Pico-Hydropower Franchising in Rural Honduras
This paper describes a four-year effort to alleviate poverty in rural villages of Honduras by creating financially self-sustaining electricity businesses at the village level. What began as a humanitarian engineering project undertaken by students and faculty at Baylor University, subsequently evolved into a larger effort of social entrepreneurship that included the incorporation of companies in the United States and Honduras. A novel micro-franchise business model was created that used small hydropower systems to generate electricity in local villages, and local villagers having vested financial interests to maintain, distribute, and protect these systems. Two of the authors relocated to Honduras to install village-level franchises, but numerous problems plagued the project. A few months after we launched the businesses, however, a fatal flaw was identified in the business model regarding the pace at which new systems could be deployed. Disclosure of this flaw resulted in the loss of funding. This paper will attempt to share the successes and failures of this project. Focus will be given to the most innovative aspects of our project which were largely entrepreneurial in nature. Technical details, when they are novel, will be shared, but hydro electric basics will be omitted where there is existing literature.
mico-franchise; pico-hydropower; rural electrification; Honduras