According to reports, with a view to meet rural energy needs, the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) plans to seek financial assistance from the National Clean Energy Fund (NCEF) to aid off-grid solar projects across the country. “We are in talks with the Finance Ministry for seeking funds to the tune of Rs 800 crore from the NCEF to support off-grid solar projects in rural areas,” renewable energy secretary Gireesh Pradhan told PTI here.
The NCEF has been created to provide finances to green energy projects and research ventures aimed at reducing the carbon footprint. “We expect to get approval for these funds in next six months. We will use it over the next five years,” he said. The funds will be made available to project developers through regional rural and housing finance banks, he said. “The funds will be provided to the Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency (Ireda) which will disburse it to agencies like Nabard, Sidbi and other institutions for refinance,” Pradhan said. The ministry has already allocated Rs 300 crore in the FY13 budget for the scheme. “Our intent is to allocate nearly one-third of our budget for off-grid solar scheme,” Pradhan said.
According to the 2011 Census, nearly 45 percent of rural households still do not have access to electricity. During the 10th Plan, the MNRE electrified 2,617 villages with a total expenditure of Rs 211 crore, which translates into an average cost of Rs 8.1 lakh per village. “As the remaining unelectrified villages become more remote and scattered, the incremental cost of extending grid will go up. At the same time, grid connectivity also brings in the challenge of T&D losses. Thus is it necessary to exploit the available resources of renewable energy locally, which can be achieved through off-grid solutions,” Pradhan argued. The potential area of off-grid solar applications include solar water heating systems, home lighting systems which include solar lanterns, solar cooking systems, solar pumps, small power generating systems.