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Energizing Vanuatu and the Pacific


									              Energizing Vanuatu and the Pacific

Vanuatu is an archipelago nation of 243,000 people (Vanuatu National Statistics
Office, 2009) and 83 islands stretching out over the South Pacific Ocean in
Melanesia. More than two-thirds of the population lives in rural areas where
small-scale and subsistence agriculture predominates.

With no electricity grid outside of urban and peri-urban areas, the domestic
energy supply for the vast majority of rural households is limited to kerosene for
lanterns, disposable dry-cell batteries for flashlights, and wood for cooking.

Vanuatu Renewable Energy and Power Association (VANREPA) is an NGO
based in Port Vila, Vanuatu. Its primary objectives are to promote and deliver
renewable energy solutions to development needs. It was legally established in
Vanuatu in 2003.

Green Power is VANREPA‟s „trading arm.‟ It is a social entrepreneurship. It
distributes renewable energy goods to the Vanuatu population. It registered as a
business in Vanuatu in 2008. Green Power participated in the Global Social
Benefits Incubator (GSBI) in 2008.

While rural electrification has the potential to improve many, if not most, sectors
of life, electrification is a very complex issue. It requires:
     - Difficult, often expensive, financial decisions.
     - Complex engineering solutions.
     - Many management/maintenance/ownership issues that must be dealt
Electrifying Vanuatu may not be an attainable goal, at least in the near term.

A Way Forward

However, by segmenting the “improved energy services” market, we have been
able to improve energy services while avoiding the problems mentioned above.

Portable lighting and mobile phone charging is the segment that we are dealing
with first, as it is the most universally needed. For lighting and phone charging,
we have found that pico-solar (very small solar systems, < 5 watts) is a solution
that outperforms all other options. The advantages of pico-solar are:
    - Affordable (minimal upfront costs)
    - No ongoing costs (except replacement batteries)
    - Simple installation that can be done by owner with no training
    - No user training is required
   -   Close to zero maintenance required
   -   Light-weight, can easily be sent for repairs
   -   They are individually owned & cared for
   -   No community organization needed to run it , collect fees or carry out

Through supply chain innovations we have been able to distribute many pico-
solar lighting and phone charging systems to many people very quickly. We
have provided more than 9,000 pico-solar lighting and mobile phone charging
systems since we began this initiative in mid-December, 2009.

An Overview of the Market

Vanuatu‟s rural population is estimated to be about 35,000 households. Almost
all of them rely on kerosene for their lighting needs. Studies have shown that
access to safe, clean lighting is the most urgent priority for households which do
not have access to electricity. Households relying on kerosene lighting typically
spend between $12 and $18 on kerosene monthly, and are therefore literally
„burning their money‟.

Also, they know that burning kerosene yields a very low quality light, burning
kerosene has potential health risks (mostly regarding exposure to indoor air
pollution), burning kerosene is a fire hazard, and burning kerosene gives off
Green House Gas emissions. As a result, these people are highly motivated to
change the way they spend their energy budget.

Further, we have been raising awareness that:
  “Artificial lighting (electric lighting) is essential to move beyond subsistence.”

Benefits of electric lighting include:
   Extends the productive workday
   Conserves foreign exchange
   Reduces cost
   Improves/enables evening study
   Improves literacy
   Stems urban migration
   Reduces greenhouse gas emissions through a reduction in fossil fuel use
   Reduces disposable battery waste.
   Enables 24 hour health care
   Improves indoor air quality
   Reduces fire hazards
In fact, lighting is a primary determinant of the quality of life.
One More Thing…

The economic argument alone is compelling. In Vanuatu there are about 35,000
rural households. Each household spends between USD 12 and USD 18 per
month for kerosene. Plus, most pay a minimum of USD 1./week for mobile
phone charging. On the average, that is more than USD 16/household/month.
That is more than USD 6 million/year. If we can facilitate a transition to solar
charged, LED lighting and solar powered phone charging in the rural areas and
reduce energy expenditures to USD 5.00/week (mostly replacement battery
costs, additional appliances, etc.) the money saved will be greater than 4 million
dollars. That, of course, is equivalent to a greater than 4 million dollar injection in
the rural economy. That is huge!

Our Distribution Partners

VANWODS is our primary distribution partner. VANWODS, an MFI, is able to
offer end-user financing for this project. They also have a very strong word of
mouth network. In the two months between mid-December and mid-February
VANWODS moved more than 3,000 units through their network.

Vanuatu is a Christian country. Most people are affiliated with a church and
church activities are a regular part of many peoples‟ lives.
As a result, the Presbyterian Church, which has a very strong presence in the
Central Islands, has recently started distributing our products. This has proven to
be very effective. Therefore, we will seek to establish similar relationships with
other Churches, such as Anglican, Catholic, and Seventh Day Adventist,
throughout the country.

The Department of Provincial Affairs is eager to promote us and our products.
They plan to do this through their support to the 78 Area Councils throughout

Peace Corps and other volunteers (such as AYAD, Australia and VSA, New
Zealand) have proven to be highly effective at marketing our products.

We also have an effective poster campaign. Our posters have reached most
islands of Vanuatu. Largely, they have been distributed by Peace Corps and
other volunteers, educators, the Department of Provincial Affairs, and

We are continually working to expand and upgrade our distribution network.

While there is still more work to do to fully “Light Vanuatu,” We hope to expand
within the region in two ways: we plan to extend our reach; that is, work in other
Pacific Island Countries such as Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Fiji,
Tonga, Kiribati, and Samoa. The need seems greatest in Melanesia (Papua New
Guinea and The Solomon Islands) because many of the Polynesian countries
have relatively high rates of electrification. That fact not withstanding, we are
currently working with a group from Fiji and another from Samoa to introduce
these products in those countries.

We also plan to expand our scope; that is, work in other segments of the
“improved energy services market” such as improved cooking stoves, fixed
household lighting systems, street lighting/outdoor lighting/campus-courtyard
lighting, refrigeration/freezing/ice making, and energy efficient IT and
entertainment products. We will probably not dive (at least very deeply) into all of
the segments listed here.

Some other “segments” of the “improved energy services market” that we have
started to look at.

Cooking Energy

One of the things that we are looking at is a Solar Steam Cooker. The only fuel
this uses is sunshine and there are no emissions. The advantage of this type of
solar cooking as compared to other methods of solar cooking is that with this
method the cook does not need to be standing outside in the hot sun! We have
also started testing some improved wood burning cook stoves designed by the
Aprovecho Research Center and sold by StoveTec. We find that the StoveTec
stoves are first rate! This is not that surprising as they are the result of many
years of research by the Aprovecho Research Center. These stoves, and the
organization that designed them and the company that produces them, won an
Ashden Award in 2009,

Small, fixed solar electric systems

We are experimenting with a couple of small Solar Home Systems that utilize
Lithium iron phosphate, LiFePO4 or LIP, batteries with very good results. This
kind of battery seems to tolerate being completely discharged with minimal or no
ill effects. The smaller system is able to run 2 x 1 watt LED lights and charge
mobile phones. It uses a 6 watt solar panel and a 2.5 Amp-Hour battery. The
larger system is able to run 3 x 1 watt LED lights, 1 x 3 watt LED light, charge
mobile phones, and run a small TV/DVD player. Both are quite affordable and
seem quite robust. These too, are being very well received.
Street lighting/outdoor lighting/campus-courtyard lighting

The U.S. Millennium Challenge Account is funding a paved road around the main
island (Efate) of Vanuatu. These works will contribute to expand infrastructure
and accelerate development on the island, helping facilitate connections between
Port Vila, the capital, and villages around Efate. While mobility on this island will
be improved, a rise in accidents is also to be expected, especially at night, due to
the lack of illumination.

This presents an opportunity to demonstrate Solar powered Street Lighting. This
could prove to provide for safer nighttime driving conditions, reduced number of
casualties due to traffic accidents, and an overall safer and more secure
nighttime environment. And it can do all of this without access to mains power,
which is absent nearly everywhere in Vanuatu. Even where mains power exists,
Solar Street Lighting appears to be much more cost effective than utility
connected street lighting.

Solar Water Pumping

While lighting and other electric appliances are convenient and can drastically
improve the quality of life, access to drinking water is essential for life. There is
probably a huge market for this technology in the region, once people are aware
of it.

Where to from here?

We would like to:

   o Continue “Lighting Vanuatu.”
   o Expand our lighting initiative to the Solomon Islands. With the change of
     government in the Solomon Islands, it seems that the time is right to
     expand our Lighting initiative to the Solomon Islands. This is exciting to
     contemplate as the population of the Solomon Islands is more than twice
     that of Vanuatu!
   o Begin selling improved cook stoves in Vanuatu
   o Continue testing the small Solar Home Systems mentioned above.

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