Case 3 Promotion of Solar Energy Use – Cases in Rural Marketing

CASE 3

Promotion of Solar Energy Use

Renewable energy programme is now considered very important. Apart from environmental aspect, by using renewable energy systems basic energy services can be provided economically allowing improvements in the quality of life and economic productivity for the people of remote isolated backward areas. Hence, Lokasiksha Parishad started motivating the people long back to adopt renewable energy systems such as fuel saving improved chullah, biogas plant, etc.

THE CRUSADER

Ramakrishna Mission Ashrama, Narendrapur, is a branch centre of Ramakrishna Mission having its headquarters at Belur Math,in Howrah, West Bengal. Through its integrated development wing, i.e., the Ramakrishna Mission Lokasiksha Parishad, this Ashrama is actively engaged in various rural as well as urban development programmes for the last few decades. Presently, Ramakrishna Mission Lokasiksha Parishad is working, with about 40 affiliated cluster organisations and 1,500 youth clubs spread over 4,000 villages in 12 districts of West Bengal.

THE PROJECT

The Indo-US Renewable Energy Project in the Sundarbans is being implemented in collaboration with the Ministry of Non-Conventional Energy Sources (MNES), Government of India, West Bengal Renewable Energy Development Agency (WBREDA), Government of West Bengal and National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Government of USA, for providing some basic energy services through solar photovoltaic systems to some isolated remote villages of Sundarbans where grid connection is a distant possibility.

The project will install domestic lights in 300 homes spread over 3 villages of 3 different islands @100 per village. Each home will have two 9W compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) and one wall socket. Besides three hundred homes, solar photovoltaic systems will also be installed in some of the village institutions like health centre, women training-cum-production centres, youth clubs etc. There is also provision for installation of vaccine preservator, street lights, institutional lighting facilities, fan, surface pump and battery charging unit.

IMPLEMENTATION

The implementation involves two major activities.

  • Training and placement of field staff
  • Sales-cum-service network formation

Training and Placement of Field Staff

Availability of trained maintenance staff at the grass-root level in rural areas is one of the most important aspects for successful implementation of non-conventional energy projects in India. Well before the launching of the project, 13 village and cluster level personnel have been trained on the maintenance of solar thermal and solar PV systems, taking resource persons from Jadavpur University and other institutions and placed in the respective rural areas. Besides this pre-service training, a higher level training on installation and maintenance of solar thermal and solar PV systems had also been organised for supervisory staff to be posted at both cluster unit and project headquarters taking resource persons from U.S.A. Apart from these trainings, in-service trainings will be organised at regular intervals.

Sales-cum-service Network

An extensive sales-cum-service network is set up in the un-and under electrified villages. Lokasiksha Parishad has set up a solar sales-cum-service-cum-exhibition centre entitled ADITYA (THE SOLAR SHOP) at Narendrapur with the following objectives:

  • Sale of solar energy systems according to customers’ choice.
  • Direct disbursement of subsidy for the Government approved items.
  • Extension of maintenance and repair facilities to the buyer.
  • Sale of other fuel saving and non-conventional energy using items such as improved chullahs, biogas oven and lamps, highly efficient electric lamps etc.
  • Permanent display on the use of Solar systems and related information.

From The Solar Shop ‘Aditya’ solar lanterns, solar PV modules, solar energy operated fan, battery for solar energy storage, solar pumps, solar cooker, solar water heater, solar water distillator and various other allied products will be sold to the prospective customers coming here regularly from different parts of West Bengal. This centre will also sell spare-parts and attend to the after sale services. All these envisaged functions of the centre will be performed by a team of well qualified and experienced technical staff through its three-tier network i.e., sales-cum-service centre at Narendrapur, sub-centres at cluster level organisations and the village level youth clubs. The cluster level sub-centre headed by a well trained technician will:

  1. Act as a bridge between the youth clubs and village workers on one end and the sales-cum-service centre on the other end.
  2. Sell system components like batteries, CF lamps, electronic circuits, etc., and
  3. Undertake repair works passed on by the village workers.

One trained village worker will be engaged at each and eveiy youth club. He will be a resident of that particular village. Already 13 such village workers have been trained and placed in the respective villages. The main functions of village workers will be:

  1. creation of demand through motivation and awareness generation,
  2. helping in installation of the systems,
  3. collection of service charges and loan instalments from the beneficiaries,
  4. arranging hiring of solar lanterns given to them under Entrepreneurship Development Programme,
  5. attending to minor repairing works,
  6. sending the defective equipments requiring complicated repairs to the cluster-level sub-centres and
  7. keeping constant contact with the sub-centres.
COST RECOVERY AND SUSTAINABILITY

Ramakrishna Mission Lokasiksha Parishad had already thought of a methodology for making the sales- cum-service centre and its constituent tyres self-reliant. The maintenance and personnel cost of the centre at Narendrapur will be met from the income of

  1. Sales margins and
  2. Service charge for repairing works at ‘Aditya’.

The personnel and other costs of sub-centres will be given from the share of

  1. Service charges (maintenance charges on contract basis),
  2. Part of interest on loan to the beneficiaries and
  3. Incentives on sales promotion (pro-rata basis) to be provided by ‘Aditya’.

Remuneration on commission basis will be provided to the village workers from the income of

  1. Incentive on sales promotion to be provided by ‘Aditya’
  2. Share of service charges,
  3. Share of interest on loan to the beneficiaries and
  4. Hiring charges of solar lanterns.

The project will financially and otherwise support the installation of various PV systems in the village institutions, but in case of domestic units it envisages partial cost recovery—partly as down payment and the rest through easy installments spread over 5 years. The fund thus created will be utilised for the upkeep of the systems as well as replicating the same even after the end of the project tenure. Nominal service charge will also be collected from the end users which will be equally shared among the village worker, the youth club, and the cluster organisation.

FUTURE PLAN

Ramakrishna Mission Lokasiksha Parishad is negotiating with various other organisations for soft loans to be provided to the people towards different solar thermal, solar PV and other renewable energy systems. If materialized, the present operational area may be expanded to other areas of Sundarbans as well as a number of backward villages of other districts.

QUESTIONS
  1. ‘Successful implementation of projects of this kind need marketing approach’—Examine whether such approach is followed in case of this project?
  2. ‘The key success factors are cost recovery and sustainability’—Appraise the project based on the two criteria.