Kenya Minigrid Builder Attracts VC Funds From Total, Caterpillar

Eight venture capital firms invested $20 million in Powerhive, a Nairobi-based developer of small power networks known as minigrids.

The investors included Total SA’s Total Energy Ventures International SAS, First Solar Inc. and Caterpillar Ventures Capital Inc., a subsidiary of construction giant Caterpillar Inc, according to a statement emailed on Monday. The round was led by Prelude Ventures LLC, which is based in San Francisco.

The collaboration between Powerhive and Caterpillar will “advance both companies’ ability to serve energy demand growth in emerging markets,” Caterpillar said in the statement.

A minigrid is a power distribution network with a fraction of the capacity of a traditional utility. Developers are building them in rural parts of Africa without electricity access such as Kenya and Tanzania because they are significantly cheaper to install compared to extending the national grid.

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