Many non-governmental organizations also seek to address the problem of energy poverty in rural India. These groups tend to be small and have only a small budget with which to work, but they can still be effective. The basic materials required for a turn-key electrical project in a remote village are things like batteries, solar panels, lamps and wiring, which are easy to scale down to fit the budget constraints of these organizations while providing basic electrical services. Thus NGOs that address rural electrification can have success albeit in a limited scope. While there are numerous NGOs that are involved in this issue, they have very similar advantages and disadvantages so this paper will examine one as an archetype.
Project Light Up the World is a Canadian NGO that partners “with poor and underserved communities that have identified the need for economical and sustainable light and energy solutions” (lutw.org). They do this by providing turn-key solutions to the communities, generally in the form of a system of solar panels, LED lights and batteries. Their vision is for the 1.6 billion people worldwide without electricity and lighting to have “access to affordable, safe, healthy and environmentally sustainable lighting and energy solutions” (lutw.org). Light up the World works around the world, and since 2003 has given power to roughly 110 homes in several villages in India, benefiting over 700 people. They have also provided an Indian schoolhouse with low wattage lamps.
Light up the World functions mainly off of donations and volunteer work although they make some money through hosting training seminars and selling the lighting systems they design at a significantly discounted price. In 2007, their sales and training seminars accounted for $35,673 but 77% of their revenue came from donations (LUTW Annual Report). The reliance of this and other NGOs on donations grants them little control of their future enterprises. NGOs may receive financing from individuals, foundations, governments or corporations, which enables them to form quickly to solve pointed problems, but as their revenue source is not guaranteed, they also may collapse quickly.
While their efforts are commendable, they are lilliputian in comparison to the scope of the problem. They lack the finances and institutional infrastructure to build on the scale necessary to make a significant impact on the situation in India. However their small size does allow them greater flexibility so they may seek out more creative and risk solutions. For example, utilizing the not-yet-proven generating technology of free-flow hydropower in the Brahmaputra River in Assam could provide energy for local villages without disrupting the fragile ecosystem. The technology is still in the demonstration phase, but theoretically small NGOs like Light up the World could decide to take the risk that the Government of India would not, and be a first adapter.
"Annual Report 2008." Light Up The World. Web 20 Nov. 2009
"India: Light Up The World." Home: Light Up The World. Web.
20 Nov. 2009. <http://www.lutw.org/india>.