Minigrid Pioneer Husk Power Turns Profitable After 14 Years

The critical profitability milestone is a massive achievement for a segment that has traditionally counted on donors to work. Husk Power has taken its time, but in doing so, changed the whole conversation  around the role and viability of mini-grids for good.

Husk Power Systems, which pioneered the first renewable energy minigrid in India in 2008 and now operates the largest fleet of community mini grids across Asia and Africa, announced that it has achieved profitability on both continents. Husk is the world’s first minigrid company to achieve this major industry milestone.

The company became EBITDA positive in Q4 2022 in its two primary markets, India and Nigeria.

By achieving profitability, Husk has sent a clear signal to the market that rural mini grids are a fully bankable asset class, as well as an important contributor to net-zero growth for the more than 3 billion people – and countless small businesses and farmers – that are still without access to reliable electricity in rural Asia and Africa.

Manoj Sinha, CEO, Husk Power
Manoj Sinha, CEO, Husk Power

“When I took over the reins of Husk in 2014, we underestimated the amount of time and effort it would take to discover the right business model, right team and right technology platform to build a commercially viable minigrid company on two continents,” said Manoj Sinha, Co-Founder and CEO, a native of Bihar. “It took grit and innovation to arrive here – at a profitable and scalable minigrid company.”

In India, Husk has more than 150 mini grids in operation in the states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, serving more than 10,000 customers, that earlier relied on diesel powered generators due to unreliable discom supplies.

Husk says that its minigrids have allowed those businesses to switch to solar power, making a significant contribution to India’s energy transition goals and to reducing carbon emissions. The minigrids also power schools and health clinics, contributing to the broader Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) agenda.

Husk expects to grow 10X to more than 1,000 minigrids over the next several years in India. The firm states that the profitability milestone was achieved because of two factors: 1) Husk’s unique platform approach, which addresses the entire rural energy ecosystem (besides electricity and appliance sales, it also installs rooftop solar for businesses, and offers energy-as-a-service for drinking water, agro-processing, etc.); and 2) its focus on technology and business innovation, pushing it to the lowest cost of delivered energy and highest average revenue per user in the industry.

Husk pioneered the rural mini grid 15 years ago using waste biomass gasification, and in 2017 followed up with the industry’s first solar hybrid minigrid. Since then, the World Bank and the International Energy Agency have both recognized the central role of solar mini grids in ending energy poverty by 2030. It is estimated that between 100,000 and 200,000 mini grids need to be built before the end of the decade.

“Husk has proven that the rural mini grid business model works, in Asia and in Africa, and in off-grid, under-the-grid, and grid-interconnected communities. It works and it is robust,” said Board Chairman, Brad Mattson. 

In 2022, Husk signed a UN Energy Compact. It committed to build at least 5,000 mini grids by 2030 that would impact more than 10 million people and avoid 7 megatons of carbon emissions from diesel generators. Corporate profitability in India and Nigeria was achieved against a backdrop of severe market disruption caused by Covid-19, global inflation and rising costs of capital, demonstrating the resilience of Husk’s business model.

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