“Failure” – the word usually carries a negative connotation. But for entrepreneurs, policymakers, and NGOs working to provide energy access to people in the “last mile”, failure can actually provide important lessons. Is failure an important ingredient to success?
In this webinar, we’ll gather experts who will talk openly about their experiences with failure from a variety of angles and why failure is actually an important element in successfully delivering energy access to remote communities.
What have they learned from these so-called “failures”? Must one fail to succeed? Most importantly, how can these stories of failure (and success) help remote villages to access energy, education, healthcare, etc.?
Our webinar series is a little different: each expert will speak for less than 10 minutes and will focus on their on-the-ground experience using photos to tell their story.
Webinar 2 | Apr-16 | Learning from Failure in Social Entrepreurship
Thank you for this opportunity to present. The staff of VIA have helped 2 million
people gain access to electricity in the last 15 years, and we would like to share
some of the models and tools we are currently using in projects around the world.
Globally, about 200 million households spend $1/week or $10 billion/year on
kerosene lighting, phone charging and diesel agro-processing services. If
redirected towards renewable alternatives, this is sufficient to bring electricity to all
by 2030. What is needed is investors that believe the poor will pay for this service,
and supply 2-5 year loans.
This shows a brief summary of how staple crops are processed around the world,
usually by women, taking up to 1 hour per day. A mill can often do this job at a
cost of $0.02-0.05 per house, whereas a woman can early 10-20 times more than
this if she makes some handicrafts or other things, so her labour and potential is
being very much under-valued.
VIA is aiming not just to provide solar lighting and phone charging services to
villages like many in the rapidly growing "Access to Energy" industry, but to
provide a larger range of services that. There are two parts to the business - the
projects we build and manage in villages either with our own investors or in
partnership with others (such as Hivos here in Indonesia); and the second part of
the business is a technical advice / consulting service where our tools, products
and services are available to help others who are building similar projects.
If 1 hour per day is saved for each offgrid woman in rural villages, the saving in
manual labour would be as much as the entire workforce of the UK or France.
Other opportunities for saving time include fetching water and firewood
Here are some examples of the manual and solar-powered agricultural processes
that our projects address. Shelling corn manually can be done at about 5-10
kg/hour, but the 500W corn sheller on the right does the same job in less than 5
minutes, at 200 kg/hour
In Sumba, in the late afternoon, the sound of stone pounding of corn into coarse
flour can be heard. One hour of smashing corn kernals one at a time yields 1-2 kg,
enough for one day, while a 750W DC solar mill can process 25-50 kg in one hour
and easily serve a small village of less than 100 households. These villages are
often too small to justify a larger 2-5kW diesel mill, and the cost of transporting
crops to a diesel mill from a small village to a large village is often as costly as the
processing itself, doubling the cost of agro-processing for small villages.
Rice hulling is a good example as well - almost all Sumba villagers take their rice
to a mill for hulling, and pay as much for this transport as the milling cost. A small
local 200-500W solar rice mill that processes 25-50 kg per hour can solve this
problem, and quite cost-effectively.
In Indonesia, Hivos is aiming to make one island, Sumba, 100% renewable in the
next 5-10 years.
Village Infrastructure Angels is contracted to help design and project manage the
Mapping where the poor lack access to electricity is helpful, but IEA data has poor
levels of detail, and completely misses entire regions such as the Pacific (point to
red ? on right of slide)
VIA is the Chair of the Working Group on mapping for the UN Foundation's
Sustainable Energy for All program, and has filled in these data gaps, providing
national and subnational data to help give higher quality data to the market. We
now have 500 GIS map layers uploaded with over 2 million data points
In addition to high level planning, we also developed local mapping tools to
immediately help organizations plan their next project. Low cost mapping of
households from satellite imagery is one example - for $0.10 per household, we
can generate previously unknown data of latitude and longitude of every house in
the region. This is less than 0.1% of the cost of bring them electricity, so a cost-
effective feasibility tool.
These house location points can then be connected together using the least
amount of line length, via a minimum spanning tree algorithm in "R" programming
language, and GIS processing. An example for Central Sumba here shows our
long-term electrification plan for the poorest and least electrified part of the island.
This network design also only costs $0.10/household.
What does "access to energy" mean? It is not just lighting and phone charging and
consumer uses. Daytime uses of energy for the offgrid rural poor are agriculture
focused, so agro-processing mills are a major need (such as hulling rice, grinding
flour and grating cassava or coconut), and refrigeration is also important for health,
while school electrification is also important for education. The International
Energy Agency states 250-500 kWh/year is required, but has not accounted for
advances in energy efficient design, such as white LED lighting and efficient TVs.
VIA believes that this is a significant over-estimate, and "energy access for all" can
be achieved by 2030 for 25-50% of the energy and cost that that the IEA believe is
required, and are building projects to prove this hypothesis.
The current framework to describe "access to energy" is a Tier approach, but this
lacks any reference to community-scale needs like mills and other shared facilities.
So our suggestion is a Tier 2+ model is what "access to energy" should be defined
as, needing about 100-200W per household.
A key focus on Sumba is providing not only solar lights and phone charging
services, but also solar agro-processing mills, to show how solar can provide more
productive uses of energy that currently are provided by diesel in offgrid regions.