Decentralized Renewable Energy (DRE) solutions are well established to meet small scale rural energy needs in an affordable, reliable and carbon neutral manner. These socio-technical transitions provide substantial support for tackling energy poverty and are a key tool for improving human well-being, economic prosperity and environmental conservation envisioned under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
New and innovative technologies developed go beyond conventional uses like lighting to create local livelihoods and power other essential functions for communities. Ecosystems fueled by DRE unleash socio-economic co-benefits by impacting sectors such as health, education, livelihoods, irrigation, etc.
The covid-19 outbreak has tested the strength of India’s health infrastructure and demanded an upgrade starting with reliable access to energy. Due to reverse migration during lockdown, for the majority of the population, rural health facilities were the only treatment option. Rural Health Statistics 2020 data showed that over 28% of sub-centers in India are still operating without electricity supply. Health professionals in rural clinics face many challenges on a daily basis. If the cold chain is inoperative when supplies such as vaccines and blood arrive, it is wasted if not used immediately. In addition, healthcare facilities require energy for cooling, heating and sterilization. In the absence of a reliable power supply, this demand is mainly satisfied by the direct combustion of fuels such as diesel or biomass.
Lack of access to energy is also one of the factors that explains why new medical graduates are reluctant to be posted to medical centers in rural areas. However, this has put a lot of pressure on large medical institutions to deal with cases that can be treated at the local health centers themselves provided they have an infrastructure capable of operating reliably. Rural health infrastructure enabled by DRE can effectively share the load with other clinics and hospitals and contribute to the achievement of SDG 3: Good health and well-being.
Regardless of location, the quality of education depends on the availability of basic infrastructure such as classrooms, water and sanitation facilities, electricity and digital learning tools, all of which need reliable electricity to operate efficiently. A large gap between urban and rural educational infrastructure, fueled by the lack of access to energy in rural areas, is therefore no surprise. For example, schools in rural areas often use inefficient cooking methods to prepare midday meals. It pollutes the premises and affects the health of everyone around. Implementing DRE in schools can spark students’ interest in learning more about renewable energy and also address SDG4: quality education.
Means of subsistence
India is primarily an agricultural nation, but farmers and the rural poor remain underserved. The energy consumption of the agricultural sector in India is estimated to be close to 18%, while its contribution to GDP is 20%. We have not been able to close this gap even after a number of reforms, including subsidized electricity. Instead of alleviating the problem of lack of access to energy, cheap or free electricity has increased the financial stress on nightclubs. This was further amplified by transmission and distribution (T&D) losses added to the theft of electricity. T&D losses in India are over 20%, which should ideally be between 6 and 8%. Such a scenario immediately demands support for the urgent need for a decentralized form of power generation for electrification, irrigation, processing units and storage to meet current and growing agricultural needs. An integrated approach and the implementation of all renewable energy sources, where appropriate, can transform rural activities, promote growth, ensure better income generation and of course help discos to improve their efficiency.
The Government of India’s KUSUM program, if properly implemented, along with financial support, will help reduce reliance on irregular grid supply, reduce carbon emissions and generate revenue. additional income during days of non-use. Likewise, the announcement by the MNRE of the draft policy framework for the development and promotion of decentralized applications of renewable energy livelihoods could be a game-changer by improving rural infrastructure and increasing income levels. rural. EDR for Livelihoods will ensure our commitment to SDG 8: decent work and economic growth.
The inclusion of women is the only way to achieve universal access to energy. However, despite the fact that women play a key role and play a key role in disseminating DRE in communities, their role is not fully recognized in policies and the availability of funding. Women, who take care of daily household chores, are more affected due to the lack of economic energy infrastructure in their homes. Most DRE applications involve an initial investment on the part of the customer, and end-user credit becomes a critical engine of growth for the industry.
Applications based on the DRE have also encouraged women to come forward and successfully own and manage businesses, thus contributing significantly to SDG5: gender equality.[This piece was authored by Amittosh Pandey, Senior Programme Associate, CLEAN]