Harnessing the knowledge in IECs
We are the first to recognize our team it does not have the resources or bandwidth to single-handedly expand Integrated Energy Centres. Instead we seek to expand through partners with branches, offices or interventions across cities and towns in South India, which can receive enquiries for IECs in local slums and migrant communities, and undergo the first steps of community outreach and financial linkage. We currently target over ten additional IECs per year, being implemented with strong local partnerships through an entrepreneur model. In this way, replicability with remain one of the key forms of achieving scale and impact across our region and additional areas of opportunity.
In keeping with the vision of energy access for all, we are developing a toolkit that outlines the process of establishing an IEC, including need assessments, program design, implementation and dissemination. Being a creative commons project, the toolkit encourages potential stakeholders to replicate, build upon and adapt the IEC model to communities with a need energy.
IECs were designed to organically fit its host-community wherein each IEC is designed to suit the local context in which it operates-creating innovative models both physically and programmatically. Below, some key information of the IEC model, to help interested individuals, organizations and potential partners consider and better understand Integrated Energy Centres.
1. Centre Typology: Depending on the functions that need to be housed, space availability and need for portability, IEC’s present multiple physical innovations. In the existence of infrastructure, IEC’s have been housed within schools, institutes, homes and local shops
2. Service Customization: Apart from the provision of basic energy, IEC’s are hubs of community engagement and feedback. Deeper understanding of community needs through these informal information loops creates in-roads for innovation in other technological services. Solar based systems such as mobile charging (ROI=~1yr), fridge(ROI=~5yrs), community TV (ROI=~3yrs), projector(ROI=~3yrs), water purifier(ROI=~7yrs) have been made available through IEC’s. Our Team continues to innovate the services offered through IECs to offer a quality range and depth of energy services.
3. Ownership Models:The income generated by the IEC through the various services provided is expected to recover all expenditures, including running, maintenance and capital costs. There are 4 main models:
Entrepreneur run: This model seeks out an entrepreneur from the community, who takes out a loan and purchases a solar powered battery charging system to then rent out individual lamps to households in the community. The entrepreneur is provided with access to financing sources and technical system support. His income is the margin he keeps of total rent he/she collects per month minus
Operator run: Under the operator-model, the solar charged battery system is rented out to a community by SELCO. Operators provide similar services as entrepreneurs in exchange for a monthly wage of INR500 for every 20 lights. As in the entrepreneur-run model, operators are in charge of charging the batteries, distributing these to the renters in the community, collecting the rent and liaising with SELCO in case of any technical difficulty.
Partner run: The partner-operated model replicates the operator-run model except that the IEC is generally integrated into the partner’s work-space. The main difference between the partner- and operator-run model is that partners, rather than receiving a monthly wage for their efforts, receive free solar lighting for the provision of their services.
Community-run: Under a community-owned model, the IEC is purchased by the community as whole – through joint savings – and is managed by operators selected by the community. Often, these selected operators alternate amongst each other to coordinate with the SELCO Foundation team. Just like any other IEC, the community-owned centre distributes solar-charged batteries in the evening to its customers.
Along with the structure of IECs, the toolkit comprises best practices and learning, and identifies opportunities for customization, adaptation and continued focus on the local community and context, following Human Centrered Design methods. We are excited to work on this tool and look forward to sharing it with interested parties.
For more information, please contact the Urban Community Lab