“Dark” situation in rural India and “light” solution through solar energy were discussed at the solar energy expo, which took place in Delhi since Thursday.

Held on the sidelines of the Delhi Sustainable Development Summit, about 34 participants at the expo were displaying a wide range of solar-based energy appliances, including lanterns of various shapes and sizes.

The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) of India which took upon itself to light up one billion lives around the globe, including India, Indonesia, Cambodia and Africa.

About 1.5 billion population of the world is without electricity, according to an estimate. And a quarter of it resides in India. They either use wood or kerosene oil to light their houses and for cooking purposes — affecting their health, environment and the climate adversely.

With more than half of its territory located in tropical or semi-tropical zones, India is endowed with abundant solar energy which can be fully tapped for sustainable future.

Therefore, TERI has been involved in providing solar lanterns and setting up solar recharge stations in inaccessible and least developed areas.

“It doesn’t look like that in the next 10 to 20 years these places will have any access to electricity, because of their difficult tough geographical condition,” said Smita Marcus, a research associate with the TERI’s project of Light A Billion Lives.

The project first started with lighting 200 households in Kakdeep block of Sunderbans in India’s eastern state of West Bengal in 2008 and later moved to other states.

“So far, we have covered 9,000 households in 200 villages of 12 Indian states, “said Marcus.

After selecting a village, TERI sets up a solar recharge station at the house of a entrepreneur who is given lanterns to be rented out to villagers at a nominal cost of two to three rupees ( 0.04 to 0.06 U.S. dollar) per night.

“Each family gets a lantern which lasts about four hours. After using it at night the lantern has to be returned to the entrepreneur each day for recharging,” says Marcus.

This would help the entrepreneur to earn about 3,000 rupees (60 U.S. dollars) a month on top of traditional earning sources. The entrepreneur in turns safeguards the recharging stations and repairs technical faults, if need be, and regularly recharges, all the lanterns.

Freeplay was another exhibitor which showcased its solar power- based lamps, torches, mobile phone chargers.

The company which manufactures these items targets the rural audience. These Freeplay items are available between the ranges of 500 (10 U.S. dollars) and 600 (12 U.S. dollars).

“Apart from villagers, our main customers are non-government organizations which buy lanterns to be distributed to the needy people,” said D.K. Kapoor, Sales Officer, Freeplay.

Among other corporate houses, Philips was also present at the expo to showcase its solar lamps and eco-friendly stoves.

With these products, the company wants to capture the rural market.

“About 70 percent of our population lives in rural areas. If you want to reach them, you will have to cater to them. We identified their needs and came up with these products,” said Pawan Deep Singh, Senior Manager, Consumer Marketing (Rural) Strategy and Business Development, Philips.

Singh believes the company products will become popular over time.

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