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Govt mulls solar lantern subsidy

For the 2.6 crore of the poorest Indian households without an electric connection, there could be “solar powered” light at end of their tunnel, writes Samiran Saha.

business Updated: Nov 07, 2008 00:08 IST
Samiran Saha

For the 2.6 crore of the poorest Indian households without an electric connection, there could be “solar powered” light at end of their tunnel – and the government could save a big packet on polluting kerosene and a subsidy that rides with it.

A high-powered panel headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is examining a proposal to use part of its Rs 34,000 crore kerosene subsidy to procure otherwise expensive solar lanterns for below-poverty-line households and to whom conventional energy is difficult to transport.

As per market estimates India has about 3.85 lakh solar lanterns in use. Each lantern on an average can be used be for more than six hours after a full day’s charge. It could save about 100 litres of kerosene each year.

The Energy Coordination Committee headed by Singh in a recent meeting discussed a proposal to use 10 per cent of the kerosene subsidy bill to buy these lanterns and distribute it directly to poor households.

Solar lanterns are currently priced between Rs 750 to Rs 3,500 per lantern and the industry is bullish about India.

“There are eight crore people who do not have access to electricity in the country and there is a big hole in the market for affordable lanterns,” said Sam Goldman, Chief Executive of D.Light, a US-based solar lantern manufacturing company.

Germany-based Manz Automation is already executing three projects in India in the field of solar energy.

“With soaring fuel prices, there is a need to switch to alternate sources of energy in India,” president and CEO of the company Dieter Manz said.