assumes a pivotal role as mini-grid operators. They fondly revisit the inception of the first mini-grid business models, notably discussing the early micro power economy and the innovative split asset model.

Throughout the episode, Jakob and Nico offer invaluable lessons from their extensive experience. They explore the regulatory challenges and innovative solutions in African markets, where frameworks initially struggled to keep pace with the rapidly emerging mini-grid technology. Hear their firsthand accounts of navigating the regulatory terrain, engaging with the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), developing rules that protect mini-grids from main grid encroachment, and contributing to the development of the interconnected mini-grid concept. They also discuss the synergy between mini-grids and healthcare infrastructure, exemplified by their impactful work in Sierra Leone post-Ebola crisis.

As the dialogue unfolds, they examine the latest advancements, tracing the evolution from third to fourth-generation solar mini-grids and the achievement of vital profitability levels for scaling. The episode wraps up with strategic insights on mitigating demand risks for mini-grid operators. Learn about the innovative use of artificial intelligence and deterministic optimization in addressing these challenges, setting the stage for the future of mini-grid development.

This episode is a must-listen for anyone keen on understanding the past, present, and future of the mini-grid business. It’s packed with knowledge and insights from two of the industry’s foremost experts.

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The perfect RBF – standardized vs. custom fit

NOVEMBER 8, 2023

In this episode, we’re graced by the presence of Anita Otubu from SE4All’s Universal Energy Facility and Lamide Niyi-Afuye from the Africa Mini-Grid Developers Association. They offer a rich dialogue on the intricacies of the Universal Energy Facility, the dynamics of performance-based grants, and the strategy behind minimum subsidy tenders.

Our exploration digs into the core of RBF schemes, weighing the pros and cons of uniform vs. personalized strategies within the mini-grid sphere. With precision, our guests unravel the convolutions of these funding mechanisms and the formidable task of mini-grid upscaling, highlighting the importance of comprehensive data, robust legal structures, and absolute transparency.

A significant portion of the discussion addresses a complex yet critical question: How much complexity can be introduced to the operations of RBF funds and mini-grid companies to enhance profitability and build the necessary track record to draw more grant funding, all without compromising manageability?

Additionally, we confront the catch-22 where grant funders seek market-creating projects with proven track records, yet such histories are scarce and closely guarded. We contemplate how to expedite the track record accumulation process, which is indispensable for convincing grant funders.

By the end of this rich dialogue, listeners will be endowed with a granular understanding of RBFs in mini-grid market, ready to face its challenges and seize the opportunities it presents.

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The mini-grid monopoly – Gift or curse

OCTOBER 25, 2023

In this episode we are thrilled to host Grace Perkins, Chief Growth Officer of the African Mini-Grid Developers Association (AMDA), and Samuel Bunnya, Project Coordinator of the African Forum for Utility Regulators (AFUR). Together with the podcast’s host Nico Peterschmidt, they unpack how the natural monopoly of a mini-grid can be steered by regulation that supports positive and collaborative effects while minimizing exploitation of power on all sides of this mini-monopoly.

The fluid roles and responsibilities of various sector stakeholders emerge as a pivotal theme, with regulators facing the challenge of encapsulating these in concrete regulations. An intriguing point of debate is the potential for regulators to take on more active roles, even influencing subsidy decisions for specific projects.

A core revelation of our discussion is the disconnect between current electrification plans and mini-grid regulations. Synchronizing these elements could pave the way for nations striving to fast-track mini-grid electrification.

Reflecting on the sector’s trajectory, it’s clear that mini-grids, with their consistent provision of reliable electricity, have built a foundation of trust. This trust facilitates the development of detailed regulations, attracting a diverse array of industry participants and setting the stage for accelerated industry growth.

Join us as we navigate the complexities and potentials of the mini-grid regulatory landscape, moderating stakeholders in the mini-grid mini-monopoly.

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Surviving Due Diligence – how to meet investors’ & financiers’ expectations

OCTOBER 11, 2023

In this pivotal episode, we unravel the often misunderstood process of due diligence in the context of mini-grid financing. We are joined by industry maestros, Capucine Leroux from STOA (equity perspective), and Marco Villalpando from FMO, the Dutch entrepreneurial development bank (debt perspective), who skillfully dissect the various facets of due diligence, transforming it from a formidable challenge into an accessible, manageable task.

Our discussion lays bare the actual costs associated with due diligence, a critical step for securing financing in the mini-grid landscape. We are revealing actionable strategies on how these costs can be significantly reduced. Mini-grid companies are not left in the lurch; we explore the proactive roles they can play in trimming these expenses, including preparing comprehensive and organized data, understanding the key focus areas of due diligence, and maintaining transparent communication.

We venture into a candid conversation about the often-feared due diligence process, dispelling myths and misconceptions. Our experts shed light on the collaborative nature of due diligence; the financiers are not auditors or adversaries but allies aiming to ensure the viability and success of the mini-grid projects.

This episode stands as an essential resource, deconstructing the enigma of due diligence in mini-grid financing. It’s a wellspring of knowledge and strategies, aimed at empowering mini-grid companies to navigate this phase with confidence, efficiency, and an enhanced understanding of the financiers’ perspectives. Discover why due diligence isn’t a hurdle but a stepping stone to the robust financing essential for scaling and optimizing mini-grid operations.

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Price elasticity in mini-grids – Impacts of an effect that everybody knows but few understand

SEPTEMBER 27, 2023

In this intellectually stimulating episode, we delve deeper into economic phenomena that are often overlooked in the context of deep rural mini-grids: Price Elasticity of Demand and Economies of Scale. Join us as Nico Peterschmidt, the CEO of INENSUS, and Diego Perez (PhD, CFA), INENSUS’ Head of Consultancy, delve into the intricate world of price elasticity and its critical role in shaping economic perspectives in mini-grid settings.

Our conversation uncovers the reasons why the omission of price elasticity considerations can lead to the underperformance of funding programs, regulatory frameworks, and operational strategies in deep rural mini-grids. We explore the intricate layers of price elasticity, referencing studies carried out in Tanzania and Sierra Leone, discussing its implications on household budgets and electricity consumption, and exploring the divergent demand patterns among various consumer segments.

In this episode, we also venture into the association between price elasticity and another fundamental economic principle in mini-grids: economies of scale. By intertwining these concepts, Nico and Diego reveal surprising derivations that could fundamentally shift the paradigm on how we perceive and approach mini-grids. Our detailed examination of the various cost components of a mini-grid elucidates how the synthesis of economies of scale and price elasticity can instigate a virtuous cycle, culminating in decreased tariffs and amplified demand.

Our deep dive extends to exploring the latent opportunities for funders within the mini-grid sector, illuminating how integrating a nuanced understanding of economies of scale and price elasticity can pave the way for investments that are both low in cost and high in impact.

Don’t miss this enlightening episode as we weave through economic theories, empirical studies, and practical insights, painting a detailed and vibrant canvas of the multifaceted world of price elasticity and its interplay with economies of scale in deep rural mini-grids. Whether you are a seasoned expert in economics or a curious mind eager to learn more about the intricate dynamics of mini-grid economics, this episode offers a rich blend of knowledge, insights, and discussions aimed at broadening your understanding and sparking thoughtful conversation on the subject.

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Monetizing stranded electricity to reduce demand risk – A way towards 100% renewable mini-grids

SEPTEMBER 18, 2023

In this insightful episode, Nico Peterschmidt from INENSUS takes the helm, engaging in a fascinating dialogue with Kyle Hamilton of Nuru Sasu and Erik Hersman from Gridless.

Dive into the challenges and innovations of managing surplus electricity in mini-grids, especially in the dynamic landscapes of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Kyle sheds light on Nuru Sasu’s pioneering staged implementation approach. While diesel generators serve as temporary bridges between stages of solar PV system expansion for electrifying bustling towns, smaller villages present a unique challenge in harnessing excess power.

Ever wondered about the confluence of cryptocurrency and sustainable energy? Erik delves into Gridless’ remarkable success story of deploying bitcoin miners in hydro mini-grids. He explains why hydro mini-grids are easier for bitcoin mining than solar mini-grids. Nico uncovers how INENSUS uses machine learning controllers to overcome the challenge of integrating bitcoin miners into solar mini-grids.

The trio doesn’t shy away from the pressing hurdles: confronting issues like hardware theft, intricate import duties, and the prevailing skepticism around bitcoin. They explore potential alternatives, such as leveraging cloud services with GPUs tailored for AI applications.

By the end of the conversation, one thing becomes irrefutably clear: A future dominated by 100% renewable mini-grids, slashing demand risks, is not only achievable but also likely to set the new gold standard. And with this evolution, the doors to climate finance might just swing wide open for the mini-grid sector. Tune in for an electrifying discussion on the future of sustainable energy!

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How to respond to exacting demands – Challenging relations with mini-grid customers


Uncover the intricacies of managing customer relations in the world of mini-grid operations with our seasoned experts, Anayo Okenwa from Nayo Tropical Technologies, and Ahmed Rajab Khamis from Jumeme Rural Power Supply.

Discover how they navigate the choppy waters of customer complaints about high tariffs and the delicate balance of service quality, involving regulators, governments, and the customers themselves. Ahmed shares an insightful journey of tariff quandaries leading to service reduction and the subsequent resolution involving all stakeholders. Meanwhile, Anayo sheds light on the challenges specific to the Nigerian context, placing emphasis on the indispensable role of a strong regulatory framework and a resident operations team.

Venture further as we discuss customer communication strategies, the power of software tools, and the necessity of maintaining an on-site presence. Our guests reveal the benefits of tools like MicroPower Manager and the need for integrating multiple platforms into one cohesive database. Take a deep dive into the world of minigrid operations as you learn about the importance of digital tools for supply quality and customer satisfaction, and much more. Join us on this enlightening journey as we demystify the complex world of minigrid operations and customer relations.

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Anchor loads, productive use and rural industrialization – Business model successes and failures

AUGUST 23, 2023

Dive into the fascinating realm of mini-grids and Rural Industrialization in this podcast episode with Brad Mattson of Husk Power and John Kidenda from PowerGen.

Together, they embark on a journey to unravel the intricacies of the anchor load model and discuss the significance of productive users in a well-rounded electricity customer structure. Gain insights into how they master the art of risk diversification in this dynamic mini-grid sector.

Uncover strategies for electrifying larger villages with mini-grids swiftly and delve into the dialogue on what it takes to electrify smaller, less lucrative villages via mini-grids. Rural Industrialization emerges as one potent approach to powering up these smaller villages. The duo debates its profitability boost and broaches the crucial question: which stakeholder should spearhead rural industrialization in this multifaceted mini-grid electrification scenario?

Brad illustrates the transformative potential of Rural Industrialization on the rural economy and shows how Husk Power integrates both, electrification and industrialization into one business, while John articulates why PowerGen remains exclusively in the electricity domain, seeking collaboration for Rural Industrialization in their mini-grids.

Join us for a riveting exploration of the mini-grid sector and uncover the potential of rural industrialization to fortify mini-grid operational sustainability.

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The Financing Jungle – Getting access to finance for infrastructure without having a profitable business

AUGUST 16, 2023

Did you know that financing mini-grids in Africa can spark a transformation in the infrastructure sector?

Beatrice Mutoni from InfraCo Africa and Humphrey Wireko from Cross Boundary Energy Access will take you on a tour through the intricacies of elevating these vital projects. Gain invaluable insights as they delve into the struggle that local African companies face in attracting finance, the pivotal role of impact-driven infrastructure financiers, and how we can direct resources towards this endeavor more effectively.

Journey with us as we break down the various financing models that have the potential to electrify over 200 million lives in Africa. We’ll pull back the curtain on the innovative ways in which mini-grids can metamorphose into bankable investments and the role of infrastructure finance in this crucial process. Plus, you won’t want to miss our deep dive into the risks involved, especially demand risk, and how implementing long-term contracts can curtail them.

As we gaze into the future of mini-grid financing, you’ll see the promising markets ripening across Africa and the victories already celebrated in countries like Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Kenya, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Hear from Beatrice and Humphrey on why they are hopeful about the sector’s progress, the importance of governmental backing, and how fresh business models can unlock additional revenue streams. If you have an interest in the crossroads of finance, energy access, and sustainable development in Africa, this episode is a must-listen. Tune in and be part of this enlightening conversation.

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Trailer: The Mini-Grid Business

AUGUST 15, 2023

Are you ready to redefine your understanding of solar mini-grids and their influence on rural electrification?

Brace yourself for a thrilling journey as we pull back the curtain on the ins and outs of the mini-grid business realm. As the CEO of INENSUS, I’ve had the unique privilege of collaborating with over 100 mini-grid companies across Africa and Asia. This episode illuminates our story of exploration, experimentation, and the invaluable experience gained over 18 years. We challenge misconceptions, question the status quo, and strive to fathom the intricacies of mini-grids.

This episode is an eye-opener to the myriad challenges faced by the mini-grid companies. We’ve brought seasoned experts from the sector, those who’ve been in the trenches, to share their invaluable insights and innovative ideas capable of reshaping the mini-grid landscape. We want to engage you in this discourse, as you could be holding the next big idea that transforms the sector. So, put on your thinking hat and let’s shape the future of the mini-grid sector together. Enjoy the journey through the business of mini-grids!

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