Access to Clean Energy

31 Dec 2010


This publication presents case studies from across the country that illustrate the utilization of renewable energy sources with a wide range of applications across various sectors.

India is growing at an impressive rate of 8.2% and this is likely to continue. This would further drive the demand for electricity. The supply challenge is of such magnitude that there are reasonable expectations that severe shortages may occur. Electricity shortage is not the only problem. Its spread is an equally serious issue. More than 40% of the population has little or no commercial energy access for their living and livelihoods. Others with access often have to cope with poor and erratic availability. Not only is this a basic human need for quality of life but it constraints generation of productive activities and incomes and employment in rural areas which has itself become a critical factor in India's future development process. Further, the little supply that comes in such areas is from the use of kerosene for lighting and diesel for powering irrigation pumps and small enterprises. Both these are imposing further financial burdens on the economy because of high levels of subsidy and add to the problems of energy security. India has undertaken a very ambitious programme of conventional power generation in an attempt to meet these gaps and to leap frog to a higher growth access. It is clear from the above that India's needs for secure, affordable, and environmentally sustainable energy has become one of the principal economic development challenges for the country. And it is in this context that the role of renewable energy in India has to be seen. It is now no longer 'alternate energy' but has become a key part of these solutions.

The development and utilization of renewable energy sources has been accorded high priority by the Government of India. The policies and programmes implemented by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy have been successful in creating an large and diversified infrastructure to promote renewable energy, technologies in the country including in rural areas. In spite of these efforts, renewable energy is still away from the rural energy mainstream. Lack of innovative delivery models, adequate repair and maintenance servicing locally, limited financing to defray the high upfront capital cost of renewable energy devices, inability to link renewable energy applications for productive end uses, unfamiliarity of entrepreneurs to structured commercial viable proposals are somehow the major barriers in mainstreaming renewable energy in the rural energy sector.

But, there is a wind of change as several projects have been successfully implemented across the country based on renewable resources. Several NGO's also have been successful in providing electricity through renewable sources in a number of villages across the country. A number of technocrats, committed to sustainable development have utilized their skills for improving technology for use in small businesses and several urban local issues have also been solved using renewable technology.

Implemented in a project mode, the programmes have been largely commercially sustainable with an add-on package of improving the livelihoods and consequently the living conditions of the users. They offered employment opportunities, improved medical and educational facilities and an opportunity for the villagers to broaden their horizon of working. It aims to put those living in the rural areas at par with others in the country to avail of the technological development and for example, stay connected using mobile phones. A number of these projects benefitted from the several incentives provided by the government both at the Centre and the State. Most importantly, a number of these projects have busted the myth that the rural people cannot afford and maintain technology and that it is not possible to run a commercial venture that fulfils a social objective. These renewable energy projects have touched the lives across the section of the society in rural as well as the urban areas. Even the most visited temple in the country– Tirupati in South India has embraced renewable technology for better efficiency. The case studies show how technology based on renewable energy has benefited small businesses where it is being applied to enhance production value and provide cleaner and a greener technology.

The following pages unfold a glimpse of success stories of seemingly impossible situations where there was no development for providing clean energy. The case studies are a compilation of some of the best examples of renewable energy projects. A number of them have been awarded the prestigious Ashden award. Many of them are path- breaking efforts, trying to match the needs of villagers, small businesses, local residents with available local resources at an affordable price and green technology and culminating towards safeguarding the environment.

These success stories also show the way for India and the developing world that development, particularly rural development can perhaps go hand – in – hand with preserving the environment. These projects are based on various renewable energy technologies and devices, such as improved cook stoves, biogas plants for various applications, biomass gasifiers using different feedstock's, solar photovoltaic lighting, solar thermal water heating systems and water mill from different parts of the country, appropriate to rural areas and capable of providing access to clean energy in rural areas. The innovativeness is not only in the technology application for various end uses but also in developing and implementing a sustainable delivery and revenue model, in many cases without using the government incentives.

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