Authored by: Usha Ganesh
Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared in the November 2011 edition of Searchlight South Asia, a monthly newsletter created by Intellecap for The Rockefeller Foundation to report trends in urban poverty around the South Asia region. The project started in September 2009 as way to highlight on-the-ground urban issues and initiatives in Bangladesh, India and Pakistan. Through the research and content presented on education, water and sanitation, health, energy and infrastructure, the newsletter seeks to raise awareness and inspire ideas to action. NextBillion is proud to feature one article each month from Searchlight.
For the electricity-starved in India, solar energy has really not been an option. Even for the urban middle class-a social class several layers removed from the base of the pyramid-solar power is perceived to be expensive. On the other side, solar energy providers struggle to sell their innovative products, mostly because of the initial capital load and the lack of awareness, even though the Indian government has attempted to popularize this off-grid solution. Despite these myriad challenges and misconceptions, SELCO, a social enterprise traditionally focused on providing solar energy to the rural underserved, has launched a new urban model in India.
The initiative has managed to solar electrify a set of slum-dwelling households in Bangalore with the key ingredients for scaling up. The initiative’s early success has been less about the feat of solar electrification in slums, which is not insubstantial, and more about creating a ripple effect for its social impact.