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Bihar has lots of potential in solar energy: Hande

According to reports, Bihar government should withdraw 5% VAT on solar equipment to boost the use of renewable energy in the state which has huge potential in this field, said Magsaysay award winner Harish Hande on Thursday.

A pioneer in installing solar power equipment in poor households, Hande was in the city to attend the UN Foundation meet on energy. “Bihar is flooded with substandard solar equipment. There is huge demand against short supply of good material,” he told TOI.

Hande, an IIT (Kharagpur) alumnus, said the state should introduce two-year course of energy technicians in our ITIs to create a pool of technical hands to repair and design solar panels, lanterns, biogas and inverters. “Under the Jeevika project, the young people can also get proper training,” he said, adding that the normal life of a solar panel is 25 years and the life of a battery is five years. “But, we get a lot of complaints about the poor quality of equipment,” said Hande, who started his own company in 1995 to provide clean sustainable technology to the rural poor.
“We are now working in partnership with SEWA Bharat to provide solar energy to over 4,000 households in Munger, Katihar and Bhagalpur districts over the next 2 years. Over 300 households have already been provided solar light services through SHG loans by Gramin Bank, Kharagpur Haveli branch in Munger district,” Hande said. The project was extremely successful as the people saved on a monthly basis – avoiding the monthly expenditure of Rs150 on kerosene and Rs 75 on charging mobile phones.

“There is a misconception that poor can’t afford the technology. Proportionate to their earnings, poor people spend more on energy requirements than a regular person with access to electricity. The poor spend 10 to 12 per cent of their income on kerosene and coal,” said Hande, a PhD from the University of Massachusetts.

Over half a dozen representatives of rural banks from Karnataka and West Bengal had a daylong session with representatives of gramin banks and Nabard, Bihar, to design the loan package in such a way that poor could afford it for buying solar equipment.

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