News and comment
- Sunlabob Rural Energy Ltd., set up in 2001, is bringing energy to remote rural communities in Lao PDR, a country where just 48 per cent of the population has access to grid electricity, mostly in cities and town. Through Sunlabob, over 1,800 solar-home-systems (SHS) and 500 solar lanterns are being rented to families in 73 different villages across Lao PDR.
- In an area where most people rely on highly polluting kerosene lamps, the initiative rents out solar lighting at a lower price than kerosene, providing families with a real incentive to switch to the cleaner energy. The cheapest solar systems costs 35,000 kip per month (3.80$) to rent, while households typically spend 36,000 to 60,000 kip per month (4 to 6.60$) on kerosene for lighting. As well as being far less sustainable than solar energy, kerosene lamps can be dangerous, causing burns, starting fires and polluting the air indoors.
- The equipment is rented through Village Energy Committees (VEC) selected by the whole community: this puts the community in control of setting prices, collecting rents and performing basic maintenance.
The potential for growth in the use of solar PV in Lao PDR is huge: Sunlabob is installing systems at a rate of 500 per year, and a new investment in 2008 will allow it to scale up to 2,500 systems per year, and 5,000 per year after that. The project is also highly replicable: Sunlabob is already starting work in Cambodia and Indonesia, and is exploring possibilities with interested potential partners in Bhutan, East Timor, Eastern Africa and Latin America.
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