The Global View

Solar boom to give electricity to poor?

Everyone is saying the price of solar technology is falling.

And solar power could help to provide some of the world’s poor people with electricity, one company is showing.

There are 1.6bn people in the world who live without electricty according to the  World Bank. And some 3bn people still cook on fires or wood stoves, which leads to an enormous number of deaths from intoxication. (There are 6.2bn people in the world.)

But solar power could change some of that, a Reuters report says:

“In the Indian state of Karnataka private firms, backed by state government subsidies, have over the last 3-5 years been pushing solar power for households in towns and cities, including giving discounts on power bills if solar is installed.

The Solar Electric Light Company (SELCO) has supplied solar powered electricity to 75,000 households over the past 12 years in India, where 60 percent of households lack electricity.

Their standard solar panel, replacing three smoky paraffin lamps, costs $250, equal to at least 12 months’ income for many rural households, said SELCO Managing Director Harish Hande.

Customers can spread the cost over five years, and microfinance creditors collect payments as often as weekly from those who struggle to put money aside.

One downside is that large parts of Karnataka get monsoon rains for about 4 months a year and people complain that solar systems are not effective in cloudy conditions.

SELCO cuts costs by making fluorescent light bulbs and designing solar panels itself, but the panels are still more expensive than the more heavily subsidised oil lamps.