Sunlabob Renewable Energy: Solar Power for Laos and Beyond
Sunlabob Renewable Energy is a Laos-based enterprise established in 2001. For the first seven years the business was entirely focused on Laos. Initially the company provided off-grid electrification to the rural poor as an independent power producer (IPP) or by providing equipment and services to franchisees that would operate as micro-utilities. These models required considerable up-front capital, and since energy tariffs are relatively much lower and marginal to the investment, it took a long time to recover the up-front costs. There were also difficulties in collecting end-user payments as well as political, legal and regulatory challenges, which made it difficult to attract investments.
Andy Schroeter, the founder and CEO, began looking for parallel opportunities in government and donor-funded projects in Laos to offset these challenges. This approach eventually helped stabilise Sunlabob’s revenue stream, but as the country became more electrified, prospects for new projects diminished. New opportunities, he realised, lay further afield.
By 2014 Sunlabob had won numerous international tenders from multilateral agencies like the United Nations and World Bank. Now recognised as a leader in rural electrification, Schroeter wants to position Sunlabob to compete in one of the most challenging, yet potentially lucrative, market for rural electrification: Myanmar. But is Sunlabob ready?
This case can be used in undergraduate, graduate, and executive classes. Students will examine social entrepreneurship, analyse the trade-off between social and financial goals and understand the challenges of formulating a growth strategy for social enterprises.
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