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Let there be light!



Lemohang Rakotsoane

MASERU – ’Muso Lijo is no snake oil salesman.

In a market that has seen a lot of charlatans in the past, Lijo says convincing customers to switch to renewable energy is no small task.

There is a lot of negativity, he says.

That largely is because previous entrepreneurs who sold renewable energy products lacked the expertise and “messed up” the market.

“A lot of people have a negative perception towards renewable energy companies,” Lijo says.

He says some of the people who came on to the market before him “ended up taking jobs they could not do”.

“They failed to do the jobs. To convince people that what you are promising is genuine especially when offering it at a lower price also raised a lot of doubts,” he says.

Yet in spite of the challenges, Lijo says the future of his one-year old company, Green Tech Power Solutions (Pty) Ltd, looks extremely bright.

The company, which is making waves in the renewable energy sector, specialises in providing solar geysers, solar security lights, solar water pumps among other products to people mostly in rural areas.

Lijo says they have so far worked on projects in several villages in Mokhotlong, Quthing, Maseru and Thaba-Tseka.

He says more and more people are beginning to accept solar energy after learning and understanding how it works.

“They are intrigued by the fact that it can save up to 40 percent of their electricity bill. Also the convenience and the comfort of knowing that even during load shedding periods they are not affected is what has attracted a lot of interest among them,” Lijo says.

Lijo says when electricity tariffs increase and the load shedding kicks in, people tend to seek other options “and that is where I come in”.

“There is a silver lining in every cloud. I don’t get excited by people’s problems but what excites me is being able to provide a solution to their challenges,” Lijo says.

But he says accepting solar energy has not been easy for most people.

Sometimes he has to take potential customers to projects he has worked on before so they can be convinced that they will “get value for their money”.

“I sometimes have to take them to places where I have worked before so that they can see for themselves and make a decision,” he says.

Lijo says a lot of Basotho especially those living in the highlands who have livestock are desperate for light at night to prevent stock-theft.

Unfortunately, even though people are in dire need of light not everyone can afford the system.

“One of our main challenges is cost. We need to set competitive prices and at the same time not compromise the quality of the service that we have promised,” Lijo says.

“Some even try to pay with their sheep, but that is not viable for the company,” he says.

He adds that another problem is that some find it hard to differentiate him from government initiatives on electrification and they expect him to do the job for a very small fee.

“They think they can just pay M50 or M100,” Lijo says.

Lijo says one day some villagers were so angry with his marketing team after they tried to convince them to switch to their solar panels which were much more efficient.

He says the villagers complained that they were to “looking down” on their own electrical appliances by bringing cheap technology.

But now the same people are coming knocking on our door, he says.

Lijo says his company prides itself on providing quality and ensures that it always delivers what it promises its clients.

“When we get a client, we sit down with them and discuss their needs so that we can design a system that will cater for their needs,” Lijo says.

“When we design a system we take into consideration a number of hours that the client takes using electricity. That will help us come up with the proper equipment needed for the system and the direction in which to position the solar (panel),” he says.

Lijo says even though systems vary they guarantee their clients five years of efficiency.

“It is only after five years that we can renew our batteries but that also depends on how much electricity the client uses,” he says.

He says in some cases when the client doesn’t use too much electricity the panels can take up to seven years or more.

He says the solar panels are designed to last a lifetime.

Lijo says he got the idea to start his own company while working for a local renewable energy company.

But leaving it to start his own was one of the most difficult decisions he had to take, he says.

“If you stay and become too comfortable you can never leave, the fear of starting your own thing will not go away until you just take a dive,” Lijo says.

He says even though his savings were not able to cover everything when he started, the savings “played a huge role and I advise people to save”.

“Go to the banks, enquire about different saving opportunities. You can never have enough for the rainy days when you need to start your own project,” he says.

He advises the youth to take up any job “wherever you get an opportunity even if it is not aligned with your field of study; the experience you get there will come handy someday”.

“Do not be too choosy, as long as you know where you are going you will not be discouraged about working at the factories while you are a teacher. Someday those skills will give you a competitive edge,” Lijo says.

He says at some point he ended up working in construction even though that was not what he had studied at school.

You need that experience especially when you want to start your own business, he says.

“Your capital is in the hands of your first customer. The money you make is a vehicle to push you to the next level. Market your business and do not be in a hurry to get returns or profit, it will eventually come,” he says.

Today, the company employs two permanent technicians.

Lijo says the future is looking bright for Green Technology.

What is green technology?

The term “technology” refers to the application of knowledge for practical purposes.

The field of “green technology” encompasses a continuously evolving group of methods and materials, from techniques for generating energy to non-toxic cleaning products.

The present expectation is that this field will bring innovation and changes in daily life of similar magnitude to the “information technology” explosion over the last two decades. In these early stages, it is impossible to predict what “green technology” may eventually encompass.

The goals that inform developments in this rapidly growing field include:

Sustainability – meeting the needs of society in ways that can continue indefinitely into the future without damaging or depleting natural resources. In short, meeting present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

“Cradle to cradle” design – ending the “cradle to grave” cycle of manufactured products, by creating products that can be fully reclaimed or re-used.

Source reduction – reducing waste and pollution by changing patterns of production and consumption.

Innovation – developing alternatives to technologies – whether fossil fuel or chemical intensive agriculture – that have been demonstrated to damage health and the environment.

Viability – creating a center of economic activity around technologies and products that benefit the environment, speeding their implementation and creating new careers that truly protect the planet. –

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