Farmers Foil Utilities Using Cell Phones to Access Solar
Comment of the Day

April 12 2012

Commentary by David Fuller

Farmers Foil Utilities Using Cell Phones to Access Solar

This is a very good story from Bloomberg on the rapidly developing energy industries in a number of countries. Here is the opening:
On a January evening, Anand is shelling betel nuts by the light of an electric lamp in Halliberu, his village in India's Karnataka state.

As his friends gather on the lamp-lit porch to swap stories, children play in the yard, Bloomberg Markets reports in its May issue. Inside, after decades of cooking in the dark, Anand's mother prepares the evening meal while a visiting neighbor weaves garlands of flowers.

In October, Bangalore-based Simpa Networks Inc. installed a solar panel on Anand's whitewashed adobe house along with a small metal box in his living room to monitor electricity usage. The 25-year-old rice farmer, who goes by one name, purchases energy credits to unlock the system via his mobile phone on a pay-as-you-go model.

When his balance runs low, Anand pays 50 rupees ($1) -- money he would have otherwise spent on kerosene. Then he receives a text message with a code to punch into the box, giving him about another week of electric light. When he pays off the full cost of the system in about three years, it will be unlocked and he will get free power.

Before the solar panel arrived, Anand lit his home with kerosene lamps that streaked the walls with smoke and barely penetrated the darkness of the village, which lacks electrification. Twice a week, he trudged 45 minutes to a nearby town just to charge his phone.

Electricity Revolution

"Things are much easier now," Anand says, describing how he used to go through 5 liters (1 gallon) of fuel a month, almost half of it bought from the black market at four times the price of government kerosene rations. "There was never enough."
Anand is on the crest of an electricity revolution that's sweeping through power markets and threatening traditional utilities' dominance of the world's supply.

David Fuller's view I have often mentioned that we are in the second consecutive decade of energy shortages and high costs. Given soaring demand in the developing world, supply has often struggled to keep up, recessions aside. Also, the political and environmental desire for renewables has inevitably involved heavy developmental costs. It will not always be this way.

Newer technologies generally become less expensive as they become more efficient and more widely used. Today we have more different and increasingly viable forms of energy than ever before and the pace of development is unlikely to slacken anytime soon. Energy self-sufficiency and the preference for cleaner energy will remain among the top priorities for all countries.

For these reasons Fullermoney maintains that energy costs will be cheaper in real (inflation adjusted) terms in the next decade than they are today. Most people would benefit from lower energy costs. Their additional spending power should ensure that multinational companies producing competitive products for consumers continue to perform over the longer term, more often than not.

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