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Village-scale solar powered minigrids are the most promising path for India to meet its linked aims of GDP growth and access to electricity for all. The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy is already active on this front, but a comprehensive and standardised national minigrid policy that facilitates private sector involvement and eases financing, will allow this model to flourish.
India is betting heavily on renewable energy to produce a significant chunk of the electricity necessary to power an 8% GDP growth, with a much smaller carbon footprint that will be compatible with the country’s carbon reduction targets. The government has set an ambitious target of nearly 200 gigawatts (GW)1 from renewables by 2022—of which 100 GW will be from solar energy. Industry has risen to the challenge, making commitments to build solar capacity of 175 GW, 2 exceeding the target by a fair bit.
Solar startup Omnigrid supplies remote villages, relying on income from telecom towers
HARDOI, India—A small field of solar panels on the outskirts of this rural district was built to generate energy for a cellphone tower. Now it also supplies electricity to local residents who have suffered from chronic power shortages for decades.
NEW DELHI: The Rockefeller Foundation has announced a $75-million, or about Rs 467-crore, rural electrification programme for bringing clean power to a million people across one thousand villages in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar over the next three years through mini-grids.
The programme, ‘Smart Power for Rural Development’, aims to install 150 solar-powered mini-grids by the end of 2015, 500 by the end of 2016 and the balance in 2017 in villages which have either no or less than 10% of coverage by the national grid.
New Delhi-based Smart Power will partner energy service companies (ESCOs), telecom tower operators, investors, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), and government agencies in implementing this project.
“Rural electrification is littered with philanthropy. But these ESCOs are for-profit. We’re not yet ready for the for-profit only model. That’s why we have this hybrid or blended solution at this point of time to kickstart the microgrid model,” said Judith Rodin, president at The Rockefeller Foundation.
The foundation would provide bridge loan financing to the four ESCOs -Tara Urja, OMC, Desi Power and Free Spans — in addition to providing them techno-commercial support, facilitating their agreements with telecom companies and aligning it with the government’s overarching policy.