Renew does not have a physical presence in Timor-Leste, and it is our aim to empower local organisations and people to manage their systems into the future without us. Through investing in skills development and local partnerships, we are transferring knowledge and power to Timorese people.
Renew has several components to its Solar for Timor Programme. These are outlined below:
The Village Lighting Scheme (VLS) is a household solar lighting model that has been specifically designed for Timorese households, taking into consideration both environmental and community strengths. Renew has provided solar home lighting to over 2100 households via this model.
The project is based on a community ownership and management model, and delivered through a user-pays-in system. This ensures that the community is committed to the long-term sustainability of the project.
We engage with and mobilise the community to establish a VLS management committee. Households pay the management committee a small installation fee and then a regular monthly fee to cover the cost of maintenance, repairs, and spare parts (this fee is less than the average monthly expenditure on kerosene prior to installation).
We are also supporting a local social enterprise to expand into Pay-As-You-Go (PayGo) Solar.
Under this PayGo model, families can pay off their solar systems over time. This is similar to topping up a pre-paid mobile phone: a voucher is purchased for $5 by a family, the code is entered into the solar system which provides one month of electricity, then at the end of the month a further voucher is entered to keep the system operating. After 24 months, the system is unlocked, if families are up to date in their payments, and no more codes are required to be entered. (An article on the PayGo system was featured in Issue 47 of Renew magazine.)
The key advantage of the PayGo model is that it recycles capital into lighting up further homes. Further, it provides a consistent revenue stream to a local enterprise so they can hire staff and cover operational expenses. The importance of a local enterprise cannot be overstated. It becomes the local service point for families who have opted into to the initiative.
Since 2003, Renew has installed solar systems on over 100 Community Buildings in Timor-Leste. These buildings include health clinics, schools, training centres, police posts, radio stations, and social enterprises.
In off-grid rural areas of Timor-Leste, solar energy is often the only electrical option to facilitate the provision of essential services. Electricity provides light to study for exams or deliver a baby at night, recharge phones and operate computers and printers access, record keeping and print educational materials.
In 2019, in collaboration with our technical partner the Centro Nacional de Emprego e Formacao Profissional (CNEFP), Renew conducted an audit of all the systems we have installed. The results were mixed. Unsurprisingly, after 15 years since the first systems were installed, many of the systems were no longer working or had disappeared. Since 2003, the electricity grid in Timor-Leste has expanded significantly. Once the grid reached many of our off-grid installations, we assume the system components were re-purposed by locals. The audit, however, identified over 40 of these systems, at off-grid or end-of-grid locations, that would benefit from ongoing support from Renew.
Finally, Renew continues its Solar Training Programme to ensure there are local Timorese able install, troubleshoot, repair and conduct maintenance on both our smaller household systems and our larger systems on community buildings.