Stop Subsidy for PV in Developing Countries, says Consultant

Very little solar PV power is used in developing countries, despite the fact that the technology is ideal for small power loads, according to the manager of a large renewable energy consulting firm in Britain.

OTTAWA, Ontario, CA, 2001-10-17 [] “Rural transformation is the new buzzword used by international aid agencies” such as the World Bank, Bernard McNeilis of IT Power told a recent International Energy Agency meeting in Ottawa. The use of solar photovoltaics and wind can alleviate poverty in developing countries, as well as provide refrigeration for vaccines, water pumping, electricity for hospitals and telecommunications, and battery charging. The potential for household electrification is high because the average daily loads in developing regions typically are less than 1 kWh, he explains. Developed nations must stop donating PV panels because equipment donations without cost recovery can destroy the markets, he adds. PV has been “demo-ed to death,” and he is involved with an IEA task that promotes solar electricity and it is trying to encourage the installation of PV systems where the consumer has a vested interest in marking it work. The cost of PV modules in a home represents 30 percent of system cost, says his colleague Jonathan Bates. Batteries are 22 percent, lights are 13 percent and installation represents 11 per cent of the cost. In a school, by comparison, the panels are 31 percent of the cost, installation is 22 percent, management costs are 16 percent, there is a 15 percent contingency, and the usual TV-VCR represent 9 percent of an average installed cost of Euro 15,000. A load that is 20 km from the utility grid will justify almost any renewable energy system, he says, but the solar industry still battles the perception that PV is not real because there are no wires. The workshop examined the capability of Canadian companies to participate in the market for PV in development countries. IT Power is providing technical assistance to the installation of PV systems in 1,000 schools in remote regions of South Africa. The 880 kW of capacity is funded by the European Union and is part of a 1995 initiative to supply non-grid electricity to 16,400 schools in remote parts of the country. The systems will provide electric lighting for four classrooms in each school, as well as power for audio-visual teaching aids.

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