Novembre 6, 2015

How non-conventional solutions (would) boost sustainable development in India

How non-conventional solutions (would) boost sustainable development in India

The key load would come from agricultural and irrigation uses, which are subsidized. Disperse villages require huge investment for grid based infrastructures, which will not be recouped by the utility companies.


For instance, the cost of delivered electricity, could range from Rs.3.18 to 231.14/kWh, depending on the load and distance from distribution hubs, and the status of current infrastructures.


As we have seen in the first part of the reportage, in order to provide universal electrical access, the schemes rely on expanding the existing grid as well as upon conventional modes of electricity generation.


Grid based solutions are expensive to build and, so far, they have been found to be unreliable in rural India. Furthermore, given the high amount of capital required, debt-ridden discoms would find hard pressed to provide rural India with universal energy access.


A forward-looking perspective must go beyond the paradigm of centralized coal based generation.


In order to ensure equitable, sustainable and adequate electricity supply to all citizens, Delhi must think beyond the traditional means of grid connected fossil fuel based supply.


New and renewable technologies are an option. Innovative delivery models would also fill the void left by the discoms. Micro-grids – powered by renewable sources such as solar and wind – are a way to solve some of these problems. Micro-grids take less time to be installed. Since they are scalable, they can meet communities expanding needs more easily. Existing non-conventional solutions, like the provision of rooftop solar systems and solar lanterns, are, as an immediate and temporary solution, certainly important. Yet, they are unable to sustain consumption that transcends customary basic requirements.


Rural India needs to have “modern” energy access. A way forward could be a model that involves the community, with a stakeholder-focused approach. In this way, the stakeholder would be trained so that she can manage the technical and financial aspects of the system as a local enterprise model. Not only this would lead to better service delivery, but also this strategy is likely to impact on capacity building and livelihood diversification in the village.



The government has instituted a few policies towards rural electrification through distributed generation, such as the Remote Village Electrification Program (RVE), Village Energy Security Program (discontinued in 2012) and the Decentralized Distributed Generation (DDG) component of the RGGVY. The briefs for the schemes are different, and they have met with different results. For instance, the Village Energy Security Program was a means to harness biomass, and convert biomass into electricity at the village level; it had to be discontinued due to logistical hurdles in implementation.


These programs generally focus on villages that are remote, and that are difficult to be electrified by the grid, and, strikingly, they tend not to address those that are underserved by the grid. They have been partly successful, with over 10000 villages electrified by the RVE program and with the DDG covering 1290 habitations. Despite these successes, there are fundamental problems in establishing microgrids and, often, there is no follow up funding for operation and maintenance. The process of obtaining the subsidy is also fraught with bureaucratic hurdles, which makes it difficult for entrepreneur to invest, and leads to delays in obtaining funds.


Now something is moving. We see efforts toward the implementation of renewable solutions for electricity provision where the grid already exists without supplying adequate power. This is the way forward. Another fundamental step needs to be made soon. In order to provide modern energy access to everyone in the country, the government must redefine the standard definition of electrification. A precise description of how the things really are can trigger action both inside and outside the country. Moreover, Mr Modi must ease policy for obtaining subsidy. This pass by a correction of the imbalance between the amount of subsidy to grid based generation or distribution and the amount of subsidy directed to non-conventional micro-grid-based-generation.


Once these things are done, we can really say that India is on the path to universal energy access.

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About Arjun


Arjun holds a Master's degree in Environmental Science from Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey and a Master's degree in Inorganic Chemistry from Osmania University, India. He has worked in non-profit organizations, quasi governmental organizations and has experience in academic research in the environmental sector. Arjun has also worked in the development sector, where he was involved in studying the impacts of Social Safety Net programmes in rural South India. His professional interests include working at the intersection of science and policy in the fields of: energy use in buildings, life cycle analysis, water management, and water reuse and wastewater treatment.

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