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Ashden report to boost rural electrification in India

According to reports, the Ashden Indian Collective – a team comprising Ashden awardees from India – has prepared a report recommending ways to develop off-grid renewable energy in the country. The report will soon be submitted to the Britain’s  Department of International Development (DFID) to get funds for framing policies on developing renewable energy in the country. The group’s  chairman is Ashden award winner and former West Bengal Green Energy Development Corporation’s  managing director, SP Gon Chaudhuri.

The recommendations primarily focus on two aspects – developing rural electrification and decentralizing distribution of generation.

The group conducted three round-table meetings last year on off-grid systems tariff to frame the draft policy. In rural areas, the power supply tariff is Rs 90 per unit in some places. In reality, many of these places do not receive any power. Kerosene is still used in large scale in rural areas. “Solar, bio mass and wind are the available local renewable energy sources in rural areas. Cost of power can come down to Rs 10 per unit if these sources are tapped,” said S P Gon Chaudhuri, the group’s chairman and former MD of the  West Bengal Green Energy Development Corporation.

On the second proposal, Gon Chaudhuri said, “People living in rural areas should get the opportunity to sell  solar power into the grid. Though electric lines are going to ensure uninterrupted power supply, the use of solar power has to be widely accepted so that people can sell it to the grid.” There are around 1 lakh villages in the country where this system could be used effectively.

According to estimates, almost 16% of the country’s 6 lakh villages do not have electricity at present. More than 85% of the rural poor and 44% of rural households do not have access to electricity. The ministry of new and renewable energy (MNRE) is promoting off-grid renewable energy for a long time. But the growth of off-grid systems has been much lower than expectations so far. At present, subsidy offered for off-grid generation is in the form of capital grants. Thus consumers of off-grid electricity systems are charged much more compared to grid-connected consumers. “For these reasons, a proper policy and regulatory framework is required for fully exploiting the economical potential of decentralized renewable energy systems,” said Gon Chaudhuri.

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