Mera Gao Power is one small enterprises that is really making a difference in its community. Their target market are the small villages of Uttar Pradesh, one of the poorest states in India.
Vast areas of UP are not electrified and the only source of light after dark is from kerosene lamps. These lamps cause respiratory problems and are a fire hazard. The company serves those villages that are off-grid by coming up with microgrid designs to meet specific needs.
Mera Gao Power’s low energy design involves four solar panels for each system – these supply a village of 100 households with light as well as mobile charging. Banks of four batteries are used to store up to two days of power and these are also installed near the panels. Power is distributed to the households from the batteries.
Earlier this year, The Guardian reported that: “Each household that signs up to their service receives two LED lights and one mobile-charging point in their home at a cost of 25 rupees (£0.301) per week. The setup cost is an additional one-off payment of 40 rupees (£0.48).”
Although the payments are small, the company hopes to get back their investment in each microgrid system within 18 months. This is a projected ROI of almost 15% over three years. The two founders of the company, Nikhil Jaisinghani and Brian Shaad, have been constantly tweaking their business model to keep it both simple and cost effective. By 2016, they plan to electrify 100,000 households. This would equate to installing systems in 50 villages during this year alone, over the next five years it would require installations in nearly 2,000 villages.
Currently they are funded by USAid but they will require more funding if they are to meet their targets. The World Resources Institute estimates that India’s off-grid energy market will total $2bn a year and clean tech is one of the fastest growing areas. By focusing on one of the least developed states, the duo may be on to something. With the basic necessity of lights and mobile phone charging points installed, the field is wide open for further innovations to improve agricultural systems, pumps, and access to safe drinking water.
Electricity in rural areas definitely improves quality of life – children are able to study for longer, adults are able to earn additional income and the lack of kerosene smoke reduces indoor air pollution. If all this is achieved with renewable energy, then its a win-win.
Image Credit: MGP Solar Panels. Mera Gao Power ©