Making Solar Power Accessible To The Poor

Problem: India is home to 400 million people that lack access to an electricity grid. While distributed solar based solutions do exist, high upfront costs make them unaffordable to the poorest of the poor living in rural areas. Lack of electricity hampers the growth of the local economy as well as impedes the education of children.

 

Solution: Addressing Energy Poverty

Technology: A subsidiary of Seattle start-up, Simps Networks, Simps Energy India, developed a portable solar home system that is easy to install. The company provides two to three LED lights, a 30 watt solar panel and a 26 AH batter.

To make it affordable to the poor villagers, the company has deployed a rooftop solar leasing model with pre-paid metering and control technology. Villagers pre-pay via their cell phone based on actual usage with each payment adding up to the total purchase price of the solar home system. Once the system has been fully paid, it unlocks and provides free electricity to the home for the 10 year life period of the product (Simps Energy India, n.d)

How does it work? Simpa follows a 3-step model:

  1. Install: It installs the solar PV system e for a small down payment.
  2. Top up: Customers buy prepaid energy service days from local agents
  3. Unlock: When customers pay the full price, the system unlocks permanently

Impact: The solar-as-a-service model has seen a high demand in rural villages of Uttar Pradesh in North India. They have provided 1,84,093 people with clean power.

Stakeholders: 

  1. MFI’s
  2. Community Head
  3. Companies with energy poverty as part of their CSR strategy
  4. Locally based NGO

Implementation:

Step 1:  Partner with a well established locally based NGO working in identified villages

Step 2: In conjunction with the NGO, hold a meeting with the village head to explain the product and payment model

Step 3: Hold a meeting with the villagers to explain the product as well as to recruit field agents

Step 4: Install the solar system on identified homes

Step 5: Partner with an MFI to help communities pay for system

Step 6: Monitor community impact and payment

Sources: 

Simpa Networks: http://simpanetworks.com/#about

OPIC.GOV: https://www.opic.gov/opic-action/featured-projects/south-asia/simpa-networks-making-solar-power-affordable-rural-india

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