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Read the Sunlabob Case Study

About the company

Sunlabob is an innovative company that provides electricity at affordable and competitive prices in remote villages. Founded in 2000, Sunlabob has grown from a small team of technicians to the leading company in Laos for renewable energy solutions in remote off-grid areas. The company’s success has been based on their understanding of the rural community’s decision making processes and the development of operational approaches that are compatible with these processes. Sunlabob has been recognised by the World Bank through a Development Marketplace Award in 2005 and more recently by winning the UNEP prize for substantial contribution to the protection and management of the environment in 2008.

Total grant funding approved: ECF A$526,682

About the project

With the support of ECF funding, Sunlabob will install hybrid AC electricity grids in 5 remote villages throughout Laos, providing electricity to 650 households who do not currently have access to the main power grid. Small hydraulic turbines, solar panels and biofuel generator sets will feed into grids in the villages that will not only provide lighting but also enough power for standard equipment for micro and small enterprises.

After three years, these decentralised smaller grids will be connected to the national grid operated by Electricite de Laos (EdL). During these early years, EdL has agreed to pay for electricity fed by Sunlabob-owned decentralized generators and turbines into the national grid. The project includes training of Village Energy Committees who will own and operate the village grid, buying electricity from Sunlabob owned turbines and generators and selling it to households and small entrepreneurs. Local technicians will also be trained to service and maintain the equipment.

Results December 2012

  • Sunlabob completed the pilot area in Xieng Khaung province focusing on five villages of 355 households. ECF funds purchased electricity generation equipment in conjunction with Sunlabob’s technical partner, the Swiss firm Entec. The power was officially started in August 2010.
  • Sunlabob has also created four jobs as village technicians to maintain the village grids.
  • 355 households are able to access a regular electricity supply and around 98% of households (around 350 households) are connected via the electricity grid.
  • Villagers report that having increased access to electricity is valuable more as an improvement to living standards rather than as a direct economic benefit.
  • Villagers report a reduced use of kerosene and report a number of improved health benefits including having better light for reading at night. Villagers also noted the better access to public electricity for street lights, schools, temples and village offices was a positive and women said they felt more comfortable and able to walk around at night.
  • Lighting in schools means the community can use this space for additional activities at night. In one village, teachers are teaching night classes to teenagers 15-25 year olds that were unable to finish the secondary schooling. Now 76 students - mostly young women are attending.
  • A small number of villagers in the five villages are using electricity to develop or improve small enterprises (furniture production, rice mills and water bottling plant) much of this with support from economic development projects through a local non-government organization - Helvetas.
  • Helvetas estimate that 17 families have created new businesses in 3 villages and interviewed 5 new or expanded businesses in three villages earning more money.
  • In Na Phia village, a weaving house has created additional productivity for women. Funding from Helvetas provided an expanded weaving house looms and lighting for the weaving house. The village development fund subsidises the cost of inputs. Each woman can create up to three pieces of weaving per month. Full time work can increase this to five pieces. Each piece is sold for between 50,000-100,000 LAK. There are 17 looms available and almost all women in the village are involved with weaving.
  • Sunlabob leadership highly regards the project and states this has put the company on "the front page – and is contributing to the company’s robust track record as a go-to expert in rural electrification throughout the developing world."