1.3 billion people in the world lack access to electricity. They depend on mostly kerosene to use as light at night, which gets expensive over time and poses a lot of health risks at home (think toxic fumes and accidental fires). But there is a viable solution already available today: affordable solar energy. In the last 5 years, the cost of solar PV technology has dropped so drastically that companies are sprouting up all over the developing world to manufacture and distribute affordable solar products to light up unelectrified homes. These products range from basic torch lights to entire solar home systems that can power multiple lights, cellphone charging, radio, and even TV. So what’s enabling the off-grid solar revolution? Here are the three main reasons:
End-User Financing That Makes Sense
While the cost of solar has gone down, many of the 1.3 billion off-grid population still find the price tag on most solar products prohibitively expensive. However, solar companies have coupled their solar products with financing plans that allow customers to purchase solar products according to their level of income. These plans include monthly installments or weekly installments that span from 3 to 18 months. Some companies even go further and sell solar energy as a service similar to how people in the developed world pay their electric bills. In those cases, each family pays to keep their solar powered electricity services on, and the service will be cut off if the family stops their payment.
Looking at examples of what people currently spend on energy will put these costs and financing plans in context. A typical rural Indian household spends Rs. 150 to Rs. 300 each month on kerosene lighting. If we include diesel generators the cost goes up more. They end up spending a significant part of their overall income, which leaves them with not much funds to do anything else. A micro-grid solar project that was funded on SunFunder’s crowdfunding platform ends up costing each household Rs. 100 a month and it gives them clean, bright solar lighting and overnight cell phone charging. Solar is more affordable and better for the people’s health.