I was recently in Nepal and had a chance to spend a day with Gham Power, a social enterprise focused on providing safe and reliable solar energy to underserved rural markets. Mr. Anjal Niraula, the General Manager of Gham Power, was kind enough to arrange a trip to the Chitwan District in southern Nepal where I also met staff members, Mr. Ram Avatar and Mr. Kiran Thapa.
During my one day visit, we toured:
A local teaching hospital which is a potential customer for a 100KW solar system that would provide 20% of the hospital’s power needs, resulting in cost savings of more than $100,000 over a ten year period;
Three local farms, out of over 120, that each have a Gham Power 1KW solar pump that pumps water into fish ponds, and from there, to fields for irrigation and fertilization;
A tower in Chitwan National Park, one of 12 towers that have a Gham Power 3KW system solar system for water, lights, and animal tracking.
While all three types of systems generate savings for their customers and are profitable for Gham Power, their “killer app” is the solar pump used by small farmers. Compared to the alternatives of diesel or the national grid, Gham Power’s solar system is more reliable and predictable, is considerably less expensive, and creates much less carbon impact.
The unit economics are impressive. A farmer pays $780 per year for 3 years, saving $1220 each year for a total of $3660 over the 3 years, and generating about $100 in profit per year for Gham Power. After 3 years, the farmer owns the solar system (and can get a maintenance contract from Gham Power). There are over one million farms in southern Nepal so the total addressable market is $2.34 billion for Gham Power with $300 million in profit. There is also significant upside in selling farmers larger systems and solar appliances. Retail and commercial solar systems, such as the solar towers and the hospital system, also generate additional revenue. What’s more, Gham Power has built 6 microgrids to improve power reliability and resilience. Since its inception in 2010, Gham Power has executed over 2500 solar projects with more than 2.5 megawatts of cumulative capacity.
So, in addition to thoroughly enjoying myself, I was very impressed by Gham Power’s solar systems and their business.
About 2019 GSBI In-Residence Accelerator Social Enterprise Gham Power
For rural smallholder farmers in Nepal struggling to increase their crop yield due to lack of irrigation and financing, Gham Power helps increase their income with data-driven crop selections combined with solar water pumps and instant financing. The enterprise minimizes investment risks by using PAYG smart meters and mobile money to collect loan payments and monitor systems remotely.
Enterprise Type: For-Profit
UN Sustainable Development Goals: 7 – Affordable and Clean Energy, 13 – Climate Action, 9 – Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
About the author
Eric Carlson is a retired Silicon Valley entrepreneur now focusing on accelerating global social ventures. He helped start and build the GSBI, Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship’s flagship accelerator program platform at Santa Clara University, which has become the longest-running, most impactful, and most-innovative accelerator for social enterprises. His recently published book Building A Successful Social Venture (with Jim Koch) captures 15 years of learning from the GSBI experience with over 150 social ventures.