NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The western world takes power for granted, including the type turned on by a switch.
For billions of people globally living in energy poverty, the lack of large company infrastructure or government investment leaves them with few options. New York startup BioLite is working to change that.
"In emerging markets we think that energy is going to be owned by the individual and that it's going to be purchased in these bite-sized affordable portions that get owned and controlled at the family level," says BioLite CEO Jonathan Cedar. BioLite is creating clean energy solutions that allow low income consumers to generate their own off-the-grid power. With 4 million deaths a year linked to indoor pollution, this new power source cuts out the smoke that traditional biomass fuels produce.
Here's how it works: The thermal energy from the burning stove powers an internal fan, which changes the combustion level and generates a clean burning flame. Users can then charge their electronic devices via a built-in USB plug. The outdoor camping stove retails for $130 dollars in western markets, whilst the larger home stove is sold in India and sub Saharan Africa for just $50. It's a business model that BioLite calls parallel innovation.
"What we're able to do is take this higher margin, near-term, accessible, well developed market and use the revenue from that market to reinvest, not in a charity model for emerging markets but in the onetime investment that it takes to get those markets to the scale where they can sustain themselves," explained Cedar. The company has raised $10 million so far. With Acumen, Deutsche Bank (DB) - Get Report and RRE Ventures contributing to their latest $5 million round. Next up is a move into energy storage. Over 2.5 billion people have little to no access to electricity.
BioLite's latest development, named "The NanoGrid," allows people to store the electricity generated from their stove to power electric lighting. The renewable energy sector is growing at its fastest-ever pace according to the latest numbers from the International Energy Agency and is expected to fuel 26 percent of global electricity by 2020.
"What we need to continue to see is the cost trajectory continuing to decline," pointed out Angelo Zino, S&P Capital IQ Equity Analyst. Indeed, the hefty initial investment costs, large government subsidies required and falling price of oil are causing renewable investments to decline in many developing countries. So though the demand for energy in emerging markets is huge, the need for innovation is just as big.