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Green Bio Energy

Green Bio Energy

Green Bio Energy (GBE) endeavors to fight poverty, deforestation and climate change. GBE produces and sells briquettes made out of recycled materials (up to 40% cheaper and 86% less CO2-consuming than charcoal) and improved cook stoves (saving up to 40% of charcoal when used for cooking). GBE also sells small amounts of solar lamps and water filters, and provides training on topics such as micro-enterprise management or briquettes production. Everything at GBE is made exclusively using local resources.

GBE is a young, award-winning social enterprise, which offers low-income Ugandan families access to cost-saving, eco-friendly and safe energy solutions. GBE started producing and selling Briketi Charcoal Briquettes, the first brand of eco-friendly charcoal in Uganda, at the end of 2012, and started producing and selling its own brand of energy-efficient stoves, Briketi Eco Stoves, in July 2013.  GBE has also recently started selling small amounts of solar lamps and water filters, both relevant to reduce pollution and enable money savings. Finally, GBE provides individuals and organizations with trainings on topics such as micro-enterprise management or briquettes production, and sells equipments for small-scale briquettes production.

What makes GBE stand out is its vision and application of innovation, which it calls “humble innovation”, a middle ground between the Western technological expertise and the Local innovation capacity. It is first translating in its local content approach: GBE exclusively uses local human and material resources all along its value chain. For its supplies, GBE has built strong partnerships notably with charcoal retailers to recycle their charcoal dust, and with communities to process their organic waste. For the distribution of its products, GBE always favors its network of B-Points – independent micro-entrepreneurs that GBE trains to introduce and distribute its products in communities at the BoP (Bottom of the Pyramid).

This vision also encompasses the products development, for which GBE positions itself at the crossroad of the Western technological expertise and the local innovation capacity. Since its creation, GBE has followed a bottom-up approach, always including local communities in its design & testing process; as with the current development of a new prototype of cook stove (tested for significant improvements), and non-carbonized briquettes (best substitutes for firewood). 

Throughout 2013 and 2014, GBE has developed its control procedures, has built-up a complementary team and has optimized of its logistics and distribution processes. At the same time, at GBE has developed strategic alliances, with local and international partners, such as the MIT’s Harvest Fuel Initiative, the WWF (World Wildlife Fund), Living Goods or BRAC.

These products, services and processes are collaboratively and innovatively designed for GBE to achieve its three goals of social change, environmental impact, and economic sustainability. Thus, in 2014,the sales of GBE’s products, over their full lifetimes, allowed its customers to save 726,000 USD, preserved 10.3 tons of trees and offset 33.81 tons of CO2. In addition, the company provided incomes to 150+ employees and value chain actors. Finally, GBE has a significant impact on women, who are its main end-users and the majority of its micro-entrepreneurs and supply partners.

GBE’s vision is a world where everyone can access affordable, clean and safe energy. To reach this dream, GBE needs to leverage the whole industry’s strengths to diversify its activities, optimize and scale-up its production, to progressively make the East-African population – starting with Ugandans, shift towards energy-saving solutions. 

  • Progressively scale-up and optimize the stoves and briquettes production (recruitment, equipment, optimization).
  • Finalize the design for the new enterprise’s prototype charcoal cookstove (tested to allow for significant improvement in energy saving) and non-carbonized briquettes (substituting firewood, used by 86% of the Ugandan rural population).
  • Expand sales: marketing efforts, strengthening of sales force and expansion of the network of micro-entrepeneurs and partners.
  • Face the major corporate operational costs due to the increase in production and sales (recruitment, training, logistics).
  • Increase the financial external supports through grants and partnerships to access carbon credits.
  • Set up new branches throughout Uganda and in neighboring countries (possibly through a franchise system).
  • Explore further renewable sources (biogas, solar, etc.)

GBE dreams of a world where everyone can access affordable, clean and safe energy. Therefore, its overall vision is to become the leader of the energy-saving cooking solutions, in Uganda on the short/medium-term, and in East Africa on the long-term. That way it will be able to make the East-African population (world's highest population growth) shift towards energy-saving solutions, thereby potentially reaching 300 million people.

Short-term growth strategy (1-2 years)

GBE has recently concluded major deals for its improved stoves (with leaders of stoves distribution such as UpEnergy, BRAC, Living Goods and SNV), as well as for its briquettes (expansions of current partnerships and of micro-entrepreneurs network). GBE will thereby scale up its production to 53 000 stoves and 550T of briquettes for 2015. Furthermore, GBE will develop and commercialize its new prototypes: the secondary airflow cook stove (tested to have best results and efficiency), the non-carbonized briquettes (ideal replacement to firewood, given that in rural areas the majority of the population uses firewood), and firewood stoves (especially for institutions and rural areas).

These developments will imply the following activities:

Ä  Progressively scale-up and optimize the stoves and briquettes production to meet the demand:

o    Hire and train more tinsmiths and workers to optimize the manufacturing workflow;

o    Acquire appropriate tools and machinery (e.g. for cutting and making forms of stoves);

o    Improve the resistance of machines over time (less breakage and spare parts)

Ä  Step-up the marketing strategy:

o   Carry out awareness raising events and promotion campaigns (open events, radio advertisements, etc.);

o   Revise the corporate identity (website, graphical charter, etc.).

Ä  Expand sales throughout Uganda:

o   Strengthen the sales team up to 10 trained and skilled representatives;

o   Develop the network of B-Points up to 100 micro-entrepreneurs;

o   Partner with more organizations to distribute products and training services.

Ä  Pursue Research & Development efforts:

o     Develop further and commercialize the new prototype of improved cook stove;

o     Study further and start producing non-carbonized briquettes;

o     Design a prototype of firewood stoves.

Ä  Face the major corporate operational costs due to the increase in production and sales:

o   Recruit key management staff (Purchase, Administration and Finance, HR);

o   Work on capacity development to improve staff’s efficiency and output (IT skills, marketing, accounting, finance, administration, customer management, production);

o   Renew the fleet of vehicles (2 trucks, 1 threewheeler, 1 van, 1 motorbike);

Ä  Increase the financial external supports through grants.

Medium-term growth strategy (3-5 years)

Ä  Set-up new branches (production sites, sales team and management) across Uganda, following the market’s needs.

Ä  Acquire new offices to avoid the expected increase in rents in the current location as well as to increase client proximity.

Ä  Develop a partnership to access carbon credits.

Long-term growth strategy (5-10 years)

Ä  Extend GBE’s production to neighboring countries (South Sudan, Rwanda, Tanzania, Kenya):

o   Assess the feasibility of a franchise system, following recurring demands;

o   Establish the business case for setting-up branches (market, materials availability, etc.)

Ä  Explore further renewable sources:

o   Biogas, once the market is mature (prototyping in progress but not yet viable);

o   Biofuel, hydro and wind energy.

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