(GIST OF KURUKSHETRA) Integrated Solar Village Scheme for Inclusive Development
Integrated Solar Village Scheme for Inclusive Development
- Solar energy helps to provide cheap and reliable renewable power to rural households in a cost-effective way. It also helps discoms reduce power procurement costs, transmission and distribution network upgrade costs, among others.
Steps taken by government so far:
- The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) offered capital subsidies for the installation of rooftop solar by residential households up to 10 KW of the system under phase Il of the Grid Connected Rooftop Solar Programme launched in 2019.
- India has installed around 11 GW of rooftop solar till August 2023. The scheme has been further extended up to 2026 in October 2022.
- Ministry simplified the process for application and securing subsidies for rooftop solar through the SPIN portal.
- As per CEEW-Villgro estimates, DRE-based clean energy innovations, particularly in the agriculture and textile sectors, have a market potential of ~USD 50 billion and can impact 37 million livelihoods in rural India.
Rural Economy Needs Energy for Development:
- The availability of reliable electricity is essential not only for meeting households’ requirements but also for the delivery of services (such as health, education, and other social infrastructure) and creating livelihood opportunities.
- India made significant progress by achieving nearly 100 per cent household electrification.
- As of March 2023, a total of 2.86 crore households had been electrified across states (PIB, 2023). However, the quality of the power supply remains a challenge.
Current Electricity Supply and Power Quality Situation in Rural Households:
- The power supply situation has improved over the years in the states, with some progressing towards 24-hour supply, such as Delhi, Kerala, and Gujarat.
- Rural India faces more power supply outages compared to urban areas, with an average of 20 hours of supply.
- Also, power quality issues (such as long blackouts, low voltages, or appliance damage) are experienced more by rural households compared to their urban counterparts due to voltage fluctuations.
Electricity Supply to Healthcare and Educational Institutions:
- According to a 2021 study, 5 per cent of primary health centres in rural areas function without electricity.
- The electricity situation is similar in health sub-centres, with ~12 per cent having no electricity supply (MoHFW, 2021).
- The situation worsens for areas more prone to extreme events driven by climate change, such as the climate change-induced Kerala floods of August 2018, which disrupted the health infrastructure significantly.
An ‘Integrated Solar Village Development Scheme:
States need to focus on integrated solar village development while formulating the scheme. The schemes should aim at improving the reliability and quality of power supply, boosting rural income, strengthening education and health services, and providing employment opportunities by integrating solar into the rural economy.
The major contour of these schemes could be:
- Demand Assessment- There is a need to assess the overall demand for electricity in the village, such as residential households, agricultural demand, government buildings etc. It helps to identify the solarization opportunity and potential for different solar applications such as solar PV, pumps, and refrigerators.
- Innovative Business Models- There is a need to assess the viability of different business models. Deploying rooftop solar installations is suitable for pucca houses with roof ownership. But, to overcome
The barriers of unsuitable rooftop conditions, high upfront costs, or a lack of consumer awareness, community solar models could be explored.
- Integrating Livelihoods through Decentralized Productive Appliances- This means identifying the potential applications, creating awareness, and incentivizing through credit access, among others.
- Integration with Existing Policies and Regulations - The scheme needs to identify its alignment with other existing state solar schemes, such as solar street lights and solar water heater programmes etc.
- Skill Development and Capacity Building- The scheme should target training youth in these rural areas to become Surya Mitras, enabling solar adoption in the state. There should be a dedicated-on gender- inclusive skill development at local levels.
- Models for Sustenance- There is a need to clearly define the roles and responsibilities of relevant stakeholders, from installation to maintenance.
- There is a need to switch gears and leverage the potential in rural areas by integrating rural policies towards a common vision of poverty alleviation and promoting clean energy.
- However, a parallel emphasis on accelerating the deployment of distributed renewable energy (DRE) will be equally important to achieve a sustainable and people-centric energy transition.