The Solar Electric Light Fund (SELF) launched a first-of-its-kind household solar PV project in Vietnam in association with the Vietnam Women’s Union (VWU) in February 1994.
The program has directly benefited over 1,500 people through the installation of solar home systems (SHS), and indirectly benefited hundreds more through solar systems in village community centers and village markets.
During the first stage of the project, 115 SHS were installed in rural communities in the provinces of Tien Giang and Tra Vinh in the Mekong Delta. Another 15 were installed in Hoa Binh Province near Hanoi with the assistance of the Institute of Energy, the government agency responsible for renewable energy research and development. In the second stage completed in February 1997, SELF and the VWU installed another 110 SHS in the Tra Vinh communes of Long Hoa and Hoa Minh. Solarlab, a PV technology group based in Ho Chi Minh City, was contracted by SELF to provide technical assistance directly to the Women’s Union, and to oversee the after-sales maintenance program.
SELF’s Technical Manager, Marlene Brown, along with Solarlab, trained a total of 25 local technicians on behalf of the Women’s Union. In addition, the VWU trained 20 “motivators” to sign up families and collect their down payments. Customers pay 10% down and make four years of monthly payments to the VWU revolving credit fund. As the solar fund grows, additional SHS are purchased through SELF.
Two hundred forty rural families can now enjoy solar light in their houses. Many of the families have purchased black-and-white TV’s allowing access to educational and entertainment programming. Before SELF and the VWU joined forces to disseminate SHS, only solar battery charging stations and remote telecommunications facilities had made use of PV technology.
SELF continues to actively work with the VWU to launch an economically sustainable, national household solar electrification program. The program would serve the 70 percent of Vietnam’s population without electricity. The VWU’s solar project has been approved by Electricity of Vietnam to serve rural people. In April 1997, SELF and the VWU sponsored a national seminar on solar electrification in Hanoi, attended by government policy makers and planners, practitioners and PV users, and representatives of the World Bank, UNDP and other donors.