''"Artificial lighting (electric lighting) is essential to move beyond subsistence."
Ashok Gadgil''

Having developed a loan product to finance solar lighting, VANWODS has combined its efforts with VANREPA’s ‘Lighting Vanuatu’ program providing thousands of rural Vanuatu households with improved lighting.

Over the past year or so, a new range of low-cost, small, battery-charged devices – for lighting and mobile phone charging – has appeared on the market, including in Vanuatu. Commercial retail prices in Vanuatu are variously US$20-100, depending on product type.

Compared to conventional solar ‘home systems’, these have multiple advantages. They are:
  • much cheaper (US$100 for 2-3 lights compared to US$800-1,000 for a ‘two light’ solar home system)
  • lighter (often portable, hence known as ‘lanterns’)
  • require no expert installation, and almost no maintenance
  • their light source – Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) – have a much longer life than the conventional light sources (bulbs, tubes, etc.).

These products are described as Pico-solar, ‘pico’ meaning very small. They usually consist of a solar panel and a combination LED (Light Emitting Diode) light and in-built battery. These small systems are compact, robust, affordable, and are ideal for rural environments. The advantages of Picosolar systems are:
  • Affordable (minimal upfront costs)
  • No ongoing costs (except replacement of in-built batteries)
  • For lighting, pico-solar outperforms all other rural options
  • Simple installation that can be done by owner with no training
  • No user training is required
  • Close to zero maintenance
  • They are light and can easily be returned to Vila for repairs
  • They are individually owned and cared for
  • No community organization is needed to run it , collect fees or carry out maintenance.

Indeed, these new battery products are expected to radically change the market for ‘off-grid household lighting’ and also for solar PV (photovoltaic) products. Off-grid ‘basic electric lighting’ is now available at an ‘entry level’ cost (one light) that is within the affordability range of an average offgrid household with monthly kerosene expenditures of US$5-30 typical for Vanuatu (thus entailing simple payback periods of a few months to a year, depending on the product chosen).

For all Vanuatu people living half the day in darkness – whether they live outside the concession areas or within; arguably, even for those with grid connections who want a portable lighting and phone-charging alternative – these products offer the promise of a rapid and radical transformation. In fact, the cost benefit of LED lighting promises to transform the mains (grid) electrical lighting market as well, making on-grid lighting more affordable. Lighting Vanuatu is a dream that CAN be realized.

Thanks to a partnership between VANWODS (Vanuatu’s premier micro-finance institution), VANREPA (Vanuatu Renewable Energy and Power Association) and Green Power
(VANREPA’s “trading arm”) thousands of rural Vanuatu households are enjoying solar-powered electric lighting this holiday season.

It is widely recognized that microfinance institutions are a vital step toward sustainable development and the eradication of poverty. Microfinance institutions, also called MFIs, provide financial services to underserved individuals and communities.

VANWODS members, mostly women, have long been frustrated over the high price of kerosene and the poor light that kerosene produces. The VANWODS members also want their children to have lights that they can use for reading and night-time study. As a result, VANWODS leadership resolved to develop a loan product to finance solar lighting. As it turns out, while VANWODS was developing its new loan product for solar lighting (called Homelight) VANREPA/Green Power was planning its ‘Lighting Vanuatu’ program. The objective of Lighting Vanuatu is the removal of barriers to a rapid transition from kerosene based lighting to solarcharged, LED lighting in rural Vanuatu.

Further information

Individuals and/or organizations interested in ‘Lighting Vanuatu’ and/ or helping to spread it to other Pacific Island Countries are encouraged to contact David Stein, Team Leader of VANREPA/Green Power by email at: solarsolutions at vanuatu.com.vu

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