In this episode Jeff Schnurr talks to us about Jaza Energy’s mission to deliver sustainable energy and their plan to electrify 600 million people living without electricity in sub Saharan Africa. All while prioritizing female employment, having employed over 150 women to date.

We’ve displaced around 450 tons of CO2 emissions just because people are using us as opposed to kerosene to light their home. We have powered over 25,000 people who get their electricity every day from Jaza. The team, in terms of their skills…find really top performing women that become partners with us in this solution and deliver our service has been super inspiring to everyone on the team

Jeff Schnurr, Founder, Jaza Energy

Transcript of Interview with Jeff Schnurr

Jenelle:
Hello. Today we have with us Jeff Schnurr. Welcome Jeff.

Jeff Schnurr:
Hey Jenelle, how are you?

Jenelle:
Good, thank you. Jeff Schnurr is the CEO and co-founder of Jaza Energy and you can learn more about jazz at energy at Jazaenergy.com. So, Jeff, you are, I mean I’d call you a serial entrepreneur, but you’ve founded previous organizations and companies. But can you tell us a little bit about Jaza Energy as an organization and the products?

Jeff Schnurr:
Yes, so Jaza is a company that works in sub Saharan Africa currently in Tanzania that builds energy hubs, which are just fancy shops with pans on the roof and we recharge batteries that our customers carry home, plug in and use to power their household. So it’s a solution for people that are currently living without electricity.

Jenelle:
And you’re currently running that as it’s a for profit model.

Jeff Schnurr:
Absolutely, yes. So it’s a for profit company and really I think the big why that we’re trying to solve is there’s around 600 million people living without electricity in sub Saharan Africa. They primarily use kerosene for lighting their homes. So, you know, I’m sure that in Canada you don’t really use kerosene for your lighting, but a lot of people around the world do and they spend around like 25% of their household income just on fuel for lights and then they spend a lot more money to pay someone else to charge their mobile phone. So really this is the perfect solution for a social enterprise or a for profit model because we can create a solar energy service that solves that problem and displaces what people were currently spending on kerosene for lighting that they can use to pay for our [inaudible 02:00]. So it’s a for profit business model to drive some social change.

Jenelle:
That’s great and you started talking about some of the social impact that Jaza Energy has operating as a for profit company. You mentioned, you know, the percentage of income that’s being spent on product now and how you are decreasing that and obviously moving toward more environmentally friendly solutions for energy resources as well. Can you tell us a little bit about the big social problem that you’re trying to solve at Jaza or maybe there’s more than one.

Jeff Schnurr:
I think that there’s multiple problems that we can address. I mean, first and foremost, I think that people should have in electricity and in 2020 I think it’s kind of a human human, right. We have the technology, we have the solutions, I think it’s really about the business model and the will to try and solve this problem. People in sub Saharan Africa spend around $14 billion a year on kerosene and fossil fuel for home lighting. And I think that we can just take that spend and allocate it into a renewable energy solution.

Jeff Schnurr:
So the first piece is really about, you know, just getting people in home power so they can power their lives. You know, you can stay up later, you can run your small business. I probably don’t need to sell you on the benefits of in home electricity. That’s the sort of first broader impact we have and then I think furthermore, like one thing for us as a company, like, you know, we do think that climate change is one of the largest problems facing humanity. And so, you know, there’s a billion people without electricity that are using fossil fuels for home lighting globally and if those people come online and start electrifying their lives the same way that North America or Europe or some other parts of the world have, I don’t think our planet can actually handle that much carbon dioxide. Like we just don’t have the carbon budget globally and we’re all cooked. So kind of this interesting tension where like, yes, a billion people without electricity need electricity, if they electrify the way that other places in the world have, we’re all cooked and it doesn’t matter anyways. So that’s really the problem we’re trying to solve.

Jenelle:
That’s neat. Oftentimes at the intersection of two tension points often does exist innovation. And so Jaza Energy has already been successful in deploying hubs and have customers. When you’re looking at the global impact of Jaza, how from a systems thinking lens where does Jaza Energy fit in and what is that look like?

Jeff Schnurr:
At the smallest scale, at the, like the hub level where we serve our customers. Like we really tried to build a solution that fit in to how they were currently living their lives. Like you would if you’re in a household in rural Tanzania and you wake up in the morning and you know, you go and you’re farming and you come back and maybe you sell some of the produce and you have 20, 30, 50 cents, you go shop and you pay for kerosene and then you take that kerosene home, put it in a lantern, burn it, use it to light your home, wake up, do it again. So at Jaza we tried to find a solution that really fit into that same pattern where people would walk to a shop and pay for a battery and take it home and plug it into their household.

Jeff Schnurr:
So really low switching costs and we’re actually cheaper than kerosene. That’s the kind of immediate system’s effect. But then once you start looking at from the hub level up, we now have 70 locations all in rural rural communities. We only hire women to run the energy hubs. So now we have 140,150 women connected through their jobs and also every hub is connected to the web. So they have real time access to each other. So we’re almost building the next layer of what we’re doing is integrating people in sort of isolated remote communities. And then I think the third order effect is really one of the reasons why we do what we do and we love what we do at Jaza is that we’re actually connecting our customers and our team to the rest of the globalized world.

Jeff Schnurr:
So, I feel very lucky and in my job I get to travel for fundraising to places like San Francisco, London, New York, and then I’m in rural Tanzania and sometimes it’s hard to reconcile that it’s actually the same planet. And then you go to someplace like San Francisco and people are like, we’re going to Mars and then you go to like, you know, and two hours in Tanzania and you feel like it could be a different planet just based on how isolated people are or disconnected. And you know, people have a smartphone and they’re looking at their phone and they’re saying like, what are these apps for? They’re all in English. They’re not for me. They don’t even use them. So I think that there’s this massive disconnect and it’s almost like there’s two planets on this one and really what we’re trying to do at the system scale and our big reason why we do what we do is we want to connect our customers to the rest of the world so their voices are heard. So that, you know, are potentially a part of some of the solutions our planet needs.

Jenelle:
That’s ambitious and also so pragmatic at the same time recognizing that it’s happening and that you can be part of doing it better. I’m curious about, you’ve mentioned a few different metrics of impact already, but and specifically one that was of interest is that you employ women. So you mentioned that you’ve got 150 women employed. Can you provide us with a few more metrics of impact and then maybe tell us some stories that highlight the impact that Jaza Energy’s already have?

Jeff Schnurr:
Beautiful solutions where the business model actually drives your impact. Like the more people that purchase energy from Jaza, they’re immediately displacing kerosene. So there’s, you know, we’ve displaced around 450 tons of CO2 emissions just because people are using us as opposed to kerosene to light their home. We have powered over 25,000 people get their electricity every day from Jaza and like the team, the people that work for us, like in terms of their skills and how they feel in their community and you know, being able to find really, really great team members in places that you would never think to look and find really top performing women that become partners with us in this solution and deliver our service has been super inspiring to everyone on the team.

Jeff Schnurr:
And I think, some of the stories, like when we started Jaza very early on, we were talking to a lot of customers about the solution and there was one woman in particular, she was a widow and whatever and one of her children went to to buy kerosene or one of their lanterns in their home and he made a mistake and bought like petrol, like fuel instead of kerosene and she put it in her lantern and it caught fire. And she had like very severe burns on the entire right side of her body and she was just like, you could imagine, you know, lighting a lantern in your home for light and have it burn you. It’s just like, this shouldn’t happen anymore. In this day and age there’s just no reason for that and I think that for us, on the service side, we can light up people’s homes, we can extend their day. Whether it’s for just bringing light into people’s homes I think it’s a super compelling thing to do and we all feel that at Jaza.

Jeff Schnurr:
Then on the attendance side, the women that provide our service are sort of partners in service delivery. Like we’ve seen [inaudible] that have said, oh, I wanted to be a doctor. I wanted to help my community and I’m so glad I can do that now through Jaza. Like I’m saving lives because people aren’t breathing in fumes from the kerosene. And then on the personal side, they make money based on how well they provide services.

Jeff Schnurr:
We’ve seen people that have made a lot of money in their communities and they’ve gone from someone, you know, when we first started just hiring women, there was a lot of pushback from the equivalent of a mayor in our community being like, you know, women will never work there, you can’t hire women to do this job. Or like people saying, if you hire a woman, she’ll just become an advertisement and someone will come and marry her. Like, just super, super out there stuff. But now we’ve seen our top performers make a lot of money, they’re super effective in their community. They feel like their status has increased. They’re able to buy bicycle and they’re able to pay school fees for their kids and like they have capital, they have money and they have a lot of power. And I think it’s why we all wake up and go to work in the morning.

Jenelle:
It’s so impactful to hear that your business model alone, it’s such a beautiful blend of doing good and also doing well just by doing business that there’s impact that, I won’t call it emergent or unintended cause I’m sure it was incredibly intentional in hiring women, but just part of knowing that part of the impact of your company has been empowering women and also to keep people safe, when that wasn’t the main objective. It’s just really neat to see that there’s additional impact there.

Jeff Schnurr:
We aren’t actually doing the women that run our service a favour, they’re actually running our business and I think that’s really humbling for us too. It’s awesome we get to see these people on our team improve lives but like the gratitude that we have to throw back towards them because we wouldn’t be here without them. And I think that there’s an untapped labor pool out there where people think that sometimes women or other minority groups like there’s a pay gap, but it’s like for us, it’s like they are the ones leading our business and driving all the results that we see.

Jenelle:
Well said. Cool, so tell me about the upcoming year for Jaza Energy over the next 12 months. What are some big goals that you’re tracking?

Jeff Schnurr:
Well I think that as we were talking about it it’s one of those solutions where the [inaudible] models can scale into a market of 600 million needing your service, So we’re currently expanding as fast as we can in Tanzania. There are around 2000 locations that we’ve identified that meet our criteria that makes a good hub location. So we’re pushing as fast as we can to grow into the Tanzanian market. And then end of the year, you know, 12 months out from now, we’re looking to expand into a few neighboring countries to continue to grow the footprint and we’re really just trying to grow as fast as possible. Because there’s so many potential customers out there and so many people that we could serve with this solution.

Jenelle:
Definitely sounds like you have a big market and lots of congrats, Jeff. Look forward to continuing to track the success of Jaza Energy over the next year. Thank you so much for speaking with us today and our audience.

Jeff Schnurr:
Thank you Jenelle. Really appreciate the time to bring us to your podcast.

Leave a Comment

© RIDDL Tech Inc. 2020 All rights reserved.