New solar technology is poised to provide cheap power to many of the 600 million people in Africa who lack access to reliable electricity.

Innovation in “off-grid” solar power is becoming accessible to even the most remote communities, letting people pay for electricity as they need it, for less than a half dollar a day.

Lumos Global is among the firms rolling out the technology in Nigeria, alongside mobile phone operator MTN. The company’s CEO, Nir Marom, says installation is simple.

Here’s how it works: The Lumos service includes a home solar panel linked to an indoor storage and connection unit that allows customers to access significant amounts of power on demand, day or night. The Lumos service allows customers to utilize a “pay-as-you-go” model, in small amounts, by text message.

“You do not need to be an electrician to do anything like this,” Marom says.

Off-grid solar systems have plummeted in price. Now consumers can spread the cost by renting the equipment and paying for the electricity as they need it.

The company received $50 million in financing from the U.S. government’s Overseas Private Investment Corporation, or OPIC, as part of President Obama’s Power Africa initiative.

President Obama and a young woman at a solar power exhibit booth (© AP Images)
President Obama looks at a solar power exhibit during a 2015 Power Africa Innovation Fair in Kenya. (© AP Images)

Strong start in Senegal

As the off-grid sector booms, several African countries also have invested millions of dollars in large on-grid solar plants. Senegal opened one of Africa’s largest in October, able to generate 20 megawatts, enough for 160,000 people.

Chief executive Charlotte Aubin-Kalaidjian runs GreenWish Partners, which paid for the construction.

She says the amount of electricity produced in Senegal is double what a solar farm of the same size in England or in northern France would produce.

The International Energy Agency forecasts that almost 1 billion people in sub-Saharan Africa will gain access to on-grid power by 2040.

But half-a-billion people will still be off-grid. Investors believe solar power could fill that gap, while also helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.