How many champions does it take leverage government funding with local financing for solar powering 1497 households in one village?
The Amasbail village in South Karnataka is well on its way to become a 100% solar powered village with the first step of having all street lights running on solar energy and individual homes installing solar powered lighting systems. Amasbail is in Kundapura Taluk in Udupi District of Karnataka State and consists of 1497 households. The visionary leadership of Mr. Kodagi, President of local charitable trust, along with the local panchayat led to the ideation of a solar village: a self-sustaining one. In 2008, SELCO INDIA the social enterprise, had installed solar systems in few of the households. Doorstep service and presence of a local technician led to end users trusting the enterprise. However, this was not sufficient for every households to avail of such systems. The village is a mix of households who belong to all categories of income strata from rich to very poor families. Many households, especially the poor ones, could not afford the system because of lack of access to an affordable financial product. SELCO India along with Shri Kshetra Dharmastala Rural Development Program (SKDRDP) an MFI and a local cooperative bank stepped forward to finance 100% of the cost of the system. The first step of the project, of providing sustainable energy to all households, was to initiate a common vision among all the stakeholders: village panchayat, individual households and a local village trust. The partnership of SELCO, the Village panchayat and the local trust (Amasbail Trust) was the most critical alliance for the implementation of the project: all having equal stakes in the success of the project. Under the leadership of the partnership meetings, discussions and informal gatherings were held on financial aspects of the project and potential contributions respectively from Government and individual households. For better implementation of the project a “Solar Implementation Committee” was created that had members from the community, the panchayat and the trust. The committee became the advisory body that was responsible for the complete planning and execution of the project. A proposal, to convert the village into a self-sustainable village, was written in 2012 by the committee in consultation with SELCO. The proposal described the energy savings, carbon impact, savings per month etc. It also dived into negatives of energy poverty, need for reliability and role of solar energy in employment creation, education etc. The proposal for powering the village of Amasbail with solar lighting systems was submitted to MNRE and KREDL in 2012. Repeated follow up by the alliance helped the project to come to fruition in 2016. To avoid the long waiting period, many households (over 300) came forward and purchased solar by availing financing from local financial institutions (Phase 0 of the implementation). Availability of door-step finance enabled these families to afford a solar lighting system for their households. In addition, more than 20 institutions, like temples and schools, in the village also installed solar for their utilization. Once the Government funds were allocated the Phase 1, and consequently the other phases, of the project began. This was for households who first come forward with their contribution to get their respective loans processed. The local financial institutions provided 50% of the cost of the system in the form of financing while the remaining 50 % was contributed via MNRE and KREDL funding. The final phase of the project focused on the most vulnerable households and institutions. Most share of the government allocation was earmarked for them. In Amasbail currently 1497 houses have solar power – every single household installed with 4 light and mobile charging system. Hence the Answer to How many champions does it take to leverage government funding for solar powering 1497 households in one village, is – Five: A village panchayat committed to making sustainability as the topmost priority A local village trust that works in the interest for the local community A committed enterprise with a strong after sales service network A rural bank and a micro-finance institution that has the risk appetite to finance remote systems. End Users who believed in long term sustainable solutions for their power needs.