Sri Lanka: History
SELF has supported solar rural electrification in Sri Lanka since 1991 through two non-profit organizations. It helped launch SoLanka Associates, a service-oriented, non-profit organization devoted to the promotion of solar photovoltaics in Sri Lanka. In addition, SELF organized a two-year solar “introduction and development” project in association with Sri Lanka’s largest NGO and self-help organization, the Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement.
In both programs, SELF utilized locally made “SUNTEC” modules and components, helping to support domestic SHS component manufacturing. SELF is continuing to help bring solar home systems to the seventy percent of rural Sri Lankans without access to electricity.
SELF assisted in the formation of SoLanka Associates, a development-focused, non-profit organization devoted to the promotion of solar photovoltaics in rural areas of Sri Lanka. SoLanka and SELF organized the country’s first “solar co-op”, the SoLanka Sun Society of Morapatawa Village, to manage a revolving-credit fund to finance solar home systems for its members. Sun-Society members paid a small down payment for their systems, and repaid the balance to the fund in monthly payments over 8 years. As the fund grew, other families were able to access the fund and finance their own SHS. After five years, the initial 48 families had repaid enough into the revolving credit fund to allow an additional 25 families to purchase SHS. Following the success of Morapatawa, SoLanka expanded the solar electrification program to other villages. SoLanka founder Priyantha Wijesooriya founded the Renewable Energy Service Company Asia (RESCO-Asia) to expand Sri Lanka’s rural electrification work on commercial basis.
SELF also developed a solar rural electrification program for Sarvodaya, a large Sri Lankan NGO. Formed by rural development visionary, Dr. A.T. Ariyaratne, the Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement is a national rural development organization with over three million members. SELF worked with Sarvodaya to develop a “Solar Seed” program, which introduced solar electricity to over 100 Sri Lankan villages. The program, in partnership with Sarvodaya Rural Technical Services (SRTS), installed demonstration systems throughout rural Sri Lanka, in various Sarvodaya community centers, primary schools, and Buddhist temples. In addition, training in installation, and maintenance of the SHS was provided to rural technicians. SELF then organized and capitalized a pilot revolving credit fund to provide financing to Sarvodaya members interested in purchasing systems. The Sarvodaya/SELF solar program initially served over 300 households. In 1994, Dr. Ariyaratne called for a “million home” solar program to be funded by international donors.
The World Bank approved a $24 Million Energy Services Delivery Loan to assist rural Sri Lankans in acquiring solar electricity by providing them with financing. SELF initially campaigned for multilateral development assistance to support solar rural electrification in Sri Lanka, and will work with Sarvodaya and RESCO to help implement the program. A substantial portion of the loan is targeted for solar PV rural electrification to be implemented through organizations like RESCO and Sarvodaya, which has undertaken a pilot stage for the World Bank to electrify 2,200 homes with SHS.