Micro-Grids able to supply electricity for all

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powersectorWednesday, August 20, 2014: Resources and scope for development are vast in India where votes are bought through ‘development for all’ slogan. But in all the elections this promise remains unfulfilled as electricity has still not reached most of the rural parts in India. Out of 80,000 villages which have no power even to light a bulb, 19,000 are within Bihar alone.

Though population is growing rapidly in our country and so is the need for energy, we are still maintaining an expensive, centralised energy infrastructure which can hardly meet the demand. In the 11th Five-Year Plan, India added 52 GW to its electricity supply chain but a mere 12 GW electricity couldn’t be provided to this deprived rural population. Our electricity is still produced in central large-scale power plants and following that a huge amount of distribution and transmission losses also happen. Consequently remote villages never get access to this power.

One such village in Bihar’s Jehanabad district, Dharnai, has been suffering from absence of electricity and constant poverty since 1981 when the only bridge which connected this village with other parts of the country collapsed. In March a ray of hope was seen by Dharnai villagers as Greenpeace in collaboration with Centre for Environment and Energy Development and livelihood promotion organisation BASIX, installed a solar-powered micro-grid in the village to supply 24×7 electricity. Now the village is totally transformed, both economically and socially. Better light means better education, better safety for women and all-over socio-economic development.

The country has a huge resource of clean energy which can easily generate sustainable power. India is the world’s fifth largest wind power producer. As revealed by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE), India has special advantage due to its geographical location and it receives 5,000 trillion kWh of solar energy each year. Now this potential of our country and our clean energy sector can only be realised through building Dharnai-like grids more and more and decentralise the power generating systems.

An off-grid system, being an independent power source, uses local resources (solar or biomass) to generate power and this operation reduces distribution losses and infrastructure costs. A micro-grid can also be upgraded as per requirements. For the ’emerging India’, fulfilling the promise of ‘development for all, electricity for all’ is quite necessary for the entire development of the country, and it should get out of the boundary of the election manifesto.