ZOLA: Fighting for energy equality backed by GE, EDF & Tesla

Distributed, digital, renewable energy will solve Africa’s affordability problem — not the grid, says Bill Lenihan, CEO of Tesla, GE & EDF partner ZOLA

Energy equality is present around the world, whether it be through lack of infrastructure to rural communities, fluctuating energy costs or one of the many other reasons that afflict over two billion people and hundreds of millions of businesses globally.

ZOLA Electric, the energy specialist backed by Tesla, is on a mission to provide clean power, all the time, anywhere. The company was founded over a decade ago after its founders observed that both off grid and on grid communities rely on dirty, expensive and hard to manage forms of energy including diesel, kerosene and lead acid batteries during a trip to Tanzania. 

So, ZOLA began installing smart, connected devices in the form of lithium ion batteries and solar, to power basic energy needs for rural communities in Africa.

In 2017, ZOLA and EDF Energy announced a joint venture to expand energy access in the Ivory Coast, the same year that General Electric backed funding for the company.

Today, ZOLA is the leading emerging market energy technology company, delivering community level electrification through its technology platform. 

Renewable power throughout Africa

Since starting in Tanzania, ZOLA is now providing energy access to ten countries across four continents, delivering affordable, reliable and clean energy to over two million people and countless schools, clinics, and businesses on its continued mission to eradicate energy inequality.

“We don’t just consider ourselves a solar company — we consider ourselves an intelligence battery company. We enable solar energy, but the technology is really about energy intelligence and storage,” shares Bill Lenihan, CEO of ZOLA.

Lenihan joined ZOLA in 2015, leaving his role as Senior Advisor at Tile, and Board Member for IPS Corporation

“The cost of energy in Africa is among the most expensive in the world, and that’s because the ecosystem delivers really expensive energy —  it can be improved upon, and our systems at ZOLA Electrics can help. We bring down the level of energy cost in such a way that we deliver on all the promises which the existing ecosystem does not. We are delivering reliable energy more affordably, we are also delivering safer energy more affordably.

“I absolutely believe that we can solve the affordability problem with the right energy ecosystem. And I do believe strongly that the right energy ecosystem is not a centralised ecosystem, and it’s not the grid kind of ecosystem. The grid has had its chance to solve this problem for a hundred years and it has not; will not. 

“Distributed, digital and renewable energy will solve that affordability problem.”

Data and enterprise technology leadership at the helm

David Hatfield has joined the board of ZOLA Electric on a mission to have a central role in ZOLA's expansion into 80 countries. 

An accomplished leader, Hatfield has over 30 years of experience successfully navigating hyper-growth and profitability at innovative software and cloud infrastructure companies, and believes that data is a crucial tool in addressing energy access challenges.

Alongside ZOLA, he serves on the Board of Directors at Lacework — where he was previously Co-CEO — BetterUp, Inc. and The First Tee of San Francisco. He spent nearly a decade working at Pure Storage, and during his tenure as President the company was the fastest B2B systems company in history to grow from nothing to more than US$1bn in annual revenues, and today has more than 6,600 customers, 4,000 employees and top customer satisfaction rankings. 


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