As a young engineering graduate, Avishek Malla worked in one of the most remote districts of Nepal – Humla. On the border with Tibet and only reachable by foot or light aircraft, working here Avishek saw firsthand how village-managed renewable energy technologies can change lives.
“I realised this technology is really important in the context of Nepal, because these areas would never get power or electricity from the utilities,’ he says. ‘So, renewable energy will play a very big role in changing and improving the livelihoods of the people.’
“[Studying in Australia] was a great opportunity to get exposure to international education… and to find out about things that we can adopt in our country to create ample benefits,” he says.
Since then, Avishek has dedicated his life to enabling people to access renewable technologies. And, in 2010, he won an Australia Awards Endeavour scholarship to study a Masters in Renewable Energy at Murdoch University in Perth, Western Australia.
‘It was a great opportunity to get exposure to international education and learn about things that we are not aware of, and to find out about things that we can adopt in our country to create ample benefits,” he says.
Today, with more than half of Nepal’s people still without reliable electricity, Avishek heads the Nepal operation of an international social enterprise called Sunfarmer. Their aim is to provide affordable solar technology to people across the country.
“The technology [solar] has been there for ages, but there’s not a mass adoption of the technology because the capital cost is very high,” Avishek explains.
To help communities, schools, hospitals and businesses get the financial support they need to acquire solar technologies, Sunfarmer works with local banks to provide affordable loans, before helping their clients to install and manage a suitable system.
In the lowlands bordering India, in Chitwan, for example, one community has gotten together and purchased a 750 watts solar PV system that is now pumping 32,000 litres water daily to their fishponds and vegetable garden. Previously a lot of time and money was spent powering-up an expensive diesel pump.
“We are far from these problem now,’ says local farmer, Rajmani Chaudhary.
“We believe that this is a game-changing technology for the farmers,’ Avishek says. “When we started there was no solar financing in the sector and I’ll be very happy the day all the commercial banks agree on promoting this kind of technology and they bring that access to finance to the farmers. That day will be my happiest day as we will have really achieved something.”