Bringing power to the people

Access to power in a remote rural area of the Indian state of West Bengal is now easier thanks to a partnership between ABB and WWF India. A solar-powered battery charging station is providing cleaner power to the community, boosting business empowering local women.

Villagers in the Sundarbans area of West Bengal can now re-charge or exchange their batteries for a minimal amount from the centrally-located battery charging station. A charging station controller keeps detailed records of all battery exchanges and users are billed monthly. More than 50 households and 13 local stores have so far gained access to electricity.

A key factor in the project was empowering local women. A seven-member council, set up to manage the project and collect the monthly payments, includes five women. Previously, most of these women could not read or write and had never seen a bank. Thanks to the project they have built up their knowledge and understanding of financial institutions and savings mechanisms, helping them to be more self-sufficient.

A re-chargeable electrical supply allows shops to stay open later, evening classes can be held and people can use electrical goods such as phones and televisions. Electrical power avoids the negative health impacts of kerosene fumes and saves five to ten tons of carbon emissions each year.

Minati Aulia, the owner of a small cloth stitching business has already felt the positive impacts of the project, both professionally and personally. “My eight-year-old daughter gets more time to study during the evening without the risk of inhaling kerosene fumes. I also use this system to charge my cell phone and torch, run a small fan and power a small music system and radio at home. I no longer depend on the availability of kerosene in the local market.”

One other benefit: The village lights also discourage tigers from straying from the nearby mangrove forests into inhabited areas.

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