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Indian villagers’ lives transformed by new energy delivery system
by Anna da Costa
It’s late December and an icy fog cloaks the northeastern state of Uttar Pradesh. Here, far from the cities, smoke rises in dense, choking spirals from meagre wood fires and scantily-clad children shiver against the cold. These are largely farming families, and their mud huts fortified by the occasional brick wall are for the most part devoid of light, heat or clean water.
But it is here in Uttar Pradesh, one of India’s largest and poorest states, far away from the country’s straining power grid, that US-born entrepreneurs Nikhil Jaisinghani and Brian Shaad have started to pioneer a wholly different energy system, designed to meet some of the most basic needs of the poorest.
Their company, Mera Gao Power (MGP), provides ultra-low cost lighting and mobile phone charging services to individual houses by building and operating solar-powered micro grids at a village level.
Each household that signs up to their service receives two LED lights and one mobile-charging point in their home at a cost of 25 rupees (£0.301 or US$0.46) per week. The setup cost is an additional one-off payment of 40 rupees (£0.48 or US$0.74). “This is the kind of price point that the majority of them can afford,” Sandeep Pandey, MGP’s operations manager, explained.