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PayGo Energy Acquisition Marks Sun King’s First Step Towards Developing Clean Cooking Solutions

27th April 2023


Drawing on its experience delivering solar energy products to 95 million underserved consumers in Africa and Asia, Sun King acquires PayGo Energy to develop clean cooking solutions for the three billion people reliant on wood and charcoal cookstoves.

Sun King, the largest off-grid energy company in Africa and Asia, has acquired PayGo Energy, a leading innovator in pay-as-you-go technology for clean cooking. The company will take a technology-agnostic approach to developing products and services that allow families to transition from wood and charcoal cookstoves to safer, modern appliances that better protect people and the planet.

Sun King will seek to develop a range of cooking products powered by solar energy, liquified petroleum gas (LPG), electrical grids and other energy sources. The range of products will be paired with consumer financing services that allow African and Asian customers to pay for energy and equipment in small, affordable instalments.

PayGo Energy’s team of 40 employees in Nairobi is moving less than a mile down the road to Sun King’s office, now expanded to include a lab and workspace for Sun King’s new Clean Cooking Team.

The Dirty Cooking Problem

The benefits of switching to clean cooking – using modern stoves and fuels – are both substantial and diverse, ranging from reductions in carbon emissions and unsustainable deforestation to improved health and gender outcomes. 

Globally, three billion people depend on open wood fires and charcoal stoves to cook food.  The resulting smoke and respiratory disease are leading causes of early death in Africa and Asia, disproportionately impacting women who are more exposed to the fumes. Women also bear the time burden of collecting wood and tending fires. 

Cooking with wood and charcoal is a major contributor to global warming, accounting for approximately 2% of global carbon emissions, on par with the carbon emissions of the entire global air travel industry. Demand for wood and charcoal drives deforestation and destroys biodiversity.

Wood and charcoal costs are exorbitantly expensive, consuming upwards of one-quarter of many African households’ income. Sun King data shows that many customers spend five times as much money on wood and charcoal for cooking as they do on power and light. 

Sun King’s Clean Cooking Ambitions

Sun King’s new Clean Cooking Team are working on a range of clean cooking products and services to help families transition from wood- and charcoal-based cooking to clean, safe and more environmentally friendly alternatives. The breadth of clean cooking product range reflects customers’ diverse cooking practices and available energy supplies.     

Access to finance is a major barrier to clean cooking for hundreds of millions of households.  Even though modern stoves and energy sources are cheaper in the long run, their high upfront costs keep families trapped paying more for labour-intensive and health-damaging fuels like charcoal. Sun King’s Clean Cooking Team are developing technology-enabled products and pay-as-you-go consumer financing services to break down financial barriers to purchasing modern cooking equipment.

Marrying Sun King’s and PayGo Energy’s Expertise

The PayGo Energy team brings a wealth of experience pioneering finance, technology and distribution solutions to clean cooking challenges. In areas without access to electricity or piped gas, PayGo Energy has developed smart meters to monitor LPG consumption and predict when gas cylinders will run empty. This technology allows customers to pay incrementally for fuel — as they would for charcoal or wood — and enables proactive replacement of customers’ gas cylinders before they run out of fuel. 

For households with access to electricity, such as those with grid connections or large solar-power systems supplied by Sun King, the company is experimenting with pay-as-you-go electric cooking appliances, such as electric pressure cookers. Initial results suggest that electric pressure cookers can reduce costs by over 75% compared to charcoal stoves.

“Swapping wood-based cooking fuel for practically any modern alternative — whether it be biogas, electricity, ethanol, LPG or solar — dramatically reduces greenhouse gas emissions, protects families’ respiratory health and preserves forests and biodiversity. We need to take an all-hands-on-deck approach to phasing out non-renewable wood fuel in domestic cooking,” said Nick Quintong, CEO of PayGo Energy and now head of Sun King’s Clean Cooking Team.

“We are thrilled to welcome the PayGo Energy team into the Sun King fold,” says T. Patrick Walsh, Co-Founder and CEO of Sun King. “By merging PayGo’s clean cooking product and software expertise with Sun King’s hardware and manufacturing know-how and our proven distribution channels, underpinned by Sun King’s 23,000 field agents, we hope to deliver modern, affordable cooking appliances and energy to families living across Africa and Asia.” 

Recently, Sun King raised $330 million (USD) through its Series-D funding round. Sun King is rapidly expanding its pay-as-you-go solar product line and distribution network, introducing more powerful off-grid solar technology and expanding its presence to additional African countries.