| Photo-voltaic applications in rural areas of the developing world |
Recent and dramatic reductions in the costs of photovoltaic (PV) cells have drawn considerable attention to PVs as an answer to important energy problems in poor, rural, and pert-urban areas of the developing world. More affordable and flexibly designed PV systems are finding an increasingly wide market: pumping water for drinking and irrigation; powering telecommunications equipment and household and community appliances such as lights, televisions, and videocassette machines; and running vaccine refrigerators in rural health clinics. Presently, various programs for disseminating PV systems in rural areas for home and community use are being implemented or planned by many governments and international agencies.
The problem is that there is as yet no foolproof recipe for designing a successful PV dissemination program or project. The results of field experiences in several countries have been mixed, and no one can claim to know the answers to the many problems of design, financing, organization, and implementation. For this reason, analytical studies such as the present one serve an important purpose.
The report provides much useful data and information on the technology and its market niche in the developing world. It begins by reviewing PV components and systems, outlining the issues of rural energy and discussing both PVs and conventional rural electrification as potential answers to the problems. The report highlights market niches most appropriate for PVs and reviews the lessons of experience of several PV programs. It concludes with a discussion of the role of governments and funding agencies and how they can best develop and implement PV programs. More than simply providing information, the report gives a planner's perspective on PV systems in relation to rural energy planning. The author has long experience in the renewable energy field not simply as a technologist or economist but as a pragmatic observer of the development agenda, and this report is a frank expression of his perspectives.
The World Bank's Solar Initiative believes that the time has come for many renewable energy systems to be considered seriously in investment projects, not only because of environmental objectives but because of their economic and social merits. With this belief comes the responsibility for ensuring that project designers and planners have the best information on the merits and deficiencies of the prospective technologies. The report, which was partly funded by the Energy Sector Management Assistance Programme (ESMAP), should be viewed as one piece of the puzzle on how best to market PVs; other works now being published provide additional pieces.
Industry and Energy Department