Technology, finance to fuel Asian energy hopes

Hong Kong, October 8:

The marriage of innovative technology and financing have led to a spread of energy efficient projects that are improving the quality of life for some of the poorest people across Asia.

From solar energy to hydropower and biogas, sustainable energy projects are transforming lifestyles across the region, with much of the impetus and creativity coming from the grassroots as people tire of waiting for their governments to meet commitments to provide for their burgeoning power needs.

Change has been coming for more than a decade and the results are now clear to see. While experts say the biggest reductions in carbon emissions are still to be found by cleaning up fossil fuel power plants, it is alternative and sustainable sou-rces of energy that are winning plaudits from people with greatest need and the attention of those organisations that can provide financial and technical support.

In 1994 SELCO, then a non-profit volunteer group, set out with the modest target of supplying 100 of the poorest homes in southern India with electricity sourced from small solar units.

After little more than a decade, during which it weathered many a financial storm, the Bangalore-based firm is now a fully commercial enterprise that has installed around 80,000

solar systems in rural areas, providing electricity to more than 300,000 people. Its 2006-07 revenue was $3 million.

“We realised that to continue as a voluntary group would be difficult, that going commercial was necessary for us to be sustainable,” said Thomas Pullenkav, vice-president of SELCO. Pullenkav says around 70 per cent of his customers are poor farmers with the remainder made up of landless labourers and street hawkers, many living below the poverty line.