Trained Human Resources

Adequate financing and institutional frameworks are necessary, but not sufficient conditions to remove the main barriers for PV rural electrification. Properly trained human resources to develop and operate programs, and to carry out projects, are equally important. PV systems and their implementation in rural areas are frequently looked upon in a very simplistic manner by a number of people. However, disregard for the complexities behind the process has resulted in a large number of failures...

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The fiscal route

Import of PV systems and components seems to be the only way of implementing this option for the foreseeable future in a number of developing countries. In many of them, however, import duties and taxes for electronics and other elements of PV systems are such that the cost of the technology at the user end becomes even higher. Laws and regulations to remove or lower import duties have been implemented in some countries as a way to foster the application of this technology. Such measures, however, are not always appealing, as they are considered detrimental to the government’s fiscal revenue, or more to the benefit of the urban consumer instead of the rural user...

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The social route

Governments can act in several capacities along the social route. Financing the purchase of SHS for poor people is perhaps the most critical one, although consumer protection and market regulation are also of importance. Government financing of SHS is seen by some as an unnecessary nuisance that distorts the market and creates dependence in the users’ minds (users will not buy once the government has provided systems for free, goes the argument). Most critics of government intervention seem to forget that rural electrification has been historically subsidized by governments not only in developing countries, but also in some of the most advanced nations...

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The business route

For those in need of financial assistance, two alternative models are being tested. One focuses on the sale of the PV system (the sales model), the other on the sale of the electricity produced by the system (the service model). Both models have advantages and shortcomings and both involve flows of money beyond the control of the PV user.

In the sales model, the PV system is purchased on credit by the user, who becomes the owner and takes over the responsibility of system maintenance and replacement of parts. Money for the transaction is usually borrowed by the user from a set of different sources, which may include the system supplier, a finance institution, or any other type of credit organization such as a revolving fund or a local micro-finance operation...

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Breaking the initial cost barrier

Consequently, since solar energy, the fuel used by PV systems, is free and systems are, at least the­oretically, low-maintenance and long-lasting, system cost is commonly seen as the main stumbling block for the introduction of photovoltaics. A number of schemes have been tried over the past decade in search of an effective way to remove this barrier...

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Nontechnical Issues Initial cost

It is common knowledge that for a commercial operation to be sustainable in the modern economy, a flow of goods has to be properly matched by a counter-flow of money. Solar rays striking on the roofs of houses are free, but equipment to turn solar energy into electricity, and to transform this electricity into needed services, is not. PV manufacturing companies invest in factories and raw materials, pay wages to their workers and taxes to their governments, and are obliged to deliver revenues to their shareholders. All expenses plus profits essentially set the base price of their products. In a second step, PV components from different companies are transported to specific points for systems integration...

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Technical Barriers

PV systems are claimed to be reliable and long-lasting. This is true and proven insofar as the PV module is concerned, but not every component of the system’s balance has the same degree of technological maturity. In both, stand-alone and hybrid systems, batteries are perhaps the weakest links. Batteries are exposed to overcharging and over-discharging, which usually reduce their useful lifetime. Batteries also demand a fair amount of attention and regular maintenance, albeit relatively simple. However, even the simplest technical tasks may prove to be complicated in rural areas where a high degree of illiteracy and a lack of familiarity with modern technology, and with electricity in particular, is more the rule than the exception...

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Barriers to PV Implementation

For most urban people around the world, electricity comes into their homes just like magic: it is there, instantly and reliably at the touch of the switch. Few individuals make a conscious connection

between their appliances and the electricity pole in the street, so paying their monthly bills is perhaps the closest they get to the electricity business. But even fewer people realize the technical and administrative complexities behind the process of generation, transmission and distribution of electricity that allows factories to run and people to enjoy the benefits of modern services.

Understanding the physical principles that turn primary energy into electricity belongs to a small group of technical elite in the universities, research centers and electric companies...

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