Villagers taking lantern


The initiative is based on an entrepreneurial model of energy service delivery which seeks to provide high-quality and cost effective solar lanterns, disseminated through micro solar-enterprises set-up in un-electrified or poorly electrified villages. This fee-for-service model has ensured that the base of the pyramid gets access to clean energy at an affordable price. While the capital cost of setting up the charging station in the village is raised by TERI through government agencies, corporate donors, communities etc., the operation and maintenance cost is borne by the users of the solar lanterns in the form of the rent that they pay to the operator of the charging station. The rental is decided based on the expenditure on kerosene, the fuel for lighting in the absence of electricity. This has ensured that communities are able to afford new technologies and shift from the polluting kerosene lamps [2] to clean and bright solar lamps.  The attempt is to create a network of rural solar enterprises for enabling easy penetration, acceptance and longer sustainability of the solar technology in the rural markets. TERI also carries out extensive research to come up with latest product design and standard specifications, along with ensuring cost-effectiveness keeping in mind the field requirements.


  1. Objective
  2. Target Group
  3. Output
  4. Key Features of the Case
  5. Sustainable Financing
  6. Supportive Policies and Institutional Environment
  7. Building Local Capacity and Skills
  8. Community Participation and Including Local Stakeholders
  9. Achieving Co-Benefits
  10. Affordability and Technical Issues
  11. Local Champions
  12. Monitoring and Evaluation
  13. Replicability and Scaling-up
  14. Contact
  15. References and Further Reading



The main objective of the programme is to enable a billion lives to access clean and sustainable modern lighting solutions.


Target Group

Economically poor rural communities that either do not have electricity supply at all or suffer from erratic and insufficient supply and still have to resort to the use of environmentally unsustainable fuel for meeting their lighting needs. This is not just a bad quality lighting that hampers health and development; it also traps them into the vicious cycle of poverty.



Through solar lighting the initiative is contributing towards sustainable rural development in more than 1750 villages impacting more than 3,82,000 lives, across 22 states of India [3]



Key Features of the Case

  • For continuous development of state of the art technology and design for solar lanterns, TERI has partnered with some of the major players in the lighting, semiconductor and PV industry to customize and develop robust and reliable solar lanterns based on the user feedback and other field related learning. The unique features of the technology selection approach are: a) in-house design and the development of rugged and reliable solar charging stations with an overall efficiency of 80% or any other distinct feature that can be put there (generic design that can be customized for specific applications such as mobile recharge, large battery recharge); b) introducing user friendly design features (battery status indicator, light LED, comfortable handle etc.)


  • LaBL-EE (Energy Enterprise) is a local level enterprise that provides after-sales service support to LaBL SCSs and is also authorized to market and sell LaBL solar products in a specified territory. Apart from providing next door, reliable after-sales support, it also aids in imparting training and local capacity building for the execution of other energy access projects in the area. A network of incubation centres such as an EE would not only ensure smooth penetration of newer technology but also its quick adaptation at the grassroots level.


  • Effective collaboration with 60 grassroots partners has provided base to sustain the initiative and has also built the institutional capacity of these organizations towards replicating the model in other regions. The initiative has reached out to the remotest and most inaccessible areas as well, covering tribal belts and difficult terrains, with support from these grassroots organizations.


  • Through experience of implementing off-grid solar PV based project, TERI understands the different socio-economic strata of the society hence advocates for the fee-for-service model. While a willing, active and entrepreneurial minded community member emerges as micro-entrepreneur the relatively poor households who cannot afford to set-up a solar based system individually, pay only a nominal service fee as daily rental to the entrepreneur [5] [6]. TERI however, facilitates access to finance for the entrepreneur through local financial institutions. Where necessary, TERI provides viability gap funding to the entrepreneur (through TERI and/or the partner organizations including government agencies). The primary emphasis is on harnessing Pro-Poor Public-Private-Partnerships for delivering PV based multiple technology solutions to access energy for rural communities.


  • A notable innovation in the delivery model was linking it with micro-finance institutions (MFIs) to augment new and existing rural enterprises. This was done by setting up solar charging stations with MFIs affiliated for funding with nationalized rural banks and state-run rural livelihood programs and promoting innovative financing of solar charging stations with commercial banks to design and implement a scale-able semi-commercial business model for financing solar charging stations.


Sustainable Financing

While LaBL raises funds for implementation of the project which broadly includes the costs incurred on the hardware, training, project planning, monitoring, maintenance and communication, the cost of day-to-day operation and maintenance is borne by the daily rental fee collected by the entrepreneur from the users. For implementation of the projects, the campaign harnesses financial support from the central and state governments, corporates and individuals.


The programme started with a pure grant based model for testing the entrepreneurial fee-for-service delivery model, which otherwise was not tried on a larger scale in India. There was a gradual movement from a pure grant driven financial model to a more flexible community or private equity and investment based model for scaling up. LaBL has been able to address two key challenges of sustainable financing in the energy access space of


  1. Scaling up (How does the project scale up funds from all the sources), and
  2. Diversification (How does the project diversify the sources of funds)


by being able to secure long term stable finances from a range of individually volatile sources. Funds have been generated through a range of financial instruments which largely include grants but also equity investments, debts and research grants etc.


Some of the determinants of this evolution are listed below:

  • Funding support from Public Sector Units (PSUs) and corporate firms
  • Alignment with government agenda to leverage fiscal support
  • Scope of income generation, low risks and financial viability to attract equity contribution
  • Continuous and active R&D for technology customization
  • Transparent feedback and monitoring mechanism





Supportive Policies and Institutional Environment

The programme is being expanded to African countries through local partnerships with the support of the UN and other bilateral agencies. Furthermore, south-south cooperation is being established under the Asian Development Bank's (ADB) Energy for All partnership through capacity building and training of trainer programs in Indonesia, Cambodia and Philippines. TERI is also the convener of the Lighting for All Working Group under this Asian Development Bank supported initiative bringing together the leading players of off-grid lighting.


At the national policy level, the initiative has caught the attention of the central Government. The delivery model of the initiative has been adopted under the prestigious Government of India initiative called the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (JNNSM) and is being promoted to enhance access to clean energy in remote energy-impoverished regions of the country. Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (JNNSM), which is a major initiative of Ministry of New and Renewable Energy and the state governments to provide ecologically sustainable growth while addressing India's energy security challenge, has supported TERI in scaling outreach of the LaBL programme. TERI is also Programme Administrator for Off-grid Solar Applications under the JNNSM. In addition, TERI has received financial support for LaBL program as per standard JNNSM norms. Apart from this, several central and state government agencies like have also endorsed the programme by providing financial support or by providing support for convergence with other developmental programmes being implemented at grassroots level.


LaBL's fee-for-service model has been regarded as a best practice and has been adopted by "The Planning Commission of India for solar charging stations under their programme for developing some of the under-developed districts of the country.


Building Local Capacity and Skills

The existing gap in implementation and sustainability of rural energy projects is that of a network of local-level institutions that facilitates micro-implementation of project deliverables, training and capacity building exercises and ensures effective after-sales- services. TERI identified this gap and realized the need for institutionalization of a network of institutions called the 'Energy Enterprises (EEs)' at last mile locations. Whereas TERI provides necessary training to EEs for technical and enterprise development skills including financial management, accounting, sales and marketing, other technicians linked to the EEs undergo intensive technical training. TERI facilitates linkage of EEs to manufacturers and suppliers of quality products. The EEs undertake direct retail sales of clean energy based cooking and lighting products and maintain spares bank.


Trainings have also been imparted to fill the various other capacity gaps identified at different stages of the implementation process. From training of the partner organizations, to training local resource persons as Master Trainers to impart technical training to entrepreneurs and other technicians in their respective areas. SCS (Solar Charging Stations) operators which are village level entrepreneurs are also trained on basic operation and maintenance. And at the base level, village level training of users on proper usage and fault reporting are conducted to complete the chain.


Community Participation and Including Local Stakeholders

While the programme has been able to effectively collaborate with 60 grassroots partners which include NGOs, CBOs and other local government agencies, village level entrepreneurs are the main fulcrum of the interventions and they are the most responsible for ensuring the success of the programme. ­­­


Similarly the users play an equally important part in decision making for the project implementation. Equity contribution from the village level entrepreneurs / operators and users makes them important stakeholders for decision related to fixing the rent, choice of site and technology etc. Village meetings and group discussions conducted after sensitizing the communities about the initiative helps in implementing the programme with local stake and participation.


The village - level Self Help Groups are another system of institutions that have anchored the program at the local level. Village development committees and village - level forest protection committees have supported the program in forested/protected areas.


Newer dimensions have been added to increase the scope for income generation locally. Efforts such as extending the mobile phone charging facility through solar charging stations through the Department of Telecommunication, Government of India and creating income generating opportunities for rural women entrepreneurs by training them to sell mobile telecom services locally in addition to the provision of solar lanterns.


Achieving Co-Benefits

LaBL's solar lanterns on one hand augment access to modern lighting and on the other hand provide a range of co-benefits to the users [4]. Case studies of the commissioned units from different states of India stand as evidence that access to clean lighting is closely linked to attainment of the Millennium Development Goals.



  • Tribal communities using solar lanterns in Odisha have witnessed increase in study hours of children and similarly villagers in Dandipadiya village of the state use the lanterns to deter animals from approaching human settlements which effectively limits prospects of human and wildlife conflict.
  • The community members in the states of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh have been using the clean lighting provisioned as part of LaBL program to augment their business hours post sunset.
  • Similarly, health workers and midwives in Madhya Pradesh use the solar lanterns to deliver medical aid after daylight hours.
  • The lanterns have also been used for safe delivery of babies in rural communities.
  • The woman entrepreneurs of LaBL charging stations have experienced a boost in their confidence resulting from the earnings.



The co-benefits of LaBL's charging station are often referred to as value-for–money by the beneficiaries.


Affordability and Technical Issues

Acknowledging the fact that there is acute inequity in terms of affordability among households in rural India, LaBL facilitates a fee-for-service model. An entrepreneur who is relatively better-off takes up the responsibility to operate and manage the Solar Charging Station. The relatively poor households who cannot afford the cost of solar panels and solar lanterns at individual levels draw benefit from the fee-for-service model. The consumer households pay a daily rental which is mutually decided among the community members and the entrepreneur. In general, the rental varies between INR (2-5) per day per lantern.


One of the critical challenges with solar lighting products is the quality. LaBL promotes lanterns that are tested at TERI's Solar Lab and approved by the technical team. The approved models have the LaBL logo that signifies the quality of the products. Further, LaBL applies "3F-Field testing, Feedback communication and Facilitation" principle. The lantern models/lighting products are tested in the field, feedback is shared with the manufacturers and relevant facilitation (where possible) is provided to manufacturers to improve upon the product design and quality.




Local Champions

Engaging local institutions primarily helps in identification of the key village gatekeepers. The existing trust level of the community on the institution often helps in earning acceptance level of the community for the new technology being introduced. Also, engagement of local community members as mobilizers and operators of the charging station provides opportunity for active participation to the local individuals. Further, investment incurred by the entrepreneur/community members brings a sense of ownership for the installation and ensures effective operations of the commissioned units. In addition to this engagement of local institutions for after-sales-service ensures in time delivery of service which is mandatory for sustenance of the unit.


Monitoring and Evaluation

The online Project Management System developed by TERI, which has facilitated end-to-end mapping, starting from identification of villages to its post-implementation monitoring, captures micro level details of each stage of the process. It offers granular, village level data including census codes, energy status, partner & entrepreneur information, etc. For the sake of greater transparency, TERI conducts regular field visits to inspect the functioning of the charging stations. The Field Monitoring System (FMS) is a part of the LaBL-PMS, and it enables proper monitoring post installation. It provides monthly data on usage activities, performance, and maintenance and facilitates timely intervention for rectification, replacements, etc.


Replicability and Scaling-up

The project is financially (refer to section on sustainable financing) as well as technologically and operationally replicable, since it appeals to the universal needs of the rural communities, is based on a technology that harnesses a natural resource available in plenty and all across the world and has been able to make economic sense to the users. This is evident from the fact that the programme has reached out to more than 382,000 people in less than five years' time.



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References and Further Reading

[1] Palit D and Singh J. 2011. Lighting a Billion Lives – Empowering the rural poor. Boiling Point 59 (2011), pp. 42-45


[2] Mills, E. 2005. The specter of fuel-based lighting. Science 308 no. 5726 (2005), pp. 1263-1264


[3] TERI, 2013. Official website of the Lighting a Billion Lives Campaign. Accessed online on July 13, 2013 (


[4] Rakesh S, Jyotika J. 2011. Beyond lighting -- Solar technology furthering the UN MDGs, India.

Carbon Outlook 5 August 2011 [Online]


[5] Chaurey A, Palit D, Krithika P R, Rakesh S, Benjamin K. 2012. Sovacool, New Partnerships and Business Models for Facilitating Energy Access. Energy Policy 47 (2012), issue s1 pp. 48–55


[6] Bose A, Ramji A, Singh J, Dholakia D. 2012. A case study for sustainable development action using financial gradients. Energy Policy 47 (2012) pp. 79–86


IEA (2011). World Energy Outlook 2011, International Energy Agency, Paris

IEA (2011). World Energy Outlook 2011, International Energy Agency, Paris

[1] Palit D and Singh J. 2011. Lighting a Billion Lives – Empowering the rural poor. Boiling Point 59 (2011), pp. 42-45

[2] Mills, E. 2005. The specter of fuel-based lighting. Science 308 no. 5726 (2005), pp. 1263-1264

[3] TERI, 2013. Official website of the Lighting a Billion Lives Campaign. Accessed online on June 13, 2013 (

[4] Rakesh S, Jyotika J. 2011. Beyond lighting -- Solar technology furthering the UN MDGs, India. Carbon Outlook 5 August 2011 [Online]

[5] Chaurey A, Palit D, Krithika P R, Rakesh S, Benjamin K. 2012. Sovacool, New Partnerships and Business Models for Facilitating Energy Access. Energy Policy 47 (2012), Issue s1 pp. 48–55

[6] Bose A, Ramji A, Singh J, Dholakia D. 2012. A case study for sustainable development action using financial gradients. Energy Policy 47 (2012) pp. 79–86


Lighting a Billion Lives (LaBL) Programme






The LaBL programme has been conceptualized and initiated by The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), a research institute established in 1974 with its headquarters in New Delhi, India. Having acted as a global think tank conducting research and analysis in the genres of energy, environment and sustainable development, the institute has, in its thirty years of existence, successfully executed a plethora of projects and has close to twenty diversified and distinct research and implementation divisions. While TERI is the primary implementer of the campaign, it also partners with grassroots-level non-governmental/ community based organizations (NGOs/CBOs) or microfinance institutions (MFIs) etc. where necessary to bring in the collaborative synergy for effective delivery [1].


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Solar PV

Energy resource:

  • Solar

Sub type:


    • Energy supply
    • Energy consumption
    • Household


    • Lighting


    • Off-Grid

    Targeted area:

    • Rural

    Geographical scope:


    Project status:

    Operational project

    Project start:


    End date:


    Implementing approach:

    Public private partnership

    Funding Type:

    • Grant
    • Equity investment

    Budget (Euro):