The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is planning a pilot project to test a system that allows individuals to invest in solar energy-generating cells and effectively receive rent from consumers that use the hardware.
The Sun Exchange, a participant in the pilot, describes the system as a way to make solar energy attainable for organizations that can't afford the overhead costs of buying and installing panels.
According to the startup's website, investors buy solar cells, "lease" them to organizations through the firm, and then receive rent on those units in the form of bitcoin or fiat currency. The company appears to sell these photovoltaic units in batches, with the size of a batch correlating to the projected energy needs of specific areas where they are to be installed. Multiple investors may buy into the same batch. The Sun Exchange has already commenced operations in at least one location in South Africa.
A UNDP blog post on the pilot explains that electricity consumers' bills will remain the same after they transition to the solar-powered system. Investors will receive payouts for 20 years, after which time the solar cells' users will get to keep the value generated by those units.
Dumitru Vasilescu, the UNDP's lead on Moldovan private sector engagement for sustainable development goals, told ETHNews that "solar cell owners in this project will always receive SolarCoin, [which the Sun Exchange issues] in addition to their chosen Bitcoin or Fiat lease rental income."
In the UN blog post, which he wrote, Vasilescu suggested that Moldova was chosen, at least in part, because "around 74 percent of the [country's] energy is imported." However, he said elsewhere that the UNDP would consider rolling out similar projects in other jurisdictions if the Moldovan pilot proves successful. Indeed, he explained, the UNDP is interested in Sun Exchange's model precisely because the agency considers it to be replicable.
"Institutions and households with appropriate roof properties will also be able to participate" in the Moldova pilot, according to Vasilescu's post, but the energy consumer most likely to be selected to take part in the project is the Technical University of Moldova.
A company called ElectriCChain will also contribute to the pilot.
In comments to media, The Sun Exchange CEO Abraham Cambridge said that the startup eventually hopes to tokenize the actual ownership of these cells, which would allow that ownership to be traded just like any other cryptocurrency.
On May 2, 2018, this article was updated to reflect the contents of a reply we received from Dumitru Vasilescu.