Nepal: Building national capacity in improving rural access to energy through Solar Tuki

Light for all campaign by promoting cheaper Solar Tukis has reached nearly 15,000 remote households in Nepal. The campaign has also enhanced national capacity to disseminate Solar Tukis to wider scale and formulate subsidy policy, which aimed to benefit additional 310,000 households during country's transitional period.

The cost of Maoist insurgency in Nepal is very high. Many of the development initiatives could not be carried out due to conflict and low security situation. During the conflict period, not a single hydropower development project was initiated, as a result, even city areas of Nepal, nowadays, is facing a nearly 12 hours load shedding every day. The country is now in transitional stage of peace building process and there are still about 2.4 million rural households, who do not have electric grid connection. Due to hilly topography and the scattered villages, the electricity with the National grid has not been a viable solution. For such remote and scattered household, government of Nepal has been providing up to 50% subsidy to install Solar Home System through Alternative Energy Promotion Centre (AEPC). But even with the subsidy, the poor section of the community could not afford a costly Solar Home System (SHS).

Keeping this in view, Centre for Renewable Energy (CRE) with the support from Global Environment Facility, Small Grants Programme, has initiated an ambitious “Light for All” campaign during the conflict period in 2005. The campaign has introduced a cheaper Solar Tuki to light the remote Himalayan huts. The cost of one SHS fetches 6 to 10 Solar Tukis. The Solar Tuki set comprises of two White Light Emitting Diode (WLED) based Lamps of 0.5 watt each, one 2.5 watt Solar Panel, one radio power connecting cable and backed by a consumer friendly warranty package. The PV Solar Panel of the Solar Tuki System captures energy from the radiation of the sun and converts it to electrical energy for charging the Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH) Batteries built in the lamp set. The 1300 mAh NiMh battery has a life cycle of 600 cycles (equivalent to two years). These rechargeable batteries are assembled in a 3.6 volt battery pack. While initiating the “Light for All campaign”, the project adapted “win-win” business model.

A not-for-profit sharing company has been established to import Solar Tuki components in bulk so that the Solar Tuki manufacturing industries can have easy access to these raw materials with cheaper price and credit facility. In order to reach the scattered remote villages in mountain region, local micro-credit institution such as co-operatives, saving and credit groups have been mobilized. With the introduction of micro credit mechanism, it creates no additional economic burden to the poor villagers and the repayment is made in monthly installment that is equivalent to the savings in kerosene expenses. Thus, Solar Tuki Manufactures, micro-credit institutions and users all secure win-win situation. While purchasing 10 or more Solar Tuki for a village, the company provides a set of Solar Tuki for free and also provides training to develop a bare foot technician so that after sales service in the village can be ensured.

The Solar Tukis are designed in a very simple way to match the local rural technical capability. The system operation and maintenance do not need high technical expertise. Any person with primary education can easily run the Solar Tuki service centre at the local level after just three days on-the-job training. For this “Design and Maintenance manual of Solar Tuki (in Nepali)” with color diagrams has been developed. This is really a great help in disseminating the technology as even people with no technical background can assemble the Solar Tuki with the help of this manual. Thus the campaign has ensured capacity building of both individual (bare foot technicians) and institutional capacities of manufacturer and micro credit institutions.

Year of publication: 
UNDP Capacity is Development knowledge fair
Themes and sectors: 
Energy sector

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