In the 1990’s there was still an enormous demand for electricity in rural areas of south India. At the time over ten million families in the fourth southern states of India were without access to a national power grid. There was also growing demand for Solar Home Systems (SHS) from grid-connected areas to supplement their access to electricity due to significant power outages. Daily power outages of six to ten hours were common in urban areas, while rural communities with access to the traditional grid were prone to suffering blackouts of up to twenty hours per day. As a result, people were reliant upon diesel generators and dry cell battery systems to evade the consequences that come with losing access to electricity.
With the help of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, SELF founded SELCO-India in 1995 in efforts to market, install, and service SHS in southern India. In response to their projects, SELF and SELCO have achieved international recognition as the first company to concentrate on the marketing and servicing of SHS in rural India. Under the management of Director H. Harish Hande, SELCO has installed over 500 SHS by early 1997.
SELCO has been successful by coupling quality products and after-sales service with customer financing. SELCO has worked with several rural banking groups to establish financing programs for interested customers where qualified applicants can borrow money at government subsidized rates for the purchase of SHS. SELCO has also been able to provide SHS financing through low-cost World Bank Funds made available through the PV lending program of the Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency (IREDA). Through the IREDA funds, SELCO has been able to provide SHS financing to members of several farming societies and cooperatives in South and Central Karnataka. In 1997 SELF installed the first SHS to be directly financed by the World Bank’s loan for solar PV under the World Bank/ Global Environment Facility program.
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Since 1990, SELF has completed projects in more than 25 countries and pioneered unique applications of solar power such as for drip irrigation in Benin, health care in Haiti, telemedicine in the Amazon rain forest, online learning in South Africa and microenterprise development in Nigeria.
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