The first wave of rural community and small-scale home solar PV systems often left prospective beneficiaries dissatisfied, and without the reliable, affordable access to electricity promised. That has changed dramatically over the course of recent years, and off-grid, mobile pay-go solar energy solutions are a big reason why.
In 2015, Spain’s ACCIONA Microenergia Foundation launched a rural electricity service in the department of Loreto, in Peru’s Amazon. Following up with a customer satisfaction survey just recently, the foundation reported customers were totally satisfied with the Luz en Casa Amazonia Pilot Project’s innovative sustainable energy service.
Co-funded by Peru’s National Fund of Scientific, Technological and Technological Development (FONDECYT), pilot project partners evaluated customer satisfaction with third-generation, off-grid mobile pay-as-you-go (PAYG-3GSHS) solar energy access in four communities in Loreto’s Napo district. The program adopts an "innovative sustainable energy and development model" based on multi-stakeholder engagement and participation involving end users and local authorities (as well as ACCIONA Microenergia Foundation and FONDECYT.)
Solar 3G mobile pay-go in the Amazon
The two mobile PAYG 3GSHS pilot partners offered off-grid, mobile pay-go home solar systems to local residents, who pay them for them making small, affordable payments via a mobile telecoms e-payment service.
As the project partners highlight: the home solar kits come with solar photovoltaic (PV) panels, a connected, smart controller/meter, wiring, three LED lamps and connections for mobile phone charging. A 12V battery and DC-AC inverter rounds out the package. Additional, compatible devices, information, advice, and repair services are provided at a store, Centro Luz en Casa, in the community center.
Surveying the 61 Napo households a few months subsequent to the installastion of the off-grid, PAYG-3GSHS service, ACCIONA Microenergia Foundation and FONDECYT found that 100 percent of the families said they were either satisfied or very satisfied with it.
Digging a bit deeper, they found that:
- 100 percent said it was easy to use,
- 88 percent said it was easy to install,
- 88 percent found the prepayment system easy to use,
- 98 percent said they were saving money on electricity on a monthly basis, and
- 100 percent said they thought the service was good and they would recommend it to others.
The off-grid, mobile PAYG home solar energy systems provide customers with an average six hours of electricity per day. According to the survey results, the main uses are:
- lighting for study – 67%,
- lighting for work – 43%,
- lighting while preparing meals – 21%.
In addition, 79 percent of families said they have stopped using alternatives that pose greater human and environmental threats, such as torches. Thirty percent said they had given up using oil lamps and 25 percent had given up using candles.
Eliminating health threats and risks
Anecdotally, survey report authors noted other positive community impacts. Among these were having more time to take on other activities, such as children’s education and adult training, that could result in improved lives, livelihoods and living conditions.
Besides eliminating sources of damaging smoke, project partners service and collect used batteries, conferring a significant human health and environmental benefit to the community, as does the elimination of carbon emissions and environmental degradation that resulted from diesel power generation.
As ACCIONA Microenergia Foundation points out that the means and ends support and follow through on global, UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), more specifically:
- SDG 7 – Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all, and
- SDG 10 – Reduce inequality within and among countries.
*Images credit: ACCIONA Microeergia Foundation