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Solar energy offers opportunities for SMEs in developing countries

CSR

“Solar energy is easily accessible, scalable, and usually financially attractive, of course considering the ecological benefits,” said PUM expert Martijn Schootstra at a PUM seminar on solar energy in developing countries on Thursday, April 11 in The Hague.

Martijn showed a photo of a portable solar-powered water pump that people can take with them and only costs € 650. This can be used for irrigation and for drinking water. This requires no battery and a contains a five-year warranty (www.practica.org). Martijn has used his experience for PUM projects in Mali and Colombia.

At the seminar, the participants could admire other interesting applications of solar energy. Victor Meeussen, another PUM expert, showed how he had created a solar-powered light with only €3 in parts. A light like that does not have to cost more than €5, and it offers numerous possibilities for children to do their homework in countries where there is little electricity.

“Whether solar energy is attractive for SMEs in a certain country depends mainly on the electricity price in that country and whether there is a reliable electricity grid. In countries such as South Africa and Suriname, the price per kWh is between five and ten cents. In this case, it is not profitable. However, if the prices are higher and the company uses a lot of electricity, solar energy is an interesting option. Certainly if a generator is used that runs on expensive diesel,” says Frans van der Loo, coordinator of the PUM solar group, in the panel discussion. “In the last 10 years, spectacular price reductions have occurred in the development of solar energy. With larger projects, it is already possible to realise a price of 15 cents per kWh including storage (batteries). Without storage, a cost of 1 dollar cent per kWh has already been realised in Zambia. With investments in fossil, there is a chance that you will be unable to earn back those investments,” said Frank van der Vleuten of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at this seminar. He outlined the policies and financial support for such programs.

Solar energy offers opportunities for profitable investments

PUM Solar group

PUM’s CSR core team, in collaboration with the PUM solar group, organised this seminar. In his opening remarks, CSR coordinator Joost de Jong said that the CSR core team has the ambition of seeking a synergy between profit, people, and planet for every advisory mission. According to him, solar energy offers opportunities for profitable investments that contribute to a more careful use of natural resources and contribute to the climate. He counts on the fact that with this seminar many more PUM experts are aware of the opportunities of solar energy for the SMEs they advise.

The seminar has yielded a number of nice follow-up appointments. There is a broad conviction that as PUM, we can better incorporate solar energy in our advice to SMEs. Especially in the case of food security, solar energy can play a role in the processing or drying of products, in cooling, or in irrigation. Also, hotels can be heated with solar water, or in the Construction sector there are opportunities to integrate solar energy into the design phase.

For more information about solar energy, please contact Frans van der Loo (loofavd@planet.nl).