Renewable energy for a growing Bihar

4 August 2015
Bihar has witnessed a strong growth rate in the last ten years. The sustained growth is a result of a combined effort by the government on various fronts but primarily because of the governance system. The rule of law and an inclusive growth agenda has played a major role.

However, access to reliable energy will be a huge challenge to sustain this growth. The state’s electricity demand continues to grow rapidly and the state utilities have found it difficult to meet this demand. In this power deficient scenario, supplying power to non-electrified households becomes tough since utilities do not consider it an economical proposition.

The Bihar government has taken up several initiatives in the last five years and the per capita consumption has increased from 70kWh to approximately 200kWh. However, this is due to the government pumping a lot of money into power trading. The state’s own generation is negligible and some of its plants are operating under negative. This means that the government is fulfilling its energy needs either through power trading or from central allocation. This means that power is coming at a high premium price including the price for transmission and distribution (T&D) losses

The framework of four P’s
So, how can Bihar move towards a model of self-secured energy supply and access? Let’s look at the framework of four P’s

  1. People & Politics
    Only a strong political will can solve any problem. At present, we are in crisis mode. The current vision does not focus much on renewable energy. Current Chief Minister Shri. Nitish Kumar’s will has not translated on ground. We need to move out of this vicious cycle and reduce our dependence on coal. Shri. Nitish Kumar considers renewable energy a true and authentic source of energy but does this mean anything to policy makers? Decentralised Renewable Energy (DRE) will play a major role in Bihar moving towards the renewable energy pathway. The state requires an electrification model that is flexible enough to match its local needs which is easily scalable.
  2.  Public Policy
    While DRE holds tremendous potential, it lacks exclusivity and clarity in policy. It is essential from a policy standpoint to weave DRE standalone systems in to the planning and implementation process. Investors need assurance and support from the government and policies be made to support integration. They should complement instead of competing.
  3.  Price
    One of the most common perceptions of renewable energy is that solar power is expensive. However this is not true. In fact, in the last couple of years, the cost of grid connected solar PV power has decreased drastically. For example, a recent bid for setting-up a 40 MW solar PV plant in Andhra Pradesh was around INR 5.25/kWh which is below the price of setting-up a new coal fired power plants using imported coal (Approx. INR 5.4-5.7/ kWh).
  4. Partnership
    This is the most important P. We need a strong synergy between the public sector, private sector, investors, civil society and other stakeholders. We need to work together to find a lasting solution for people.
    We need to ensure that Bihar is self-sufficient in its energy needs. A growing Bihar cannot continue to grow without embracing the power of renewable energy! Bihar was the centre of political and economic importance in historic times. Now, it has the opportunity to become an innovative leader in the power sector and restore its glorious past.

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