Categories: Environment

Learn or unlearn: greater energy sustainability solutions coming in from Rural India

“We rise by lifting others”, a completely true statement in regards with India’s condition.

The country has steered through more than 7 difficult decades, dealing with a challenging neighborhood, increasing literacy, alleviating poverty while sifting through sanctions, balancing the fragile reputation of an infant Republic and what not.

Time has come that we started working deeply on some living fundamentals those even find place in SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals).

It shall include hunger, drinking water and sanitation, reachable roads and electrification, even the standards like Internet access, banking and digitization have become vital services to live exactly like what has been guaranteed in article 21 of the Constitution.

One such important and indispensable necessity has been the access to electricity in every possible nook and corner of the country, be it rural, urban or hill areas in the mainland or a discrete island in the vast waters.

Pradhan Mantri Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojana, or Saubhagya scheme was launched with an aim to deliver electricity connections to over 40 million Indian families in rural and urban areas by 2018 end.

Around 304 million Indians lived without any access to electricity when the scheme was devised but last mile connectivity goal has not been an easy one to achieve.

One of other reasons for the scheme was to reform India’s ailing power sector and reinvigorate the economic growth of the country facing setback.

Free electricity connections to below poverty line (BPL) households and the above on payment of Rs500 in 10 instalments of Rs50 each along with their monthly bill, were to be provided to make a “New India by 2022”.

And so as per the world bank estimates, India has nearly doubled the number of electrified rural households, from 55% in 2010 to 96% in 2020.

That calls for 100% electrification in Indian villages but that seems okay until we invest in a more equitable and inclusive definition of energy access.

Currently ‘electrification’ only means that the power cables from a grid reach some transformer in the village and supply at least 10 percent of households as well as schools and health centers.

That may leave only 7 percent of Indian villages having 100 percent electrification of all households in its ambit.

In India the per capita average domestic consumption of electricity per year in 2009 was 96 KWH in rural area while being 288 KWH in urban areas. This is the same divide that we see while comparing a developed country and LDC (Least Developing Country).

How Rajasthan power regulator’s new ruling help powering Rural households?

Rajasthan Electricity Regulatory Commission (RERC) has recently ordered 3 of its Discoms (power distribution firms) to install solar power to unelectrified public colleges.

This will be undertaken using the company social accountability (CSR) funds segregated in the near-broke Discoms while easing the burden of infrastructure growth on them.

And has a potential to generate about 15 megawatts (MW) of power alone and if batteries to store the generated power too are setup additionally under the new rule, it can profit a few essential elements of rural life.

For instance, it can cater to after-school activities needed or to provide mid-day meal kitchens or availing drinking water, simply never restrict its use to powering lights in the school.

With climate change and rising global temperatures paired with changing local weather patterns, this largest state of India with scattered population need to build up its own level of resilience.

Therefore, the aim is set; to manufacture approximately 30 GW of photo voltaic power by 2025 for the state. For that it needs to upscale 7 GW yearly for next 4 years to fetch this dream.

Since most of this installed capacity is sourced from large-scale utility plants or photo voltaic parks with grounded panels the new RERC ruling can help the higher variety of public buildings to setup solar PV panels on its roof.

For example, panchayats, offices, railway stations, bus stops etc. can simply turn to harness clear power.

The energy supply may be well mitigated against disruptions caused due to climate change and weather uncertainties, if the energy gets secured and stored in these batteries for future use.

Large firms barely take to philanthropy in work and step-in only if the project yields certain profit.

When the state’s such imperative may help its schools, offices, rural centers become its ‘little suppliers’, the PV installations may spur growth and development.

With increased decentralization and advancements in battery applied sciences, this may even catapult the state into a considerable ‘exporter’ of green energy.

For this, an integration across disciplines of technology and collaborations between various departments is a boon.

For example, if the power department in this case, cooperate and plan with education department, things may begin changing at a greater pace than anticipated.

Sometimes, it even more important to unlearn things than learn or imbibe the new ones for better changes to be witnessed.

Its time we begin preferring sustainability to mere limitations like regionalism or the urban-rural divide to reinforce our fight for survival against all evils created by humans in denial.

Alaina Ali Beg

I am a lover of all arts and therefore can dream myself in all places where the World takes me. I am an avid animal lover and firmly believes that Nature is the true sorcerer.

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