12 April 2007, New York
Today the United Nations Environment Programme's (UNEP) India Solar Loan Programme has been honoured with a prestigious Energy Globe. The Energy Globe, the "World Award for Sustainability", counts as one of the most prestigious and acknowledged environmental awards and is given to projects from all over the world which make careful and economical use of resources and employ alternative energy sources on a yearly basis.
UNEP's four-year India Solar Loan Programme was initiated in 2003 by the United Nations Foundation (UNF) and the Shell Foundation in partnership with UNEP, the UNEP Risoe Centre, and two of India's largest banking groups and aims at establishing a consumer credit market for financing solar home systems (SHS) in Southern India where the conventional electricity grid is absent or unreliable. The innovative financing arrangement involves an interest rate reduction, market development support, and a process to qualify solar suppliers.
The United Nations Fund for International Partnerships (UNFIP) together with UNF provided crucial advice to UNEP on the design of the programme's structure in its initial stages as well as millions of dollars for the buy-down of interest rates to help get the project started.
The project has been a successful one: the originally small cash-only solar home sector is growing with more than 50% of sales financed by banks. While presenting the banks involved with the opportunity to develop new credit markets, this innovative project provides its customers with affordable and clean energy on a reliable basis.