Mongolia: Portable Solar Power for Nomadic Herders
Mongolia Provided Portable Solar Home Systems to 100,000 Herder Families (Half a Million People)
April 8, 2013
A quarter of Mongolia’s population is nomadic herders. The per capita income in Mongolia at the start of the millennium was about US$470 per year, with income amongst herders even lower. At the time, herders had limited or no access to modern electricity services.
In 2000, the Government of Mongolia began the National 100,000 Solar Ger (Yurt) Electrification Program. The program provided photovoltaic solar home systems that were portable in design, making the systems adaptable to the nomadic lifestyle of herders and complementing their traditional way of life. Through grants from several donor nations, the government had provided over 30,000 herder families with solar home systems by 2005.
Despite this progress, the herder electrification effort was beginning to stagnate. The government recognized that considerably more effort was necessary, not only to keep the program on track, but to expand implementation in order to achieve its goal.
In 2006, the World Bank agreed to assist the Government of Mongolia in its efforts to provide electricity nomadic herders through REAP.
The Bank brought its experience with successful rural electrification initiatives in other countries to help redesign some key aspects of the program as well as adapt new features to accommodate challenges unique to Mongolia.
REAP included a cost sharing mechanism with the herders that successfully expanded the program. Under this arrangement, the herders had to purchase the solar home systems, but given their limited income, the project provided a subsidy to cover roughly half of the cost of the systems, making them more affordable.
The equipment sold under REAP was also inspected for quality and certified to meet stringent standards, enabling herders to purchase them with confidence.
Fifty Sales and Service Centers were also established throughout the country, providing critical after-sales care and maintenance within reasonable proximity to herders.
- Over 67,000 solar home systems were sold between 2006 and 2012, reaching herders in every aimag (province) in the country. As a result, more than half a million people covering between 60-70 percent of Mongolia’s nomadic herders now have access to electricity.
- Fifty Sales and Service Centers were established, with at least one in each of Mongolia’s 21 aimags (provinces).
- These Sales and Service Centers also bundle other consumer electronics and appliances that herders now want to purchase.
- With electricity, herders are now able to listen to radio, watch television using satellite dishes and recharge their cell phones, which keep them informed of market prices of their products and connected to a wider world. Children are also able to read and study under electric light even when it is dark.
- The project has rehabilitated electricity distribution systems in 30 soums, and installed Renewable Energy Technology hybrid systems to reduce the use of costly diesel in 15 soums.
- The project has trained some 400 people, strengthening the institutional capacity within Mongolia to implement renewable energy projects and policies.
We used to manage life with candles and oil lanterns. The change in herders' life between then and now is like night and day.
Bank Group Contribution
The REAP was funded by the World Bank including a grant of US$3.5 million from the International Development Association (IDA), a grant of US$3.5 million from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and a grant of US$6 million from the Government of the Netherlands.
The Global Environment Facility (GEF) supported the project with a grant of US$3.5 million. And the Government of the Netherlands also provided a grant of US$6 million to the project.
The Asia Sustainable and Alternative Energy Program (ASTAE) provided financial support to disseminating the results of the project, including a paper and the production of a documentary that illustrates the project’s impact and contribution to the Government of Mongolia’s National 100,000 Solar Ger Electrification Program. ASTAE funds also played an important role in providing technical assistance to support the implementation of REAP during its inception.
Some 200-300,000 herders still lack access to electricity; much work remains to be done. The hope is that the systems and institutions developed under REAP will continue the effort of bringing electricity to nomadic herders throughout the country. The Government of Mongolia’s National Renewable Energy Plan (2005-2020) is aiming for universal connectivity by 2020. Mongolia is currently experiencing an economic boom from the exploitation of its mineral wealth, and efforts such as herder electrification can help ensure that this important community, which connects the country to its rich history, can maintain their way of life without being left behind.
A survey covering 800 herder families that had purchased solar systems through the project showed high levels of customer satisfaction—over 93 percent were either “extremely satisfied” or “very satisfied.” The majority cited “increased productivity for work” as the key benefit of the systems. Now more than 90 percent of the survey population use mobile phones for their communication needs and have satellite TV compared to a pre-project level of near zero.
"We used to manage life with candles and oil lanterns. The change in herders' life between then and now is like night and day," said Herder Baatar Khandaa.