Can personal commitment combined with good business model and in collaboration with government and community scale to provide energy services to all underserved areas across Nepal – Absolutely.
Nepal’s first off-grid solar micro-grid built in partnership between the community, private sector and government
Dubung is a remote village located in Rishing Gaupalia (formerly, Baidi village development committee) in the southern hills of Tanahun district in western region of Nepal. It is not connected to the national electricity grid.
Dubung is approximately 160 kilometres southwest of Kathmandu. The nearest town is Damauli from where Dubung is a four hour walk or a six hour drive over a make-shift road that is passable during the dry season. The community consists of Magars, Rana-bhat and Dalits. About twenty percent of the community live below the poverty line.
Agriculture is the main source of income. The area is popular for its oranges.
Secrets to success - community engagement & private sector partnershipThe solar micro-grid covers three hamlets within a 3-km radius covering approximately 150 households.
The micro-grid consists of 18 kW of solar modules. Electricity is supplied by a 3-phase transmission line that has been built to the standards required by the national electric utility. The solar system is integrated with 25.5 kW inverter and a battery bank. The system is designed to provide round the clock power.
Every end-user has a pre-paid meter which controls the load and restricts daily electricity energy supply to the package that the consumer has opted to purchase.
The key element in the success of Dubung are community engagement and private sector partnership
Early community engagement and participation was a key factor in the making of the Dubung solar micro-grid. Today, the micro-grid operates sustainably in part because of the strong community roots.
Saral Urja worked with the local community extensively right from the pre-design stage, enabling community participation in all aspects of the decision making. The project is as much a story of community engagement as it about the solar micro-grid.
The community remains actively engaged in the day to day management of the solar micro-grid and remains a shareholder of Baidi Micro-Grid Private Limited, the SPV owning, operating and managing the micro-grid.
Private sector partnership
Community ownership and empowerment have always been critical aspects to a project’s success. Dubung further validates this hypothesis.
The introduction of private sector participation was a key innovation in this project. Communities often lack the technical, financial and managerial to develop and manage such systems in a sustainable manner. SUN, a private for-profit company, partnered with the community, co-investing in the project along with the Government and the community. It provides ongoing technical, managerial and financial backstopping.
Dubung solar micro-grid is one of the first initiatives in Nepal where a private company is co-investing in a micro rural infrastructure project in collaboration with the Government and community.
The project development was supported though the collaboration between Alternative Energy Promotion Centre (AEPC) and UN Economic Social Commission for Asia (UNESCAP) under pro-poor public private partnership (5P) program. The project is a public private partnership between the Government of Nepal, Saral Urja Nepal Private Limited (SUN) and the user-community of Dubung.
The project was developed, owned and managed by a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV),Baidi Micro Grid Private Limited. Baidi is a for-profit company incorporated under the laws of Nepal. The community (represented through an electricity users’ group cooperative) and SUN are shared holders of Baidi company.
Dubung solar micro-grid is owned, operated and managed by Baidi Micro Grid Private Limited.
Dubung has established strong operational processes involving local staff and with technical, managerial and financial back stopping from SUN.
There are three layers of operational management.
- The first layer is day-to-day operation, which is provided by two local staff members selected from the community. These two local staff members are located at the project site. The day to day operationsis supported by a technical officer from SUN who visits the site every month and regularly follow the developments. The financial management, including the record keeping, is provided by SUN.
- The second management layer consists of the working group which consists of community representatives the local staff and the SUN technical officer. The working groups provides the overall steer on the day-to-days operations and management and coordinate with the community as required. This working group meets once a month at the site.
- The third management layer is the board of Baidi Micro Grid Private Limited. The board provides the overall management and direction and is the legal authority representingBaidi Micro Grid Private Limited. It meets bi-annually along with an annual general meeting open to the entire community.