TERI’s solar lantern project, coupled with microfinance could be India’s green answer to rural lighting.
On the road!
We met Mansa Tudu in village Mahtabeda( population=400) as we drove around the district with local NGO, SEEDS, who wanted to show us the rural lighting project.
The Class-10 pass Mansa makes money by renting out 34 solar lanterns at Rs 2/lantern/day, to other villagers. Under the TERI model, village “entrepreneurs” like Mansa( all they need to have is adequate infrastructure, viz. a pucca roof) are given a set of lanterns, charging units and solar panels. The villagers bring the lantern back every morning for recharge.
This model is an interesting self-sustaining model which provides livelihood for an entrepreneur and inexpensive, non-polluting lighting for the community. Vis-a-vis kerosene which, at Rs 32/litre, is expensive, and erratic state electricity supply, this model has many positives.
A nationwide, scale-based expansion of this project is currently restricted by the initial investment in lanterns and charging units. TERI presently funds this through sponsored support, but it does appear to me that, if one dovetails microfinance, this could be rapidly scaled up. The challenge, however, is that microfinance is not widely available in these most-needy states and districts.