Solar Power Provides Electricity to 2 Million Citizens in Peru

In 2013, Peru started a new program to provide electricity to more than 2 million of its poorest residents using solar panels. The goal is to provide electricity access to 95% of Peru’s citizens by the end of 2016. And the best thing is that it is all for free to citizens!

The first phase of the program named “The National Photovoltaic Household Electrification Program” was initiated in July, 2013 in the Contumaza province. As of December 2014, there are currently 1,601 solar panels installed, providing power to 126 impoverished communities in the districts of Cupisnique, San Benito, Tantarica, Chilete, Yonan, San Luis, and Contai.

“This program is aimed at the poorest people, those who lack access to electric lighting and still use oil lamps, spending their own resources to pay for fuels that harm their health,” said Energy and Mining Minister Jorge Merino.

The entire program will cost about $200 million, but it’s a cost that the Peruvian government is will to bear. In the third-largest country in South America only 66% of 24 million people have access to electricity.

Nearly half of Peru’s citizens live in poverty, 19% living in extreme conditions. 1.6 million people have no electricity at all. They use candles, kerosene torches and wood stoves, which cost about $77 a year. There is a lot more to be done. In remote villages across Peru, electricity is essential for development. People now have the opportunity to improve and adapt their livelihoods. Unfortunately, despite this fantastic effort by Peru government, the fact is that it will bring solar to only 2 million people, about 10% of Peru’s population.

Solar power in Peru

Peru has average solar radiation levels, which can reach up to  5000 Wh/m2 per day in the Sierra (foothill of The Andes). The country is also home to the first major PV installation in Latin America. The largest solar projects in Latin America are also in Peru: two 22 megawatt plants developed by Spain-based T-Solar Global.

“The National Photovoltaic Household Electrification Program” plans to install about 12,500 solar  (photovoltaic) systems in order to provide for approximately 500,000 households. This program follows Peru’s public commitments to accelerate renewable energy development. This action will also be encouraging to the growth of small and homegrown solar businesses.

The project will also “demonstrate the viability of establishing micro enterprises to sell, maintain and operate PV systems, as well as creating incentives for increased public and private sector investment in photovoltaic-based rural electrification”, accordingly to Jorge Merino beliefs.

By the time this project ends, Peru’s PV industry will have grown from installing 1000-2000, 50W systems a year to nearly 7000 systems a year. Doing so is expected to cut the cost from $713 to $513 for a system.

People of the Sun in Peru

This bet on the Sun is actually a return to the country’s glorious past. It’s no mystery that the Peru’s Inca civilization arose from its highlands sometime in the early 13th century, and the last Inca stronghold was conquered by the Spanish in 1572. At their highest they were the largest empire in pre-Columbian America.

The curious thing is that many local forms of worship persisted in the Inca empire, but the Inca leadership encouraged the worship of “Inti”: the Sun God! And that’s why the Incas considered themselves the “people of the Sun”, and their king, the Sapa Inca, to be the “child of the sun”.

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Gayrajan Kohli
Gayrajan Kohli
Gayrajan is a staunch solar promoter, serial entrepreneur & management consultant. He has a decade of experience in solar PV, disruptive technologies and political consultancy in USA and India. He believes that development of solar and other renewable technologies is critical to India's energy security. Gayrajan holds a Masters and a Bachelors in Electrical Engineering from USA. Follow him on Twitter to gain daily industry insights.
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