Cleantech Gives Power to the Poor
Friday, December 23, 2005
…serving the more than 1.6 billion people in the world that don?t have electricity or other energy services is a good business opportunity, one that traditional utilities have ignored for far too long.
But to provide people in remote areas with renewable energy, utility companies have to completely change their corporate cultures and undo years of approaching problems in a particular way.
Knowledge of local markets, say Mr. Rosa and other entrepreneurs interviewed, is crucial for the success of off-grid projects. In Mr. Rosa?s case, he has protected the batteries for home solar systems not only with special boxes and numbered locks but also with mini-statues of Catholic saints, to serve as a daily reminder to customers that the batteries must be treated as sacred.
For India?s Selco, creative financing has been the key. The rural banks pay Selco in advance and provide the microfinancing to the end-customer; a one-time cost of $150 to $450 can be paid off gradually. And depending on a person?s job, payments can be made daily or even once every two years, in the case of sugarcane farmers, says Thomas Pullenkav, the Bangalore-based vice president for Selco.
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