It’s hard to imagine a better application of solar photovoltaic technology than to bring electricity to remote areas of developing countries. In an effort to do just that in rural South Africa, Shell International Renewables Limited has partnered with South Africa’s national electricity supplier to develop a “plug and play” system. The system was designed so that individual components cannot be used with any other device, and a prepaid token or magnetic card is required. The user pays an installation charge and monthly fee. Purchasing the equipment is not an option. This sounds like a bad deal to me, but then that is about what I’d expect from an oil company.
On the other hand, organizations like the Solar Electric Light Fund (SELF) also bring photovoltaic systems to rural users in developing countries. SELF is supported through donations, but also make it possible for users to purchase equipment via a time-payment plan. Additionally, SELF trains locals to be dealers, installers, and troubleshooters. The SELF plan sounds like a much better deal than what Shell is offering. Read about them here: http://www.self.org/.
Read about the Shell plan here: http://www.tve.org/ho/doc.cfm?aid=557