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A survey of solar PV program implementers in Asia and the Pacific regions

Urmee, T. and Harries, D. (2009) A survey of solar PV program implementers in Asia and the Pacific regions. Energy for Sustainable Development, 13 (1). pp. 24-32.

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Numerous renewable energy electrification programs that have been implemented in developing countries over the past decade have met with relatively limited success. Much of the effort that has been invested in attempting to understand the causes of lack of success has focused on the identification of barriers. This narrow focus on only barriers, however, fails to consider other important factors that may contribute to the success or lack of success of programs. An email survey was used to obtain the views of those with responsibility for the implementation of solar PV home system programs in Asia and the Pacific region on their programs. The purpose of the survey was to better understand the factors that implementing agencies consider to be important in the designing and implementation of SHS programs. The survey results indicated that program objectives tend to be couched in very broad and administrative terms rather than in terms of the outcomes for system users, weakening the ability to make meaningful assessments of program success. Although best practice program guidelines were infrequently used, even where program implementers were aware of their existence, even more fundamental problems were found to beset some programs. Adequate funding support and the use of appropriate financing mechanisms were considered to be the most critical factors for program success and a variety of financing mechanisms were used, including micro-credit and a novel mechanism which indicated a maturation of program design. System maintenance and monitoring were considered important by most program implementers, although training was reported to be provided to both technicians and system users in a minority of cases and some program implementers expressed concerns over the timeliness of program monitoring and maintenance where this had been outsourced. Unit system cost varied from US$7.20/Wp to US$14.58/Wp between programs and was determined by factors such as remoteness, number of system program users and reliance on imported equipment. The program outcomes commonly regarded to be achieved were increased gender equity, increased social activities, increased access to information and increased working hours. The majority of program implementers, however, did not regard their programs as having resulted in increased employment or household income. Factors seen as instrumental in limiting program success were lack of adequate government policy and funding support, lack of involvement of local communities in program design, and a lack of in-house technical know-how, and a lack of availability of components in locations proximate to users. The main conclusions from results of the survey are that the reasons behind program success or lack of success are complex, but that program success could be improved in many instances by following best practice guidelines, specifying program objectives in terms of outcomes for users, ensuring that adequate funding and policy support is available and that program implementers have adequate training in program management. The results were used to develop a comprehensive set of criteria that could be applied in the development of future programs.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Engineering and Energy
Publisher: Elsevier BV
Copyright: © 2009 International Energy Initiative
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