The Honduran subsidiary of a U.S. solar company has reached a milestone of 2,000 customers in rural areas of the Central American country.CHELMSFORD, Massachusetts (US) 2002-02-13 [SolarAccess.com] Soluz Honduras, a majority-owned subsidiary of Soluz Inc. of Chelmsford-MA, expanded its base of fee-for-service customers for solar PV energy in January, reaching a total customer base of 2,000. The growth of customers has triggered the release of additional disbursements from three investors. The Solar Investment Fund, Corporacion Financiera Ambiental and the International Finance Corporation have released an additional US$332,000 in debt and equity, with final disbursements to total $1 million, say Soluz officials. Release of the monies was contingent on continued commitment to customer service, and the rural energy delivery operation has maintained monthly collection rates in excess of 90 percent. “Over the last six months, Soluz Honduras has achieved a 50 percent growth in PV fee-for-service customers, steadily building a solid revenue stream toward profitability,” says Soluz president Richard Hansen. “Our Soluz Honduras team has demonstrated its ability to expand operations even during the economic slowdown using Soluz’s robust business model.” He estimates that 2,000 customers means that 10,000 rural residents have access to PV electricity. The investments from the three partners will allow the scaling-up of unsubsidized solar energy to be delivered to 2,500 fee-for-service customers over the next year, he adds. Expansion and profitability over the next few years will position Soluz to establish large-scale operations that can serve up to 50,000 customers and to benefit 250,000 people of Hondura’s total unserved population of three million. “The progress continues,” explains Soluz chairman Robert Pratt. “These latest achievements help prove that the Soluz business model for rural energy delivery with distributed micropower is really working.” Pratt is former CEO and founder of Energia Global International, a major renewable energy company in Central America. Other investors in Soluz Honduras include Gaia Kapital of Germany, Swiss Reinsurance, EPS Finanz of Switzerland, and E&Co of the U.S. In addition to owning Soluz Honduras, Soluz is majority owner of Soluz Dominicana, a company that has served rural areas of the Dominican Republic with solar energy since 1995. Combined, the two operations have 5,000 rural PV customers, 70 of which are on a fee-for-service option. Under that service, individual customers pay set monthly fees to rent PV system packages for lighting, television, rural telephones and miscellaneous income-generating activities. Soluz develops and operates energy delivery companies using distributed micropower in off-grid markets of developing countries. The company was formed in 1993 to develop the commercial potential of PV technology in developing countries. Its subsidiary in the Dominican Republic was launched in 1995 and in 1998 in Honduras. Last year, the company was recognized by the Solar Electric Industries Association with an ‘Award for Solar Program Achievement’ for its solar venture.