Piconergy Private Limited strives to facilitate the supply of clean, affordable and reliable energy to underserved households and micro-enterprises in urban and rural India. The company has designed and developed HELIOS, a cost-effective, solar energy-powered home lighting and mobile charging solution. According to owners Bhushan Trivedi and Harpreet Singh Tibb, HELIOS aims to eliminate the dependency of financially poor households on inefficient and expensive light sources such as candles and kerosene lamps.
Priced at Rs 2,500, HELIOS comprises a 5 W solar panel, a battery pack, three LED lights (2 W each) and a mobile charging point. The product has been designed keeping in mind the requirement of the targeted consumers, who live in energy-deficit areas. With cell phones increasingly becoming a necessity, giving customers the option of using solar power for charging their cell phones, besides lighting up their homes, is a great value addition by the company. In addition, Piconergy has now developed a solar energy-powered fan system and is working on developing other products relevant for its target audience.
The company sells these systems through its distribution and non-governmental organisation (NGO) partners. Currently, it does not follow any financing model and the customers pay 100 per cent of the solar lighting system charges upfront.
Piconergy faces the challenge of convincing people about the benefits of solar energy, as the segment is still nascent and its long-term advantages are yet to be assessed properly. In addition, given that most of the company’s target customers are not financially well off, financing remains one of the biggest challenges as the put-down prices are high and most of the customers are looking for easy payment options to buy the system. Piconergy is working to find solutions to this challenge by tying up with microfinancing institutions.
“Going forward, Piconergy, through its Agents of CARE programme, intends to partner with local NGOs and leverage their networks to train the local women and youth on solar product manufacturing, sales and service,” says Tibb. This could lead to significant improvements in the lives of rural people suffering from no or intermittent energy access, in addition to creating local jobs and building capacity. Piconergy is also going to launch energy products of higher capacities, which can run fans, laptops, etc., in early 2018.
With residential rooftop, it has become possible for home owners to set up their own small-scale rooftop solar plants, thus unlocking huge potential for the country. Tibb notes that installations can be done overnight as they do not involve acquiring land, displacing people or arranging for large-scale funds for infrastructure development. The small-scale solar segment is in need of more companies like Piconergy for encouraging the use of distributed energy applications.