Sustainable Economic and Educational Development Society
Illumination efficiency of fuel-based lights (such as kerosene lanterns) has
been observed to be >100 times lower than the solid-state WLED lights. Evan
Mills of Lawrence Berkeley Lab argues that "Coupled with inexpensive
diffusers or optics, today’s best WLEDs deliver 10 to 100 times as much
light to a task as do traditional fuel-based lanterns... Users of kerosene
lighting pay 150-times more per unit of useful energy services than do those
in electrified homes with compact fluorescent lamps. We estimate that
fuel-based lighting is responsible for annual energy consumption of 77
billion liters of fuel worldwide at a cost of $38 billion/year or $77 per
household. This equates to 1.3 million barrels of oil per day, on a par with
the total production of Indonesia, Libya, or Quatar, or half that of prewar
Iraq...Used 4 hours a day, a single kerosene lantern emits over 100 kg of
the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year...In
aggregate, the fuel-based lighting costs the world's poor $38 billion each
year, plus ~190 megatons of CO2 emissions, the most important greenhouse
gas...Thanks to dramatic improvements in the efficiency of white
light-emitting diodes (WLEDs), it has become possible to create compact,
highly affordable, rugged, and cost-effective illumination systems powered
with small solar panels and rechargeable "AA" batteries.
There are about 300
sunny days in a year in India which receives solar energy equivalent to over
5000 trillion KWhr/year, which is far more than the total energy consumption of
the country. This translates to a daily average incident solar energy from 4 -7
KWhr/m2 depending upon the location.
The average annual amount of kerosene used per
Lantern (4 hours working) in India is 200 litres estimated to cost Rs.4000/-.
Srigopal Mohanty brings a proposal for WLED lighting in Orissa after hearing
by Mamata Misra:
With internet search, I found this 79-page stanford report at
http://ses-1.stanford.edu/reports/india.pdf that has a business plan and
recommendations for social entreprenuership for a LTUW-India business. It
was produced as part of a course taught at Stanford. It is very detailed and
may answer some of the questions and provide contacts to explore further.
It has consumer surveys and feedback such as whether they liked the product
better than their usual lighting after two days of use and why, how many
hours a day they are likely to use it, for what purpose they use it, how
much they would be willing to pay for it, etc. According to this report
written in 2003, a family of 7 spends 4 litres of kerosene per month which
costs Rs.9 per litre if subsidized and Rs.20 per litre in open market. The
study said that if a family spends about Rs. 92 per month in kerosene it
would break even in one year by switching to WLED.
Prof Irvine-Halliday may know
if a business component LTUW-India
of the LUTW org has been implemented and exists in India and if so which
Indian suppliers and manufacturers it works with. Interestingly, Orissa was
one of the four target states in this business plan. The following
manufacturers were identified as potential partners for this business, with
required capabilities such as circuitboard assembly, PIC microprocessor
programming, plastic housing manufacture, component housing assembly,
packaging and distribution.
Jabil Circuit Ltd.
Eveready Industries India
Tata BP Solar
As for components the study mentions
that LTUW-India will get majority of components from local Indian suppliers
and ship them to the manufacturers for assembly. Asian suppliers Nichia and
Jia Wei Solar are mentioned for WLED and Solar Panels.
The report also recommends the role
of the government in building a market, discusses marketing and distribution
strategy, and risks.
I think that reading this paper may
give SEEDS project proposal writers food for thought about the details of
the project and identifying the roles and boundaries of SEEDS, LUTW-India
(if such a business entity separate from the nonprofit LUTW exists), LUTW
org, the local NGOs identified by SEEDS who would manage distribute the
product and training in a particular region, and the end user.
Of course, the LUTW website has
instructions on what elements a project proposal must include.
Capture by Lalu Mansinha:
SEEDS=Sustainable Education and Economic Development Society
WLED=White Light Emitting Diode.
LUTW=Light Up The World Foundation, at Univ. of Calgary, in Calgary, Alberta,
Canada. Details about LUTW can be found at
LUTW and Prof Dave Irvine-Halliday was featured in an article in Reader's Digest
(Canada English Edition ) in July 2004. The article may have appeared in other
international editions of the Reader's Digest.
Each basic WLED light system consists of 1 Solar Panel, 1 rechargeable battery,
2 of 1.5W lamps, mounted in housing, and some protective electronic circuitry.
This kit costs USD100 from LUTW. LUTW in turn ships it from
suppliers/manufacturers in various countries, including Japan, US Korea, Sri
1. Types of WLED.
WLEDs used by LUTW are of two types: the 0.1Watt and the 1.5Watt
It is possible to make a lamp with a single 1.5W WLED, or with 15 0.1W WLED.
I have seen both types. The advantage of the 15 0.1W WLEDs is that one can
switch on all, or switch on only 3 to provide a low level light for the whole
night (termed a night light). This night light version has proven popular with
mothers with small children in Sri Lanka.
2. Type and amount of light
Please remember that the LUTW WLED system is NOT designed to replace the bright
fluoroscent and incandescent lights in homes with electric supply. Rather it is
a self standing robust rechargeable light system to provide reading and working
lighting for the poorest homes using kerosene lanterns or candles, designed to
last ten years or more.
In his demonstration in the darkened lab, Prof. Irvine-Halliday held the 1.5W
lamp (with a reflector) at a height of 1 meter (3 ft) or so above a table.
Sitting at the table I (and four others) could read by the light. The remainder
of the room was illuminated sufficiently to move around and work at various
All during my childhood and during two years of college I studied with kerosene
lamps. There is no question in my mind that the WLED system is preferable to
the kerosene system of my youth.
3. Why not go for Fluoroscent Lamps, rather than WLED?
The lowest Compact Fluoroscent Light (CFL) bulb is about 9Watts, to produce
light equivalent of a 25Watt incandescent bulb. Thus a single CFL bulb consumes
6 times the power consumed by a 1.5W WLED bulbs. Since the LUTW system consists
of two 1.5W WLED lamps, to power two 9watt CFL bulbs, the Solar panel has to be
12 times larger. The battery has to be 12 times larger. So the system becomes
considerably more expensive. In addition, the rated life of a WLED lamps much
longer than a compact fluoroscent bulb.
4. Why not make the WLED System in Orissa, rather than buy it from LUTW?
Our goal is to start making as much of the WLED system locally as we can. LUTW
encourages local manufacture. Prof. Dave Irvine-Halliday said that a Sri Lanka
NGO started making parts of the lamp after the Tsunami last year. Within a year
they had made thousands of units, and now cannot meet the demand.
It is important to remember that LUTW has now several years of experience in
designing WLED system and installing worldwide. Graduate students and
technicians at the Univ. of Calgary have done research on the components and
overall design for the past ten years or so at the Univ. of Calgary. I met a
graduate student from Mexico working under Prof. Irvine-Halliday. Until we in
Orissa develop the experience and expertise on WLED, we have to depend on the
LUTW knowledge base.
Key points to remember is that in addition to the solar panel, battery and WLED,
electronic circuitry protects both the WLED and the battery. A lead-acid
battery gets damaged (and service life shortened) if the battery is discharged
too much. A protective circuit shuts down the circuit if the battery is drained
WLED lamp is designed for 3volts. To operate from batteries with other voltage,
one needs a solid state stepdown device to drop down the voltage to 3V. A 1.5W
WLED will in fact produce brighter light at voltages of 3.5v and 4v. But if
allowed to operate at higher voltage for the brighter light, the lifetime of the
WLED bulb reduces drastically, from 100,000 hours to something like 50,000
Lead-acid batteries are widely available in India for cars. However, the
batteries used by LUTW are of the type known as 'Sealed Lead-acid battery'. In
this type, the acid is sealed in (I think also in a gel form), and as a result
this type of battery is much safer for a household with young children.
Remember that the poor in Orissa live in very cramped space. An ordinary (as
used in cars) lead-acid battery would pose significant danger because a child
can open the plastic caps and dip a finger into the acid. The acid will burn
the finger, and if splashed, can damage the eye.
5. Some Questions on my mind (If you have the answer please let me know)
a. Availabilty of WLED in India? If so what are the types, suppliers and
b. Are Sealed lead-acid battery available in India? Cost?
c. What is the average amount of kerosene used for a lantern in India, and what
would be the annual cost?
----------------------------- Discussion on 3/3/06 captured by Lalu
WLED White Light Emitting Diodes
LUTW Light Up the World Foundation Calgary, Canada
UICU University of Illinois, Champagne-Urbana Campus
EWB Engineers Without Borders
JITM Jagannath Institute of Technology and Management, Parlakhemundi, Gajapati,
In about two weeks we (or at least I) have gone from almost zero knowledge of
WLED and solar panels lighting systems to a state of excitement as to its
potential for providing cheap off-grid power and light for the poor. It is
also clear that many individuals and groups in India and worldwide are working
towards these goals. Research on WLED is leading to continuous improvement in
performance and lowering of cost.
A few thoughts:
1. LUTW: I had a phone conversation with Kim Veness of LUTW. In the
discussion he said that a major announcement is coming up in April regarding
LUTW projects in India. He hinted that the project will involve manufacture of
WLED lighting systems in India, with a substantial drop in prices. He said it
was "not unthinkable" that we could be involved in some part of assembly. He
has advised me to wait until April.
2. EWB-UICU: This is the University of Illinois group with T. Patrick Walsh.
Dhanada had posted this project. As far as I could see in this report, they are
still at the design and testing phase of a planned (USD20) portable rechargeable
WLED light. JITM is named in the report. I am also glad to know that Dhanada
and others are experimenting with WLED systems at JITM
3. SEEDS role: If one or both LUTW and UICU system prove to be a suitable
product at the right price that fulfils a societal need, SEEDS should take this
up as a major project, particularly in off-grid villages where we have ongoing
projects or we have major contacts. Since this is a hi-tech project, we should
do as much design and assembly as possible, simply to impart some skills and
incomes to SHGs. Since purchase of lighting system would be a major
expenditure for the villagers, we have to think of micro-finance. We should also
think of long term performance guarantees and of servicing.
Many NGOs and individuals are ready to participate. I/we have contacts with
ASRA, UNNAYAN, Purna Dash of ARUPA, S. C. Choudhury, Debasmita Misra (OBI) and
Lalit Mohan Pattnaik (NALCO), and many others.
4. Biogas, Biomass, Pedal, Turbine Power: LUTW has installed a bicycle powered
system in Nepal and possibly a water powered system (I cannot remember the
details). LUTW has also developed designs for a biogas based power system. Also
a biomass reactor that uses wood, not by burning, but by "cooking" the wood in
the bioreactor to generate gas, which powers a generator, Prof. Irvine-Halliday
said. A small quantity of wood in the bioreactor generates enough gas to power
the generator for 6 hours or so. These systems are more suitable for large home
or small factory.
---------------------------- From Purna Dash of Arupanand Ashram
Thanks for the discussion.The
points are as follows.
1. We have deployed lighting
systems as Street Light,Home Light System,Solar Lanterns & Solar Power
Plants.SLS consist of 2nos of 37 watt Modules,1no.of 12-volt 75/80AH lead
acid battery,1no 11-wattCFL and 1no. charge controller.Similarly, in Home
light system , 1no.37-w1tt module,1no.12-volt 40 ah lead acid battery &
either 2nos.9-watt CFL or 1no 9-watt CFL and 1no.15-20 watt D.C Fan.Solar
Lantern consist of 1no. 8/10 watt Module,1no.12 volt,7AH sealed lead acid
battery & 1no.5/7 watt CFL.The Powre Plant normally range from 1KW to 10 KW
& panels,Battery banks, Lights, Charge controllers are sized accordingly.We
have totally electrified 90 villages of Chattisgarh state,300 villages of
Orissa & 38 villages of Jharkhand state from 1999 till date.We will be
deploying WLED light package for village homes to substitute Kerosine &
other oils.Our system will consist of 12 volt-3-4watt module,12 volt 4-5AH
sealed lead acid battery,Charge controller unit & 1-2 watt WLED light.
2.The cost of differnt types
ofSolar panels are(smaller capacity)
3.The price quoted for Lead acid
battery is not a flat rate.Maintainancefree
( sealed) Lead acid batteries of
smaller capacity as
Volt,4AH---12V,7AH---12V,9AH--12V,12AH are normally available.The cost of
EXCIDE 12 Volt,7AH sealed lead acid battery is Rs.500/-
> This looks quite promising.. Thanks.
> 1. Have you already deployed some lighting systems?
> If so where and when? What's your experience?
> 2. What is the cost of a relevantly spec'ed solar
> panel ?
> 3. Your price quote for the lead-acid battery is not
> a flat price, is it? So which wattage you have in
> mind for the Rs. 500 cost?
> Priyadarsan Patra
Earlier mail 3/1/2006: LIGHT FOR ORISSA VILLAGES
We are fascinated to know about the
development of WLED Technology by
LUTW. The Technolgy is a boon for the rural village poor.We ARUPA
MISSION RESEARCH FOUNDATION, is a leading charitable,non-profit making
Non-Government Organisation of Orissa State.Founded by Dr.Swami
Arupananda, Ph.D.,D.Sc., the mission is working in the field of Health,
Education,Sanitation,Environment etc. for the rural and downtroden
people of orissa.The mission is also working in Renewable Energy Sector
for remote village electrification and other Research and Development
works. The full scheme can be viewed through
It is a pleasure for us to know that Dave
Irvine Halliday and his
wife are visiting India during Mid.April 2006.We welcome and invite
them to Orissa to be our guests. During their stay we will arrange
training programmes, discussions and interactions with various sectors
in WLED technology.We have got eminent and highly experienced engineers
with us working in the field of Renewable Energy,specially in
Photo-Voltaic sector.The WLED concept has been in-corporated in Solar
Torchs,Solar Path Finders,Solar charge controllers etc. Solar Panels
from 3 watt to 150 watts are available with us.Similarly sealed Lead
Acid Batteries from 5AH to 700AH are available with us.We are
propagating CFL Bulbs and WLED Bulbs for light purpose. The scheme is
propagated as SOLAR LANTERNS.As desired by Lalu mansinha of SEEDS,the
informations are as follows,
1. WLED upto 1 watt is readily available in India, being imported.It
costs approx. Rs.250/-.
2. Sealed Lead Acid Batteries are readily available in India as well
as Orissa which costs Rs.500/-.
3. The average annual amount of kerosene used for Lantern (4 hours
working) in India is 200 litres which costs Rs.4000/-.
---------------- Dhanada reports --------------------------
Peter Bakos reported two days ago the sighting of a
LED torch light in the nearby villege, which has a
dynamically charged battery - costs Rs.35/- apparently
in the local Paralakhemundi market.
We are getting some WLEDs from Chennai to fool around
with. One Dr. Krishnamurthy who visited us a week ago
has promised to send us some individual LEDs and also
an assembled light consisting of many that can be used
--------------------------- Birendra Mishra had
this to say -------------------------------------
There has been a lot of discussion on
providing light to the. I have quite some experience and I think I should
share it with all.
Lead Acid: I used to purchase about 250 65-amp hour batteries a year in the
UAE for 11 years. I have a little experience from India. They typically hold
about 600 watts when new at loads of 35 watts per hour (will hold 800 watts
at discharge rates of 10 watts). This rating rapidly depreciates with each
cycle and with temperature. That is batteries last longer in winter and
shorter in summer.
No battery lasted longer than 1.5 years when used out doors. However,
batteries used indoors lasted much longer.
Standard lead acid batteries are supposed to have a life of about 1750 to
2000 cycles if they are charged at 70% utilisation. This means if the drain
from a 65-ampere hour battery doesn’t exceed 350 watts it should give a life
of about 1750 cycles. In other words towards the end of the cycle it will
hold only about 200 watts of useful power. I tried that and measured
capacities and I must conclude that in a hot climate like the UAE it will be
too much to expect a life of 1000 cycles.
However, I must observe they last much longer at Toronto and standard auto
batteries are guaranteed for 72 months plus.
I also kept a record of battery life in automobiles. Maintenance free
batteries (even those that come as OEM on autos like Mercedes and made in
Germany) do not last longer than 2 years.
Nepal and Afghanistan are much colder than Orissa and batteries definitely
will last longer.
Very good make Auto batteries in Orissa do not last three years but even
rebuilt batteries used indoors for emergency lighting last up to 5 years.
Ni-Cd batteries are usually guaranteed for 700 to 1000 cycles but I never
got more than 100 cycles in the UAE.
There is a misnomer in the Ni-Cd field. Battery prices vary by as much as
1:3. a standard “AA” Battery holds 500 mah. Nickel and Cadmium being costly
some manufacturers make them at capacities as low as 100 mah and sell for
Zinc Manganese Alkaline batteries are reusable (not rechargeable) but a need
a different charger than the ones that charge Ni-Cd batteries. If they are
charged beyond 1.65 volts they are likely to leak and fail.
In 1993 I purchased AA alkaline batteries at Bhubaneswar for Rs.18 each so
it is no wonder that they are available for Rs. 30 these days.
After Rayovac tried and failed to patent the process the technology became
popular. Rayovac claimed 25 recharges from full dead and life’s of about
1750 cycles under certain conditions. However, ordinary alkaline batteries
can be successfully reused 10 times over.
A suggestion – pure energy sells rechargeable alkaline batteries and charger
available at most Wall marts. All Alkaline batteries (not Ni-Cd and NiMH)
can be charged with this charger. The trick is charge them before OCV drops
bellow 1.45 volts. This is the situation when most digital cameras take
unusually longer to revive for the second shot or may turn on and off
immediately in cold weather. Look for tale-a-tale evidence of leaks and
discard those that show signs of failure.
In UAE I got them free from work reused once and discarded them, running
toys was not expensive.
So much about batteries and let me share my dynamo experience.
In 1965 summer my brother and me built a small windmill. We took a hard
cover from an exercise book and made the blades. Screwed it on to our
bicycle dynamo. Tied to the window it produced enough to light a torch (2
cell) bulb I watt capacity and most evenings it blew the bulb. This was at
Delta Colony Nimapara. So what is the need to run a bicycle?
In most coastal areas a ceiling fan (42 inch) coupled to a little larger
diameter rotor at about 4 metres height can comfortably generate about 15-20
watts of energy for most part of the day. These fans of good make cost
around Rs. 1000 in 2001.
Having said all that Rural Electrification started in India in the 70’s and
by 1987 I noticed an energized electric pole at the 12 family hamlet of
Bereda Padar in interior Phulbani. Most villages have electrical supply.
To wire a typical rural poor house consisting of a small cowshed at the
entrance, two rooms and a kitchen behind it present costs would be about
3000 material, 1000 electricians labour, 750 or so for the meter, about 250
or so for the paper work and the security deposit. Adds up to about Rs.
When I was in India prior to 1989 I knew that people could not afford the
wiring so in the coastal regions they used a hook to put a light and play
card. Some people even used heaters with a hook. After privatization it must
have become next to impossible to use a hook. People in slums have problem
with titles and so they may refused a connection even if they can afford it.
The government was committed to provide electricity to the rural poor in
1970’s and today it definitely is in a better position to subsidise
electrification. After all Manmohan Singh’s government came to power with a
promise to develop the rural poor.
Now Nepal and Afghanistan are not in a position to think of rural
electrification but India has done it. We want to help the poor have a light
through NGO’s. And we want to aid up to $100 per family with a system that
will provide much less illumination and will require regular maintenance.
What about helping them wire and energize their home?Besides an energized
home (with metered supply) will light of his neighbours home on either side.
After all a significant component electrical material is copper. Most copper
in India is imported fetching the government about Rs. 40 per kg of copper
by way of custom duty. Calculate all the duties and sales tax the tax
component on Rs. 3000 worth electrical material is about Rs. 400. The labour
cost of Rs. 1000 creates rural employment. There is no reason why the
government should not be expected to play its part. After all in reality the
government is going to spend nothing. Besides this will usher economic
Why not we think rationally rather than copying what is being done in
A group of us have
been discussing the approaches and feasibilities of LED-based lighting for the
rural poor at essentially- unsubsidized rates. The benefits are many including
longer-life, environment- friendly, negligible health-safety hazards. There is
likely to be future increase in scarcity and price of oil-based kerosene while,
in contrast, solar and IC technologies are likely to "technologically scale"
ever better for the consumer.
However, there are both methodological as well as technological
challenges in introducing a new technology, that too at an economically- viable
way: a full-fledged wled-based solar lantern for mass use by rural poor. We hope
to report the essence of our discussions in several weeks.
But, at present, let me draw your attention to three relevant external reports
1) We had earlier reported
LED-LIGHTING PROPOSAL WINS AT DEVELOPMENT MARKETPLACE (Global
DM2006) AWARDS COMPETITION" .
We have gotten in touch with THRIVE, but they don't have any specs or details to
share yet. They have won a World Bank grant of about $175,000. More at
2) There is
an interesting report on a new, yet kerosene based, technology developed in
nariphaltan. virtualave. net/lantern. htm
3) This last report is based on
compact-florescent lamp technology which won Ashden award. This report also
tells us how their system was introduced.
2005 FIRST PRIZE ASHDEN AWARD FOR
Summary of the Award-winning work
NEST is a private company based in Hyderabad, India, which was
set up to develop a very small solar lantern, the 'Aishwarya®', as a safe
substitute for the kerosene wick lamp. Over 65,000 lanterns have been produced
and distributed during the past five years.
It is estimated that in India alone, about 100 million
households use kerosene wick lamps as their main source of light. Such lamps
produce poor quality light and unhealthy fumes, and present a serious fire risk
particularly when used in thatched homes. Fluorescent lamps with batteries
recharged using solar photovoltaics (PV), can provide much better quality and
safer light, but the cost of such a lantern can be prohibitive.
NEST have brought down this cost, by making a PV lantern which
is small and light-weight, with strict attention to quality of manufacture. By
working closely with a network of dealers and sub-dealers, through whom they
provide credit, spares and support, they have enabled very poor people in the
most remote villages to buy PV lanterns without subsidies. Over 75% of the
Aishwarya lanterns produced by NEST have been sold in this way, throughout the
states of Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra.
The Ashden judges commended NEST for developing an attractive
and high-quality lantern specifically for the poorest households, and setting up
a financial and service structure which enables such households to purchase
without subsidy and receive proper after-sales support. These achievements were
made possible by effective management within NEST and their active links with
subcontractors and their dealership network
The Award-winning organisation
NEST (Noble Energy Solar Technologies Ltd) is a private company
which was set up by the current Managing Director, Mr DT Barki, in 1998. Mr
Barki had previously followed a successful career in the PV industry in India
but, having seen a baby die in a house fire caused by a kerosene lamp when he
was a child, he had a longstanding wish to use his expertise to eliminate the
need for kerosene lamps in poor households. The lantern design and manufacturing
systems were developed over a period of three years, and commercial production
started in 2001. Production has grown steadily from a total of 2001-02 to a
current production of over 5,000 per month. NEST is managed by a board of
directors, and currently employs fifteen people at its office and workshop in
Secunderabad. A dedicated solar module manufacturing plant in Bangalore runs
with about 7 employees. The annual turnover in 2004-5 was about £0.25 million,
mostly (about 85%) from the sale of Aishwarya PV lanterns.
Contact: DT Barki, NEST, India
NEST set out to develop a PV-powered lantern of a similar size
to a simple kerosene lamp. It is lightweight so that it can easily be carried
even by children, affordable by the poorest households who have no other
alternative but kerosene and attractive as a consumer product. They designed the
lantern to allow for easy replacement of key parts, rather than repair.
The basic components of the lantern are common to all PV
lighting systems: a PV module to supply the electrical power, a rechargeable
battery for energy storage, a lamp and an electronic controller. NEST chose to
use 3 W high-efficiency compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), which produce about 60
lumens of light output - five times as much as a kerosene lamp. This small size
CFL is manufactured specially for them, by Osram. NEST make the polycrystalline
PV modules at their own factory in Bangalore, using 3 Wp modules to provide for
3 to 4 hours of light per night. The PV module is mounted with an angled bracket
on the roof or outside wall of a house, and plugged into the lantern to charge
it during the day. The lead-acid battery (rated 4 Ah at 6 V) is the heaviest
part of the lantern and is therefore mounted in the base to give stability. The
lantern base also has a socket to power a small fan or radio if desired. NEST
design their own electronic controllers, and purchase the components for them to
ensure quality, but outsource the manufacture to a small electronics business in
Hyderabad. Manufacture of the plastic housing is outsourced to another small
The lanterns are assembled at the NEST workshop in Secunderabad.
Rigorous attention is paid to quality, with checks on all individual components
and on the finished lanterns. The lantern is packed as a single item in a box,
so that it can be sold like any other consumer product. The name 'Aishwarya®' is
that of an Indian Miss World, and was chosen to emphasise both the intelligence
and aesthetic appeal of the lantern! In Sanskrit 'Aishwarya' means 'fortune'.
NEST are fully aware that people would like access to
electricity for more than lighting, and they also produce larger PV lanterns
(for street vendors and street lighting) and solar-home systems.
There are many ongoing developments in the global markets for PV
and lighting products, and NEST are keenly aware of these. One global concern is
the shortage of silicon which is the main material for making PV cells and
modules. NEST are taking part in joint ventures to process silicon, and also to
produce amorphous silicon PV modules which require much less silicon than their
current multicrystalline modules. NEST has already signed a Memorandum of
Understanding with a Japanese silicon company to work jointly on breakthrough
poly-silicon technology to overcome the silicon feedstock problem the world is
facing today. Light-emitting- diodes (LEDs) are increasingly used for small
scale lighting, and NEST are keeping a watching brief on this technology to
judge when it might be more appropriate than CFLs.
How users pay
NEST specifically intended the Aishwarya to be sold as an
unsubsidised, commercial product in very remote, poor villages, and about 75% of
their production to date has been sold in this way. In order to achieve this,
they have established a network of dealers based in small towns. Dealers are
independent businesses, sometimes selling other good or services as well as
lanterns, and are provided with training, stock, spare parts and support by the
NEST head office. Each dealer recruits a number of sub-dealers who work on
commission at village level. Dealerships vary in size, but typically sell
between 500 and 1000 lanterns per year.
Most customers cannot afford the purchase price of about 1,500
rupees (£19) for an Aishwarya lamp, but are able to buy on credit from the
dealers. Typically they will be asked to pay 200 rupees per month for 8 months,
or 100 rupees per month for 16 months. NEST will sometimes reduce their own
profit in order to allow the dealers to give free credit, but this is the only
form of subsidy offered. Because the sub-dealers know their individual
customers, they are able to collect regular payments, even from people who do
not have a formal address. Customers often need to extend their repayment
period, but the overall track record of repayment is very good, with only about
3-4% defaulting on payments.
A kerosene wick lamp used in a home for 3 hours per night would
burn about 7 litres of kerosene per month, at a cost of 10 rupees per litre,
with government subsidy. But kerosene is seldom available at this subsidised
rate to the poor; they often buy it at a very high black market rate of around
20-25 rupees per litre or 70 rupees per month. Thus the lamp pays for itself
from savings on kerosene in less than two years. After that the cost of
replacement batteries and CFLs is only 200 rupees every 3 years (see below) and
the lantern should last for more than ten years as the designed life of solar
panels is 25 years.
Some lanterns have been bought and distributed by NGOs in social
programmes. They have also been given away in promotions and high-profile
events, for instance as prizes to high-achieving school students, in order to
emphasise the value of good quality light. NEST have provided PV street lights
for some government programmes, and have also donated them to some of the slum
communities around Hyderabad. Within this thriving, modern city there are still
many people without access to the benefits of electricity.
Training, quality management and support
The dealership network which provides an effective route for
sales is also crucial for training, replacement parts, after-sales service and
Sub-dealers have to make sure that each user knows they must
recharge their lantern every day, otherwise it will not provide the intended 3
to 4 hours of light each evening. It is an advantage for sub-dealers to recruit
a number of customers in a given village, so that several people can share
experience of using lanterns.
Each dealer is provided with a full set of spare components.
Sub-dealers carry a few spare controllers, batteries and CFLs which can be
swapped in if needed during the one year guarantee period. In practice there is
little need for this, but it is important that people have the confidence that
their lantern will go on working.
The overall experience is that very few lanterns give problems,
and when they do it is usually because the battery has not been regularly
charged. The lifetime of the battery is typically 3 years if it is used
carefully (about 1000 daily cycles of discharge and recharge) after which it is
exchanged by the NEST dealer at a cost of about 150 rupees. The CFLs have a
similar lifetime and are replaced at a cost of about 60 rupees. Both CFLs and
batteries are returned to their manufacturers for recycling.
Benefits and replicability
The reason for developing the Aishwarya lantern was to avoid the
dangers of kerosene wick lamps. The continuous problem of kerosene is the
inhalation of fumes, and eye irritation, but the risk of lamps being knocked
over and setting fire to homes is very real. Aishwarya lanterns avoid all these
Poor villagers often go without light at night if they run out
of kerosene or simply cannot afford it. There are great benefits to having the
Aishwarya lantern available whenever it is needed, particularly for urgent
matters like delivering babies or dealing with accidents. Villagers told the
visiting Ashden judge that they really appreciated being able to see the food
that they were eating, and not end up eating bugs! They also enjoyed the
increased security from having light around the village, and felt that it
deterred wild pigs and other animals.
The light from an Aishwarya lamp is about five times brighter
than a single kerosene lamp, with better spectral quality, and it is therefore
much better for reading, thus enabling children to study in the evenings. Some
people have also been able to carry out income-generating work in the evenings.
Most lamps provide the sole source of light to a family of typically five people
- sometimes two families share one Aishwarya - so the 40,000 sold in poor
villages are benefiting over 200,000 people on a daily basis.
Combustion of kerosene in a wick lamp is very inefficient at
producing light, and emits significant amounts of carbon dioxide. A single wick
lamp which burns 80 litres of kerosene produces about 250 kg of carbon dioxide
per year, which is avoided by using the Aishwarya.
NEST has generated employment for a growing number of people.
There are currently 15 direct employees (12 men and 3 women) at their head
office and workshop in Hyderabad, and 7 at their factory in Bangalore. There are
also about 50 dealers, 5 of whom are women, working full or part-time selling
Aishwarya lanterns, and each of these provides part-time employment for around
five or ten sub-dealers. The small businesses which manufacture charge
controllers and plastic parts work exclusively for NEST and employ a further 60
Aishwarya lanterns are popular: new orders come from villages
where people already own them. There is a huge potential for widespread sales,
in India and beyond. In India alone there are 100 million families using
kerosene wick lamps. The publicity from the Ashden Awards produced worldwide
interest in the Aishwarya lantern, and NEST currently have enquiries from over
40 countries for Aishwarya solar lamps.
Management, finance and partnerships
NEST was established as a profit-making business with a very
clear social focus, and this is evident in the day-to-day operation of the
business, and in the commitment of the staff - many of whom have been with NEST
since it started.
NEST works very effectively with other businesses, including the
suppliers of outsourced components. The dealership network, with the detailed
local knowledge that it provides, has been crucial in enabling the lanterns to
be sold successfully in really remote areas. NEST have been able to motivate
their dealers to follow their approach of providing a high quality product and
service to poor people, while at the same time allowing the dealers to function
as independent businesses.
NEST works with a number of NGOs who supply lanterns for social
programmes. They have also worked with affluent non-resident villagers and
non-resident Indians, to promote lanterns in their native regions.
Most of finance for NEST has been on a straight commercial
basis, through private investors and banks. A loan from Winrock International
underpinned the rapid expansion of the business in 2004.