Future-Forward: Innovations for a world that does not yet exist

Solar’s largest potential market? The 1.6 billion worldwide without access to electricity

The solar industry is booming, yet its leaders have completely bypassed their largest potential market: the 1.6 billion people without access to electricity worldwide. I had the pleasure of meeting Michael Eckhart at Solar Power International in LA last week, at a panel on emerging markets with the Alliance for Rural Electrification, SolarWorld, and the American Council for Renewable Energy. When asked about the industry’s ignorance of emerging markets, Eckhart replied, “This is a scandal for our industry”. Less than one percent of global production of solar panels are installed in developing countries, yet the potential markets here could prove to be the world’s largest solar markets by 2020.

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2 comments on “Solar’s largest potential market? The 1.6 billion worldwide without access to electricity

  1. wisewilz
    December 28, 2009

    On the surface of it, this is a good point. However, very specific problems arise when attempting to tap such markets.

    The prime aspect to be dealt with is that those not connected to national grids, and therefore without access to electrciity typically have the lowest buying power on the planet. Also, their absence from national grid connectivity means that the traditional tools with which government exercises electricity policy (subsidization of generation technologies through feed in tariffs etc) are unavailable to promote the introduction of renewable energy technologies to such regions.

    The difficulty of accessing off-grid areas is compounded by the low buying power of populations dwelling in these areas. When, a solar energy company can enjoy substantial regulatory backing for consumer purchase of its products in various Western markets, what incentive does it have to invest in off-grid rural areas of the developing world?

    However, some good entrepeneurial work has been achieved. Sunlabob for instance has developed a working business model that brings electrciity to rural off-grid villages via a system they call the Hybrid Village Grid. They have had to invent a novel finance system for the implementaiton of the technologies and distribution infrastructure, but the business model works. I do not work for Sunlabob though I am impressed by what they appear to have achieved.

  2. Polyethylene :
    October 31, 2010

    to date, solar panels which generate more than 100Watts are still expensive but hopefully they are getting cheaper each day ::

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