Pankaj’s village in Bharaich had no electricity for the past several years – and he had no recollection of using electricity to light up his home ever. Yet, everytime he travels to a large city, like Lucknow, he remained hopeful of turning on the switch some day.
The hope had been fading fast, and Pankaj had turned 26 – he was finished with school and had been hanging around with friends in the village. Agriculture was the main occupation and his family survived on tilling the small land holding that they had, and at times, working as washers in the cities. When the weather gods supported, they had a good crop – and that was enough to see them through a few months.
Pankaj’s life changed when he heard of a project being done around solar eletrification in a nearby district. He went to Sitapur where a small village was being electrified. On enquiring, he got a job with the company that was installing this project – and he learnt the ropes there. He was determined to get electricity into his village.
It has been three months that Semri Malma has electricity via solar – small amounts of lighting available for 30 houses cluster in the village. The lighting has changed people’s lives there. LED lighting provides, enough light to the occupants in the house to cook and eat, and for the children to study better. The kerosene lamp still lies in the house, somewhere, but not used – and smoky fumes are no longer bothering children and women in the house.
When you talk to Pankaj, there is a certain confidence in him – he says it was his dream to see his home lit – and he has been able to do better – he has got light for many more homes than just his alone.
There are many more Pankaj’s out there.. lets discover them – and change lives for the better.. lets light their lives !
For most of us living in metros and born in post liberalisation era, “Electricity is our way of life, without it our lives would perish”. A day without electricity is something many of us can’t even imagine, speaking of villages 84.9% of Indian villages have electricity line. The picture thus seems to be rosy one but it isn’t.
A basic reason for this is power is on the concurrent list of Indian constitution and thus when asked about the abysmal power situation in villages those in government find it easiest to pass the buck the states blame the centre and vice versa but the situation on ground does not improve. The peak power deficit-the gap between demand and supply in the summer of 2010-according to the Government’s own calculations was 10.8 per cent. Losses in distribution average over 30 per cent across India. At the Centre, the power, environment, coal and heavy industries ministries have in various ways acted as obstacles to the addition of capacity. In the states, populist governments and spineless electricity regulators have done little to reform ailing distribution networks.
The Central Electricity Authority (CEA), the main advisory body to the Union power minister, has set a target of 100,000 mw of additional power generation in the period of the 12th five-year plan between 2012 and 2017. That is what is needed to meet the power demand of an economy forecast to grow at 9 per cent per annum. Seventy per cent of this additional capacity is to be added through coal-based thermal power but data from last 20 years shows that only an average of 50.5 per cent of overall targets were met in the eighth, ninth and tenth five-year plans between 1992 and 2007.Every major political formation has governed the country in that period none has much to be proud of in terms of performance in the power sector.
According to a planning commission report of 2014 as many as 600 million Indians do not have access to electricity, only 46% of rural households have access to electricity and majority of these households receive electricity for one hour a day or less.
Thus to even imagine that villages would be getting adequate power supply over next few decades by expansion of grids or by increasing production would be like building castles in the air, but this situation can be an opportunity for exploring new frontiers. Renewable sources of energy can be a way forward in dealing with this situation, and that too a sustainable one. The amount of untapped potential of electricity generation from renewable resources in very high and effective utilization of same can lead to an “energy miracle”. It can completely overhaul the power sector in India. In long run electrification done through renewable resources is low cost and subsidies provided by government further help in reduction in cost.
Another aspect of this is that to generate electricity through conventional sources- demand in terms of infrastructure required is high, various thermal and nuclear power projects have led to a feeling of resentment and widespread protests in rural areas. Renewable resources have an advantage here as well. A solar panel can fit easily on the rooftop of a house and even for windmills the amount of land required is less as compared to conventional sources. This develops in villagers a sense of confidence that their life is being improved without unnecessary intervention in their lifestyle and thus integrating them into the economic development process is much easier.
Majority of population in villages is farmers and the plight of Indian farmer is known to all of us. 51% of our population is employed in agriculture sector but their contribution to GDP is just 17%. Disguised unemployment is rampant and size of land holdings is only getting smaller; to improve this situation there is an urgent need for workforce to shift from primary to secondary and tertiary sectors. One step necessary for this transition to happen is that kids in rural areas get access to education. If rural areas get adequate electricity, schools can function properly in all seasons unlike the present condition when in winter and rainy seasons low visibility affects their functioning. This can also help in solving the problem of lack of good quality teachers that plagues the education sector, especially in rural areas. If there is enough electricity to run a single projector in every school then kids can be taught via smart classes and this could be boon to them in terms of their career.
Off late there has been lot of talk about digital India. There is a long term plan of making most of paper work like ration card, passport etc. and other government initiatives completely online. For the villagers to have access to these facilities they need to get adequate power supply and thus rural electrification becomes even more important.
In the end I would conclude by quoting Gandhiji , “India lives in its villages” and so for India as a nation to develop at fast pace in 21st century and for living conditions of our citizens to improve rural electrification is not a choice but a necessity.
Meera, a resident of Semri Malvalag, in Uttar Pradesh has been living in the dark since she was married, and came into this village, to her husbands home. Her joy knew no bounds, when her home was ‘electrified’ with a solar home lighting system set up that can provide light and fan to her home, when needed. The system can provide light during the evening hours, helping her perform house hold work much more efficiently than before. Her children can study better. Importantly, the overall interaction within the house has improved, and with lighting inside the house, seemingly, the overall standard of living has improved so much.
Ab humare bacche bhi pad likh sakhte hain, aur aage bad sakte hain, humara time to nikal gaya par unko to time accha nikal jawega [Our children can also study at night, and move ahead in their lives, we have lived our lives, but the children have their lives ahead and hopefully that will be much better]
A slight mutatis mutandis to a quote given by our beloved Spiderman, “With Great power” comes great Electricity Bill! Yes the original quote was true as well as this connotation holds true in today’s time. Power/Electricity should now be conferred as a status quo that everyone cannot afford, not our backward villages at least. Talking about these villages, here is a startling fact about India, around 412 million Indians have no access to electricity and about 90% of them form part of the rural population. And as disappointing as it is, the irony is that these people are the people who actually feed the rest of the population of India who work in the scorching heat, chilly winters and what not. Should not they be equally eligible for the basic comfort of electricity after the mammoth efforts they put in their fields just to feed the people sitting in their Air Conditioned cubicles doing nothing but manipulations and exploitation of the resources that can be put to a much good use?
This is why there is a need to address the conundrum of Rural Electrification as soon as possible. Rural Electrification is basically a paradigm shift of thoughts of concentrating on the need to electrify the villages of India which do not have any access to electricity whatsoever. Hitherto, various programmes have been undertaken by the Government and various other organisations to address this issue but they have not been able to completely absorb the concern because of lack of public support and interest.
It holds so true that “ Our generation is better prepared for a Zombie Apocalypse than an hour without electricity”, then why squander such an important resource which can be used to bring a change in the lives of people who live in the rural ghetto of India. About 668 million or around 70% of the Indians (in 6.4 lakh villages) live in rural areas and continue to use animal dung, agricultural waste and fuel wood as fuel for cooking. They do not have access to even a basic fan or a tubelight.
But with the emergence of Solar Power and the benefits one can reap of it, are truly palatable. Solar energy can help Electrify our villages in an efficient way as the solar power is the last resource that is not owned yet, as nobody “taxes” the sun yet! Government has taken steps to tackle this important issue by setting up Rural Electrification Corporation Limited (REC) and various schemes such as Pradhan Mantri Gram Vidyut Yojna, inter alia. But the government and various NGO’s working for the cause need people’s support in view of people taking lead from examples of countries like Costa Rica which became the first country to get all its needs from renewable sources mostly from solar power or from people who have set up Solar power panels on their rooftop providing additional electricity to the grid and thus transferring that extra electricity to the unelectrified villages.
Hence, the cause of Rural electrification needs to be addressed immediately so that maximum can be done for these electricity deprived villages which are of course a part of our beautiful India which shall lead all over the world in the coming years ahead.
As quoted by Thomas Edison in 1931, “I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don’t have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that.”
So give the cause a thought and start now to be a part of this noble deed as all these initiatives involves full community participation to ensure the success of the endeavors.
Electrify the Villages, Villages will Em”POWER” India. And the world shall say “Watt A Village”.
There are close to 171 banks operating in India with 76,000 branches and over 12,000 NBFCs. There is already talk at the Central Ministry level of financing solar via the bank branches and the Regional Rural Banks. Initial meetings and top level honchos have met, with the MNRE officials, and they have been mandated to send the message downwards to the branches. While things are yet to change at the branch level, one often wonders ……What if each bank branch was mandated to finance 100 KW of solar power each year. Where would this lead us ?
The plain arithmetic of this is mind boggling !
7,600 MWs of solar power added to the country’s capacity every year and the biggies have not even stepped in.
Is 100 KW difficult to finance ? Not really, if we consider an average sized branch – it can benefit from about 8-12 KW of SPV plant itself for its own captive consumption. With each branch catering on an average to around 1800 customers, being able to offer this proposition to 20 customers of this lot, should not be difficult since the bank would have access to repayment capability. Financing this, would be in the bank’s interests in any case ( even if its on preferential interest rates).
Imagine if this becomes policy or mandate for the next 10 years. Remember that grid parity can be achieved by 2017 according to experts, and we believe that timeline shall get crunched even more. So financing and offering this post 2016-17, should be a compelling proposition in any case.
Now, if this can provide 76,000 MWs of decentralised energy generation, this is equivalent to producing about 110,000 MWs via power plants and distributing (taking into account, various T & D losses).
Financing solar in India truly is the key to unlocking solar potential in India.
Growing Markets in Renewable Energy
Bangladesh’s progress in microfinance is well known. But the application in Green Banking has been a new innovation. Many homes in off-grid areas have used microfinance loans to install solar panels.
Bangladesh is home to one of the fastest-growing solar home industries in the world. IDCOL, a government-owned intermediary, with support from the World Bank, has installed more than 3 million solar home systems. This has been enabled access to energy.
Around 13 million people are now getting solar electricity – around 9 percent of the population. Another 3 million more are set to be installed over the next few years and the market is growing.
In my interviews in Bangladesh last month I found that, in many places, solar energy has saved people money compared to using kerosene lamps. There are also health benefits – using solar electricity prevents indoor air pollution from burning kerosene.
Electricity allows children to study in the evenings and has supported small businesses, like cottage industries in garments.
In 2009, the Central Bank launched its own 200 billion taka ($25 million) renewable energy re-financing scheme for solar panels, biogas and waste treatment plants, to encourage the growth of these markets.
There could be lessons for other countries in Africa that have huge populations lacking grid access. Rahman has joined an advisory council at the United Nations Environment Programme in its enquiry into the design of a sustainable financial system.
Tackling poverty and financial inclusion
Not only has the Central Bank being successful on green banking, but it has also promoted financial inclusion of the poorest farmers. Rahman argues strongly that financial inclusion and stability are mutually supportive.
Rahman’s own life story is an interesting example of social mobility and inclusion, as he worked his way up from being the son of a rural farmer to Governor of the Central Bank.
The Central Bank has introduced bank accounts that can be opened with a deposit of just 10 taka (about 9 British pence), giving millions of poor farmers an opportunity to open up an account. All this has been enabled by the mobile phone revolution in Bangladesh.
These farmers, who have moved from the ‘unbanked’ to the ‘banked’, are now able to take bank loans instead of borrowing from informal moneylenders who charge high interest.
Access to finance can also help rural farmers become more resilient to disasters. As extreme weather events may become more frequent due to climate change, steps like these can help build resilience.
In a world where public faith in bankers has been tarnished by the financial crisis, Rahman’s reforms are rightfully being recognised as a global success story from the world of banking.
When is a village termed electrified?
According to the Ministry of Power, a village is termed electrified when –
– Basic infrastructure such as Distribution Transformer and Distribution lines are provided in the inhabited locality as well as the Dalit Basti hamlet where it exists.
– Electricity is provided to public places like Schools, Panchayat Office, Health Centers, Dispensaries, Community centers etc.
– The number of households electrified should be at least 10% of the total number of households in the village.
The important figure here is 10%. An electrified village doesn’t necessarily mean that all its residents enjoy the benefits of electricity, and thus figures representing the number of electrified villages can be misleading.
Why is rural electrification important ?
In rural areas, electricity finds one more important area of deployment that is absent in urban areas and that is mechanization of many farming operations like threshing, milking and hoisting grain for storage. From an Indian perspective, this is extremely important since till this day, approximately 50 percent of the Indian population is dependent on agriculture as their source of livelihood. The novel visions of our Prime Minister won’t see the light of the day until this sector flourishes.
Like education, rural electrification too has manifold effects in the day-to-lives of a rural resident. It frees up significant amounts of human time and labour. Women across villages in India spend hours and hours on procuring water for their families. Imagine the impact it can create if these women can utilize this time spent doing arduous labour for some economic activity!
It also has a direct effect on a community’s daylight hours. People can work longer which translates to better income and better standard of living.
What are some of the positive trends in rural electrification?
Much of this improvement has been attributed to India which witnessed mass migration to powered metropolitan areas. Electrification rates in India in the year 1990 were only 43 percent as opposed to vast improvement to about 75% in 2012.
But picture abhi baaki hai…
While UTs like Lakshwadeep, Delhi and Daman and Dui record electrification rates of over 99%, Assam, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar lie on the other end of the spectrum with dismal rates of 37%, 36.8% and 16.4% only. Thus even with decent levels of electrification in the country, the widespread regional disparities are a matter of genuine concern for policymakers and regulators.
In 1990, 40 percent of the world population (2.2 billion people) still lacked power. Nineteen years later in 2009, this figure changed to 18 percent, affecting 1.456 billion people. In terms of percentage of households using electricity as their primary source of lighting, we witnessed an an increase from 55.8% in 2001 to 67.2% in 2011.
What is India’s role in this?
What are some of the policies and programmes adopted by the Indian government?
1. National Electricity Policy 2005
2. National Rural Electrification Policy, 2006
1. Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana (DDUGJY)
2. Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojana
3. Remote Village Electrification Programme
4. Village Energy Security Security programme
5. Minimum Needs Program (MNP)
6. Pradhan Mantri Gramodaya Yojana (PMGY)
7. Kutir Jyoti Scheme
8. Accelerated Rural Electrification Programme (AREP)
An Article written by Swati Gugnani
The power and automation technology group ABB will partner with Pact Myanmar to bring electricity in the form of solar power to approximately 3,500 individuals from villages in rural areas of Mandalay, Central Myanmar. With an estimated population of 51 million, Myanmar is a newly emerging country that has a per capita GDP of only around US$1,105, one of the lowest in East Asia and the Pacific. At present, over 75 percent of inhabitants have no access to electricity of any form and rural communities account for two thirds of the total population. The project was announced as the first round-the-world solar flight, Solar Impulse 2 (Si2), made its landing in Mandalay, Myanmar. ABB is the technology partner of this pioneering airplane, which can fly both day and night powered only by solar energy. The project involves establishing solar battery charging stations to be run by women’s groups in remote villages in the Tada Oo township. Power from the stations will be sold back to communities, thus bringing economic self-sufficiency and entrepreneurship to the townships. Financial support will also be provided for villages to purchase photovoltaic equipment at the community level. Read more from Asian Scientist Magazine at: http://www.asianscientist.com/2015/03/tech/abb-pact-bring-solar-power-rural-myanmar/?__scoop_post=2d578200-ef96-11e4-c1f3-001018304b75&__scoop_topic=4200436#__scoop_post=2d578200-ef96-11e4-c1f3-001018304b75&__scoop_topic=4200436
“Building up the energy infrastructure is essential to Myanmar’s future economic and social progress, and off-grid electrification is one way to accelerate access to electricity,” said Mr. Johan de Villiers, Managing Director of Singapore and South-East Asia, ABB.
Mr. Richard Harrison, Country Director of Pact Myanmar explained, “Pact is committed to partnering with communities and institutions to address the critical need for electricity in rural areas in Myanmar. Our project will help reduce routine community expenditures on more expensive traditional energy sources by up to 20 percent.”
“Once communities have access to reliable light and energy sources throughout the day and evening hours, they are more able to increase their standard of living, and will be able to allocate more time and resources to education, income generation, health and community development activities,” he said. Daw Kyi of Kyaung Kone Village is excited about what this change means for their children. “Students will be able to study at night. This project promises a brighter future for our children,” she said.
For most villagers in these communities this will be the first time they will have reliable access to electricity. Through renewable energy, they will now be able to power lighting and small electrical applicances. This is the latest project in ABB’s Access to Electricity rural electrification program