LaBL programme opens up business avenues for solar firms

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The Energy and Resources Institute’s (TERI) initiative—Lighting a billion lives (LaBL)—has started gaining ground. The campaign launched in 2008 has not only illuminated hundreds of lives already, but has also opened up business avenues. The implementation of LaBL has been made possible with the help of 45 grassroots partners in different states and 30 technology and development partners for manufacturing solar lanterns and setting up charging stations.

By Sandhya Malhotra

Saturday, September 18, 2010: “We are partnering with various solar based companies to develop technology, products and implement the project as per our solar charging station designs. To cover India and the world, we need hundreds of partners. Moreover, we are looking for partnership with battery companies as well and are in talks with three manufacturers. Our main criteria is quality, reliability, provision of post sales service, and meeting set performance specifications of LaBL,” says Kunal Nagpal, programme manager, LaBL.

Commenting on the process of selecting technology and development partners, Nagpal says, “We require expression of interest, including capabilities statement, product information sheet, test reports, and manufacturing and quality capabilities. Lanterns will also be certified by our own testing lab as per LaBL specifications.”

Scope for solar companies

Technology partners such as Philips Electronics, Nichia (Japan), Texas Instruments, STMicroelectronics are working closely with manufacturers like Crompton Greaves, Halonix Ltd, Moser Baer, Reliance Industries, Tata BP Solar, Amara Raja, Regnant Lighting, Sujana Energy, Kripa Lights, Avni Energy, BNK Energy Alternatives, Agni Power, MIC Electronics, Gautam Polymers , Solid Solar, Ritika Systems, etc, for developing and customising LED based solar lanterns.

Says Shubhra Mohanka, director, marketing, Gautam Polymers, “We have already supplied more than 20,000 LED and CFL based solar lanterns to LaBL. This year we are renewing our contract. Besides supplying lanterns, we will also apply for installation and implementation of the project in Bihar, UP, J&K and Rajasthan.”  Business has also opened up for the battery players. Sunil Bhatnagar, director, marketing, Artheon Electronics Ltd, says, “We will supply our solar battery for this campaign. This project would give impetus to the growth of the solar battery industry.”

Challenges

The manufacturers, however, face some challenges. Says Mohanka, “Although this project has immense business potential, but on the flip side, as per new guidelines, supplying an lantern at Rs 995 with all configuration is quite a challenge for us. This way, we have to compromise on our margins.”

As part of LaBL programme, solar lanterns provided to villages where access to electricity is absent or minimal, have been custom designed and will now cost less. Earlier, a lantern used to cost Rs 2,200-3,000. With the new technology, it will cost around Rs 995-1,600.

LaBL is being implemented in nine villages in the Raigad district of Maharashtra, and the programme will be further implemented in 12 more villages in Amravati and Ahmednagar districts. Says Nagpal, “The programme aims at bringing down the cost, while enhancing the performance of the lamps and to replace kerosene and paraffin lanterns with solar lighting devices.”

This programme will be partly funded under the government scheme—Stand alone solar PV power plant.

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

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