Thanks to the falling cost of solar panels, off-grid solar energy is on the rise in many parts of the developing world. The same goes for Nepal, where Gham Power is leading the pack.
In recent months we have seen a number of serious investments in off-grid solar energy companies in Africa and Asia. India-based Husk Power Systems received a 20 million dollar investment from Shell, Engie and Swedfund. Kenyan M-KOPA attracted 80 million US dollar from Triodos Investment Management, FMO and Norfund amongst others. And SolarNow, which is based in The Netherlands but active in East-Africa, received a 9 million dollar investment from, again, Shell. It is safe to say that off-grid solar power has seriously taken off – and investors clearly do not want to miss the boat.
Mobile money payments
Here in Nepal, Gham Power has been on the forefront of this development for a number of years. The Kathmandu-based solar energy company has already developed several solar-powered microgrids in rural areas and is running these facilities successfully. Its clients pay-as-they-go which is possible because Gham is using an innovative mobile money payment system. This allows the company to monitor and control electricity provision remotely and make collecting payments very efficient while significantly reducing costs.
Company in the making
After cycling with Gham Power's General Manager Anjal Niraula around the Annapurna circuit and studying off-grid opportunities in Nepal, a number of private investors from the Netherlands committed to establish a new company: Nepal Renewable Energy (NRE). This clean energy utility company will work closely together with Gham Power and will be supported by One to Watch. The new company will initially focus on setting up solar microgrids along trekking trails where many tourists visit. This will give NRE more certainty with regard to electricity demand. Indeed, hotels and restaurants are expected to use more electricity to improve their services and generate more income from tourism.
The first solar microgrids that NRE will set up will be installed in three villages along the famous Manaslu trail. As we write this, One to Watch business analyst Sanjay Pokhrel is visiting Manaslu trail together with the people of Gham Power in order to prepare the first grids and engage with the local communities. At the One to Watch office in Kathmandu, our team is preparing all contracts and documentation that are needed to get the new company off the ground. Nepal Renewable Energy is expected to be launched this spring.