Left, Catherine Enck, vice president for social business and societal at Total SA, and B Vijay Kumar, chairman of Totalgaz Bangladesh, sit for an interview with The Daily Star at the Bangladesh office of Totalgaz in Gulshan on Saturday. Photo: Totalgaz Bangladesh
French oil giant Total aims to take affordable lights to one million people in Bangladesh with plans to sell 200,000 solar lamps in the next five years.
“We want to provide an alternative energy solution for the low-income households in the country, mostly outside the electricity grid's coverage,” said Catherine Enck, vice president for social business and societal at Total SA.
The plan is part of the company's global access to energy initiative, Awango by Total, in Bangladesh, Enck said in an interview with The Daily Star in Dhaka on Saturday.
Awango by Total has been launched in eight countries with plans to debut in eight more this year, added Enck. She was here to attend the launch of the Bangladesh programme.
It set a target to give five million low-income people access to solar lights globally by 2015 as part of Total Group's commitment during Rio World Summit in 2010.
“Our primary focus is the bottom of the pyramid, consisting of four billion people living on less than $10 a day and whose access to energy generally relies on costly and inefficient solutions,” she said.
Around 17 million households are now outside the conventional grid connection and nearly 15 million households with grid electricity are underserved in Bangladesh, according to the company.
Awango by Total, a subsidiary of Total Group, was created in 2010 with a mission to market accessible energy solutions, said Enck.
“We believe our target to reach out to one million Bangladeshi people with solar lamps is achievable,” said B Vijay Kumar, chairman of Totalgaz Bangladesh.
The solar lamps will benefit the poor in many ways such as studying in the evenings, for both children and adults, boosting income generation such as sewing, weaving, basket making, and operating shops in the evening, he added.
Most importantly, women can avoid exposure to harmful emissions of kerosene or indigenous fuel and the country can save a huge amount of foreign currency by reducing oil imports, said Kumar, also vice president for marketing and services (South Asia).
Bangladesh now spends $360 million on kerosene for lighting a year, according to the company's estimate.
By the end of June 2013, the company sold some 310,000 solar lamps in eight countries—Cameroon, Kenya, Burkina Faso, Senegal, Uganda, Indonesia, Cambodia and Haiti.
Awango is a line photovoltaic solar lighting solution that can be used for a range of options like charging mobile phones to portable solar lamps.
When exposed to sunlight, the panel stores the energy in a battery that lights the lamp for at least 4 hours on full charge.
The company offers two solar lights d.light S20 at a retail price of Tk 1,100 and d.light S300 at Tk 3,000.
The lights come with a two-year free replacement warranty from Totalgaz outlets across the country. These solar lights will be available at selected dealers and distributors outlets.
Dealers should come with some innovative financing plan so that the lower income groups are encouraged to buy solar lamps in the country, said Kumar.
The price of a solar lamp is slightly higher as there is a 31.5 percent duty on solar lamp imports, whereas the duty is only 5 percent on solar home systems, said Kazi Samiur Rahman, managing director of Totalgaz Bangladesh.
Totalgaz Bangladesh has been in operation since 2002. It has a network of over 250 distributors and over 3,000 dealers servicing over 500,000 customers nationwide.
Total branded lubricants are marketed through strategic tie-ups with Padma Oil Company through the local distributor: Trade Services International. Total holds a 6 percent market share in the branded category.
Total Group ranked the 10th largest global company by Fortune Magazine last year, having operations in more than 130 countries, employing 97,126 people. The group's sale was worth more than €200 billion in 2012.