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Solar panels in Paramaribo


Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) changed from being a “nice to have” to a ‘must have’ for companies. Society demands it, the consumer claims it. Sustainability has become an integral part of entrepreneurship for SMEs and not only in the west. For years, PUM experts have been looking at CSR issues at the customers’ work floor during their missions. Think about environmental and energy related issues, human rights and working conditions. Experts are trying to let entrepreneurs realise that CSR can also help to achieve innovation and increase profits. Read about one of our experts providing advice to a company selling solar panels in Suriname.

PUM expert Wil Nuijen visited Suriname to give advice in the field of solar panels. Wil Nuijen: “During an intensive week, I brought personnel up to date on the ins and outs of solar PV systems by using a course that I had developed for earlier PUM missions in Sierra Leone. The course exercises were tackled with great enthusiasm. Indeed, rarely before have I had a class that was so eager to learn! Female students in particular showed the focus that they needed to do their work well in practice.

1400 kwh is a lot

We visited a number of customers to practice interviews and use the obtained information to draw up a quote. After I did the first interview, the ladies of the company interviewed the following customers. My first question of course was “how much electricity do you use?”. “1400 kWh”, answered the man of the house. “That’s quite modest”, I said, “compared with the Netherlands, where an average household uses around 3000 Wh per year. “Per year?”, he replied, “but that’s per month!” It was then that I understood the enormity of the task ahead.

Together we tried to identify the devices responsible for the high consumption. “We just don’t understand it”, said the customer, “because we don’t have many devices that use electricity and we only switch them on when you really need them”. I pointed to the large aircon unit against the ceiling, “and what about that?”. “We only switch that on later in the afternoon and switch it off again at the end of the evening”. Further questions uncovered that they also had an aircon unit in the bedroom, “but we only switch that on at night”, and a third unit that runs during the day. We also counted two deep freezers, a washing machine, a washing dryer and a dishwasher. “But we have fitted LED lamps everywhere”. A simple calculation shows that a consumption of 1400 kWh/month is indeed quite realistic. The LED lamps account for only a very small portion. Besides various energy-saving measures, the use of a grid-linked solar PV system is most definitely an interesting option for reducing their electricity bill. According to my calculation, they could recoup the investment in such a solar system in six to seven years. They can easily place so many solar panels that the electricity that they buy from the power company will be halved. The accompanying ladies paid close attention to the questions that I asked and the details that I jotted down. When we visit the next customers it is up to them to uncover the necessary information. 

Flip the switch

It is clear to my PUM client that Suriname offers huge opportunities in the field of grid-linked solar energy systems and he knows what he has to do get the Surinamese population to ‘flip the switch’ when it comes to saving energy (and thus money). This no doubt marks the start of a growing business in this country where electricity prices have recently risen sharply and will become more expensive in the future. I can look back on a successful mission and cherish fond memories of this beautiful country and the people of the company with whom I worked intensively for two weeks.

A company seeking to tap into this potential must not only have the knowledge required to offer  “custom-made” systems, but also master its lines of supply, marketing and internal organisation. I have been able to advise them on all these points and it is already clear that they have taken my advice to heart. They have, for example, better divided the tasks among the current personnel and issued quotes that will no doubt lead to orders.

I dare predict that this company will in five years’ time have a workforce that is ten times larger than at present”.

For not only do they sell solar panels, they also have the knowledge to optimally align the systems to the needs and circumstances of their customers. That distinguishes them from other suppliers who only sell panels and the accompanying components.