Indian Villagers’ Lives Transformed by New Energy Delivery System
Monday, January 16, 2012
It’s late December and an icy fog cloaks the northeastern state of Uttar Pradesh. Here, far from the cities, smoke rises in dense, choking spirals from meagre wood fires and scantily-clad children shiver against the cold. These are largely farming families, and their mud huts fortified by the occasional brick wall are for the most part devoid of light, heat or clean water.
But it is here in Uttar Pradesh, one of India’s largest and poorest states, far away from the country’s straining power grid, that US-born entrepreneurs Nikhil Jaisinghani and Brian Shaad have started to pioneer a wholly different energy system, designed to meet some of the most basic needs of the poorest.
Their company, Mera Gao Power (MGP), provides ultra-low cost lighting and mobile phone charging services to individual houses by building and operating solar-powered micro grids at a village level.
Each household that signs up to their service receives two LED lights and one mobile-charging point in their home at a cost of 25 rupees (£0.301) per week. The setup cost is an additional one-off payment of 40 rupees (£0.48). “This is the kind of price point that the majority of them can afford,” Sandeep Pandey, MGP’s operations manager, explained.
The benefits of these simple services for a village household are multiple. The lights not only allow individuals to work after dark, providing additional time for activities that generate income, but they permit extra time for children to study.
“I wanted this light straight away, as it enables me to cook after dark,” said Muni-devi, a grandmother from the village of Kaharanpura who makes samosas to sell at the local market. “With longer hours to work, I can earn more for my family each day.”
Santram Pal, a father of four from the neighbouring village of Chuck, was exuberant, too. “I’m very happy with the lights,” he said. “Now my children can study at night and my house won’t go so black inside from the smoke. Thieves won’t come either.”