Demand for solar lanterns not acknowledged

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As oil prices continue to climb, consumers have started to look elsewhere for their energy needs. This has led power companies to seek out cheaper, alternative means of energy, too. Renewable energy is fast emerging as a cheaper and more environment friendly option. Moreover, in India, 60 per cent of power is generated through nonrenewable resources like coal, which produces copi­ous amounts of carbon dioxide, racing us closer to global warming by the day.

By Rutaksha Rawat

Wednesday, August 19, 2009: The demand for solar products has been rising rapidly over recent years, es­pecially in rural areas and is expected to continue growing substantially. According to the Indian Solar Energy Market Outlook 2012, the total number of solar lanterns in India is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of approxi­mately 40 per cent from 2009-2012.

Saur Oorja Solutions Pvt Ltd, a manufacturer of solar energy equipment, produces 10,000 solar lanterns a year. The company caters these lanterns to Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, northeast states and Haryana and also exports to Zambia, Bangladesh, Singapore and Zimbabwe. Commenting on the latent potential of solar lanterns in India, D K Varshnei, director, Saur Oorja, says, “If marketed properly, 100,000 solar lanterns can be sold in a year in India. The demand is huge but it has not been acknowledged yet.”

Sensing the immense potential and the impending success of solar energy, Powertronix Systems Pvt Ltd, too, like many others, has joined the solar energy bandwagon. It produces solar products currently and plans to manufacture pho­tovoltaic cells in the near future. “We have tied up with Reliance for our SPV modules and purchase our batteries from Exide, Quanta and Amco,” reveals Ramesh S, chairman & founder, Powertronix. Ramesh feels the government should play a vital role in promoting the usage of solar lanterns and also help in manufacturing them to meet the demand.

Govt’s help needed

However, the solar domain is still not con­sidered as viable as the power generation sector because of the capital expenditure (CAPEX) required. India has subsidised Rs 280,000 million for kerosene in order to provide below poverty line (BPL) families with kerosene lamps in the rural sector. “Were the government to allot this sum of money to solar power, it would do the the BPL families a greater service by providing solar lanterns to them,” feels Ramesh. This would improve the economy and help in reduction of carbon genera­tion in the country, in turn retarding the global warming process.

Urjaghar Power Solutions manufac­tures 3,000-4,000 solar lanterns a year. The company’s annual revenue from lan­terns alone totals to Rs 2.5-3 million. “The government can encourage manufacture of solar energy by offering subsidy on solar panels and distributing solar lanterns in rural villages, where electricity is still a faraway fantasy. Villages don’t have elec­trical cables for transmission lines but they do have ample sunshine. Hence, installing solar panels in rural areas will not only help spur sales for manufacturers but also, it would drastically transform the lives of our countrymen,” points out Abhishek Singh, project manager, Urjaghar.

“The government is not encourag­ing solar lanterns and is clingling to old fashioned CFL ones. It needs to subsidise solar panels, which are instrumental to the manufacture of solar lanterns. The fate of solar energy depends on Dr Farooq Abdullah, the Union Minister of New and Renewable Energy. Currently, the government is encouraging mainly the big players to manufacture solar products in India but it would be more prudent to incite small scale industries (SSIs) into the same as they have lesser overheads and slimmer profit margins,” concludes Varshnei.

Electronics Bazaar, South Asia’s No.1 Electronics B2B magazine

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