As we reach the end of the first decade in the 21st Century, about one third of the world’s population still has no access to electricity, says Harish Hande.
Harish argues that poor people should be at the centre of sustainable energy policies, not on the end of handouts and has set up his own company called Harish Hande SELCO Solar Light to do exactly that.
Many of the conversations in the WEF were focussed around the need for solutions for the developing world, relatively few were aimed at solving finance of these solutions.
Apparently there is more than enough money out there, but the global north is scared of pledging it to the global south without strings attached.
Well Harish has part of the answer with his new company called SELCO which has pioneered access to rural solar electrification for below poverty line families through a combination of customized sustainable energy services (like lighting and cooking etc) in tandem with innovative doorstep financing.
Around 57% of the Indian population does not have electricity and for many more, the supply is unreliable. In addition, those living on less than $2 a day in India annually produce close to a billion tons in CO2 emissions showing that the developing markets must be addressed with the issue of climate change.
SELCO have developed a business based on three basic understandings – the poor can afford sustainable technologies; the poor can maintain sustainable technologies; users want run commercially viable venture serving the needs of the community.
The core business of SELCO is the sale and financing of solar-home-systems that provide lighting but also are suitable for radios, fans and income generating activities.
SELCO works with banks and MFIs to create financing mechanisms that suit the cash flow of the client. For example, a user will pay a small down payment and then pay monthly installments of 150 to 350 Rs over three to five years. The user can pay from extra income brought in from additional work made possible with the energy intervention and savings from eliminating costly fossil fuels with customized payment schedules.
The end result of this initiative apart from providing decentralized, green power is the creation sustainable energy service-related businesses and entrepreneurs.
It seems to me that it is essential that solutions like this are promoted in tandem with other larger infrastructure solutions. Better to get de-centralised renewables out there in a responsible way that initiate development rather than paying a big company to put in a power infrastructure that just locks people into a corporate monopoly!
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