Energy access is critical in achieving sustainable human development. An estimated population of 1.2 billion (approximately 17%) of the global population is living without electricity. About 2.7 billion people (approximately 38%) of the global population have put their health at stake through reliance on traditional use of solid biomass for cooking.
For the equitable development of a nation, it is essential that the access to and the availability of the energy sources is guaranteed to all. However, there are rising inequities in the energy delivery system in our country – both at an urban-rural level as well as between different states. CEED is working to promote decentralised renewable energy micro-grids to provide electricity to the 300 million people in India still living in darkness.
Renewable energy is well-suited to meet India’s need for power in remote areas that lack grid and road infrastructure due to the distributed nature of resources and the scalability of system design. India’s indigenous coal production is not able to keep pace with demand, in terms of quality or quantity. Coal shortages are not only a major contributor to shortfalls in electricity generation but also lead to blackouts throughout the country. Hence it is important to look at renewable energy which is affordable, economically and environmentally sustainable.
The discourses around energy have amalgamated around “incremental” and “genuine” energy access. While the power from the central grid is considered ideal by most even at this day and age, there is also a realisation that at an all India level, there is a deficit of -1847 MW of electricity. Decentralised grids work with locally available raw materials with an operational capacity that is determined by the supply and demand requirements. The system has a local reach and can be adjusted to optimise any activity in the rural sector including agriculture, commercial and household requirements. The operation and maintenance of these systems are handy and can be managed by local community if given the basic technical expertise.
CEED has been working on promoting decentralised mini-grids in rural India, and has made tremendous efforts in Bihar. With the support of Greenpeace India and Basix (a livelihood promotional institute), CEED gave India its first solar-powered village, Dharnai in Bihar. After 30 years in darkness, Dharnai was lit up using solar power in July 2014 using a Decentralised Renewable Energy (DRE) system. It has a capacity of 100 kilowatt and powers 450 homes of the 2,400 residents, 50 commercial operations, 60 street lights in the village, two schools, a training centre and a health care facility. The village has become a state-of-the-art model in terms of smart energy solutions and has received accolades from across the globe.
After the great response towards Dharnai, we have been working with the government, policy think tanks, civil society and industries to emulate this model in Bihar and other parts of India.