Saturday, March 10, 2007

Micro-Finance & Solar Lighting

This idea has been jumping in my head for some time now. I wanted to make sure my idea was viable before I posted it. But I can't hold it back anymore. Here goes....

Many of you might have already heard of the delightfully cool An idea that is so simple and yet so powerful. It brings together the power of Internet and micro-finance to change lives all over the world. I am proud to say that I am a loaner!

Kiva is currently finalizing its micro-finance field partnerships in India. I believe they are looking at SKS India and GrameenKoota. As soon as the Reserve Bank of India clearance comes through, we will start seeing entrepreneurs from India listed on the site. It could be as early as end of March/ beginning of April 2007.

I have mentioned SuryaBijlee before. Alumni from Indian Institute of Technology are behind it. They are a Non-Profit trust and their mission is to bring affordable solar lighting to rural homes. They use the latest Amorphous Silicion technologies for their arrays and ultra efficient LED for lighting. SuryaBijlee depends entirely on donations for new installations. A little from their website...
For the millions of villagers, life comes to a grinding halt at sunset — with no electricity, there is no light, so no ability to work or study or play. Having spent the major part of the day in the fields, the villagers can do little in the darkness. There is no light for children to study or for any family entertainment.
India has over 140 Million Rural Homes. Out of this some 87 Million still burn kerosene for lighting. Each family consumes between 100-150 liters of kerosene per annum.Each liter of kerosene generates 2.6 kgs of Carbon Dioxide. Annually, this is over 22 million tons of pollution
So here is my idea... bring together Kiva, SuryaBijlee and carbon offset providers like TerraPass together. A single home lighting system costs about 60$. Kiva lenders fund the project. SuryaBijlee executes the project and does the necessary installations. The villagers repay it over a period of time. If we can get TerraPass to fund a part of the project, the repayment amount can be cut by that much. Would make it even more affordable and attractive.

Jasjeet Singh from SuryaBijlee is on board. I am yet to hear back from Sheel Mohnot, Kiva's SouthAsian Partnership Manager. I will pitch this idea to folks at TerraPass also.

What say you? Make any sense ?

PS: South Africa is already doing something similar. As per their calculations, families can afford to repay the loans over 1 year from money saved not having to buy candles and paraffin.


Tom said...

I'm interested in learning more.

Can you link us up with the right people at Kiva and Suryabijlee? I know Premal at Kiva from a long time ago, but have lost track.

Tom Arnold
CEO, TerraPass said...

Hey! It's Sheel - great ideas - see my email - I think it's doable but the Reserve Bank of India rules might make it difficult. Let's chat soon.

Jacob Winiecki said...

Hey. I came across your site very randomly through my daily google alert for "microfinance energy." I am a consultant with Sustainable Energy Solutions based in New Jersey. We have been working in the energy-microfinance nexus for the past three years and recently held a workshop with 60 participants from the energy and microfiance sectors in Ahmedabad, India funded by Citi Foundation. I think there are some interesting lessons that I could share with you and would love to hear more about your ideas. Some other examples in addition to Grameen Shakti you could look at are: Solar Electric Light Company ( has been active in this area for many years now - about 70,000 solar systems so far - and partners with SEWA Bank. Other examples of energy-MFI partnerships include SEEDS in Sri Lanka, CARD Bank in Philippines, NUBL in Nepal (biogas), Faulu Kenya and KUSCCO in Kenya, FINCA Uganda (Solar and LPG). There is also some emerging partnerships with E+Co energy enterprises engaged with small savings cooperatives. We recently published three papers through the SEEP Network on energy-microfinance examples in Asia, Africa, and Latin America which I am more than willing to share with you. Please feel free to contact me anytime at Our website is (a bit outdated).

It is great to see the energy-microfinance linkage moving forward!

Anonymous said...

Check out D.light Design,; they're exploring financing options for their affordable solar lights in India, one of which is discussed on the blog:

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