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Decentralised renewable energy holds the key to rural electrification

With Centre’s ambitious Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojana failing to provide quality electricity access to rural India, at a National Consultation organised by Greenpeace, restructuring of RGGVY to include decentralised renewable energy for quick and reliable electricity to all, was the key issue on focus. The consultation brought together government agencies, energy experts, policy makers and civil society representatives.

“The centralised grid based approach of RGGVY has not been able to meet people’s aspirations. Rural areas have always been neglected in this energy hierarchy. Decentralised renewable energy can break this hierarchy and provide quick, reliable and sustainable power to people. The planning commission should consider and include it in the scheme,” said Divya Raghunandan, Campaigns Director, Greenpeace India.

This shift to decentralisation was echoed by Deepak Gupta, Secretary, Ministry of new and renewable energy, recently at the global energy forum at Vienna, Austria.  He highlighted the need for a fundamental rethink in India’s approach to rural electrification, and the failure of the currently prevalent grid extension approach towards fulfilling the mandate of electricity for all. He emphasized on decentralised distributed generation models (DDG) operated at the local level which rely on renewable energy sources and technologies as the way forward to deliver on energy access. This would deliver faster on access while reducing costs around centralised grid extension (2).

Ahead of the national consultation, Greenpeace conducted social audits and public hearings on RGGVY in 31 villages across Madhubani and Saran districts in Bihar, Azamgarh district in Uttar Pradesh and Srikakulam district in Andhra Pradesh.

The social audits and the public hearings clearly brought out the inconsistencies in the claims made by the Centre’s scheme and what the reality at the ground level.

In a shocking expose, it was found that while the information on the RGGVY website claimed that Saran and Madhubani districts in Bihar had achieved 100 per cent and 97 per cent electrification, in reality, almost 78 per cent of the population at Saran and almost all villages in Madhubani had no access to electricity. Similarly, in Azamgarh, eastern Uttar Pradesh (UP), the RGGVY website claims electrification upto 93 per cent, while in reality a large number of people have been denied even an electric connection. In energy deficient UP and Bihar, the supply is highly erratic and unreliable.

In Andhra Pradesh, where villages have access to electricity, RGGVY has failed to achieve intense electrification that it set out to do. Improvement in electricity infrastructure has not translated to improved supply and failed to meet the demands of the people who want electricity for more than just lighting purposes.

Greenpeace calls on the Planning Commission and the Ministry of Power to mainstream DRE in RGGVY in a significant way. The scheme should:

  • Take up a target of small scale renewable energy generation (mix of mini-grid and off-grid) infrastructure development in the 12th plan period.
  • Include electrification for 100 per cent households in a village. 
  • Embed the social audit component in the scheme to enhance accountability of the system.
  • Include guidelines for energy infrastructure for irrigation and medium and small scale industries as part of rural energy programme
  • Inclusion of Panchayati Raj Institutions to enable better implementation and monitoring of the scheme.

Greenpeace will share the recommendations emerging out of today’s consultation with the Planning Commission and the Ministry of Power.

All the above are excellent recommendations by Greenpeace and Panchabuta has often opined that decentralised mini smart grids and micro grids with renewable energy generation are key elements in rural electrification.

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