by Ed Yourdon
Starting a Solar Power Business in Nepal
Ok lets start with where Nepal is. Nepal is located between the two Asian giants of China and India and Nepal is often described as a yam between two giant boulders.
Kathmandu is the capital and is a haven for trekkers and tourists from all over the world especially as the Himalayas and Mount Everest are on the borders.
But Nepal is also the 12th poorest country in the world as per the united nations development index and suffers from acute shortages of electricity causing blackouts during both day and night.
This leads me onto solar power and the current usage by the population most of which is rural and dispersed. Under one percent of the population current uses solar power which can be used for cooking, heating homes and water and providing light. Solar water pumps can also be used instead of handheld wells.
Companies should be looking at starting solar lantern rental project in Nepal. Solar lanterns are increasingly popular in India and Bangladesh especially as the price of solar lanterns have decreased from 100 US dollars a number of years ago to 10 to 40 dollars today. Dlightdesign offer lanterns for just ten dollars. If an average Nepali person uses a mixture of candles, batteries and kerosene lanterns they often spend four dollars per month on this combination and the use of solar power can lead to a huge increase in disposable income for the family once the cost of the lantern has been repaid.
The cost of the lantern is more than 10 dollars as the cost of transportation from abroad to buy the lantern has to be taken into account and the cost of delivering this to the end use on the ground. This takes the total cost from 10 dollars to about 20 dollars. Many charities and for profit organisations are now using micro credit in order to help end users buy the product as they cannot afford this 20 dollar purchase in one go. This would involve collecting 12 payments of about 2 dollars which pushes the cost to about 24 dollars as 12 journeys are needed to collect the payments. Micro credit has been made popular all over the world by Grameen in Bangladesh and KIVA in the USA. If you sell just one lantern per village then obviously it is not viable. If you sell 100 lanterns per village then you can start to make serious money!
In the next 5 years we hope to see an increase in the amount of solar products bought in Nepal via micro credit. Unfortunately, the political situation in Nepal makes it difficult but not impossible for private enterprises to flourish. Nationwide strikes are a monthly occurrence but with an undeveloped market those businesses with an eye for profit with a social conscience should not be put off as the bottom of the pyramid market has a potential two billion customers many of which in developing markets with lots of sun and potential for solar power.
Many trekking lodges in Nepal take advantage of solar heating for water but solar cooking is more popular in Africa due to the intense sun. Solar lanterns and lights which are portable can be used for school children studying and to increase business when the power goes out. They also offer a safer alternative as kerosene lamps can be knocked over and create fires and the fumes are also deadly. Solar lanterns are increasing in popularity in India especially the lanterns that can recharge mobile phones.
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