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Need for community-based model for reliable and sustainable power in rural India

Aparna Raut's picture
Industry Lead, IBM

Have been working in IT, delivering projects and programs for E&U clients across the globe for last 15 years

  • Member since 2020
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  • Feb 22, 2021
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India, with more than 1.2B billion people has seen sufficient power being generated or at times surplus as well. Does this mean things are completely on right track? Do people get safe, reliable and affordable power always? - not always. 

Maybe it is a reflection on 3-4 dimensions –

1- The demand is still not as expected and not well distributed 

2- It is said that all villages in India are now electrified – does not necessarily mean all the households have electricity. The framework states if a village has 10% of its household and other establishment electrified, then its considered as ‘electrified village’

3- We still rely largely on thermal power plants and power supplied through centralized grid

4- Reliable, quality and sustainable power is still largely debatable.

 

We all understand India has lots of challenges. This is still a country that is heavily dependent on agriculture driven economy. As you move away from urban areas and into villages and further the dynamics of electricity consumption changes completely. To get the economic engine going one has to make sure that these areas get sustainable and quality power.

I can state the way I see it – the grid has definitely reached almost all places, but does it guarantee availability of sustainable and quality power, not necessarily.

 

Considering the vastness and complex geographic spread of India a model that is self-reliant, and community based could be more sustainable – both in terms of generation and Maintenance, repair and operations (MRO). Depending upon the geographic locations should we not consider the model that can be made more locally sustainable? Just  a thought worth pondering.

 

How can Govt and local communities potentially play their role complementing to this purpose - 

- Govt can help (its already in progress) to further strengthen the model by providing more renewable generation parks of smaller size. Rural community can be made stakeholders which might solve problem that come with land acquisition when mega generation plants are planned.

-Low interest financing and subsidy can make such proposals lucrative to such communities.

- Maintenance of the state of the grid to ensure sustainable power to far reaching people is a big challenge. Like there are other dedicated roles in villages to address conflicts, look after forest land etc. roles can be created by imparting training in basic maintenance and break-fix of simple supply problems.

 

Advantages to Government and Communities

- Decentralized source of power and maintenance

- Empowering locals to take care of their community’s energy needs

-  Potential alternate revenue opportunity by participating in such models.

- Responsibility being put on them will address the issue of overdependence on cash striped state electricity board staff.

Technically community-based electricity generation-distribution model can draw a parallel to the canal irrigation infrastructure being managed for years by involvement of local community. Such model being possible only using non-conventional energy sources can be a good step towards carbon neutral society. Governments can save themselves from conflicts with communities arising out of mega power projects which stretches for years and at times brings huge economic losses.

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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Feb 22, 2021

I can state the way I see it – the grid has definitely reached almost all places, but does it guarantee availability of sustainable and quality power, not necessarily.

Can you expand on this-- is the availability of power on the grid not reliable where it stretches now? Are there common outages? 

Aparna Raut's picture
Aparna Raut on Feb 23, 2021

Its about frequent breakdown in the power supply in the last mile distribution line for various reasons like quality of infrastructure, weather condition (extreme rain, winds etc.), erratic demand of power due to load shedding schedules etc.

One can see a situation like the power reached a particular village and the line going to a village few miles further will have some small breakdown and will be without power for days together. What I am saying is that dependency  to fix such small fault that may not need extreme high skill may be handled  by creating semi skilled manpower at local level. There are many roles as mentioned in my article that are community based and are on honorarium. Pool of people with required skillset can be accommodated at such levels as well.

Besides, generation at local level, which is not a new idea,  can be on locations as small as farm boundaries, community pasture lands etc. supported by subsidies and liberal financing.

 

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Feb 23, 2021

Thanks for the detailed follow up, Aparna. Indeed local generation is an established idea, but creating the on-call workforce at the local level is quite an interesting idea and shows great adaptation for the needs/opportunities in this specific geography. Thanks for sharing!

Aparna Raut's picture
Thank Aparna for the Post!
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