The beginning of this New Year is more than just a regular turn of the calendar. It brings with it hope and new aspirations. The pandemic has highlighted various facets of life and the importance that we attach to basic essentials. Access to Electricity is one such need that has played an indispensable role in our lives. It was maybe the only constant in an ever-changing scenario.

COVID-19 tested not just our nation’s economic resilience, but also highlighted our vulnerabilities as a community, for example the glaring urban-rural divide and income inequalities. It was the poorer segment that faced the harshest consequences of lack of access to reliable electricity.

We, at SPI, have continually strived to innovate and implement strategies and programmes that will help rural people manage their consumption needs, for personal as well as productive use. We have also produced content pieces that we hope will be used by practitioners and policy makers that could go a long way in ensuring that we strengthen the sector and are well prepared for future shocks.

We express gratitude to all those who have been part of our journey and we look forward to the challenges and the opportunities that 2021 will bring with it.

Our warm greetings and wish you all a great start to the year!

SPI responded promptly to the pandemic and its impacts through relief efforts and focused messaging for its customers. We also extended necessary social distancing and hygiene training to all our on-ground personnel, and customers.

Using the Power of Mini-Grids to Overcome Low Cash-Flow During the Pandemic

The Mini-Grid program by SPI provides electricity with the aim of facilitating socio-economic growth in rural areas across Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand. The programme, through targeted communication with the customers and understanding of the ground situation, implemented various measures to help customers survive the pandemic. For example in Parsa, Bihar, women from the community were provided with training and material to make masks and supply the same within the village and also to other project sites and states thereby augmenting their income.

Customer Survey and Voucher Scheme for Mini-Grid Customers

SPI’s Customer Surveys analysed the impact of the lockdown on our customers over two phases in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. To further alleviate the financial burden of the lockdown, we launched the Customer Voucher Scheme for mini-grid customers that provided them with direct cash discount of up to 75%, over a 3-month period. The benefits of the scheme reached over 125,000 people in 200 mini-grid villages.
SPI’s knowledge products showcase various on-ground interventions, innovations and customer focus initiatives and policy recommendations.

Smart Power Connect

SPC is our sector magazine highlighting India's journey to universal electrification and the way forward towards building a robust service delivery system for the last mile. In this issue we showcased voices from the field and experts like Shri Mritunjay Kumar Narayan, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Power, Sreekumar N., Prayas, and Ashvin Dayal, Senior Vice President, Power Initiative, The Rockefeller Foundation.
Electricity Access in India -
Benchmarking Distribution Utilities

Smart Power India and The Rockefeller Foundation, in collaboration with NITI Aayog, launched this study which investigates the various factors that impact reliable electricity access and customer satisfaction. It provides for best practices and recommendations that can help in shaping policy and delivery of quality and service delivery.

Technical Monitoring Guide

It is crucial to optimise the efficiency of a mini-grid plant to provide clean and reliable electricity to the customers. The TMG establishes standard protocols for analysing and interpreting the performance of mini-grid plants. The key objective of the Guide is to aid mini-grid operators in improving and maintaining mini-grid plant health to the optimum level.
Demand Generation Handbook
The handbook is a guide for Energy Service Companies (ESCOs) running mini-grids on meeting a village's existing power demand along with building additional demand for power by supporting the development of local micro-enterprises.
The Model Distribution Zone (MDZ) Program in Odisha leverages the relationship between customer experience and the viability of rural electricity supply to create a virtuous cycle that will lead to a sustainable rural electricity service. With concise reporting and an engaging social media campaign, we reached out to a wide audience to educate them about MDZ which not only aims at providing access to reliable electricity but also provides livelihood opportunities to the communities.
Transforming Mini-Grid Operations with Energy Storage Systems (ESS)
One of the key challenges faced by MGOs while installing remote mini-grids is the last mile integration of hundreds of components. Moreover, the housing of these components typically needs to be secured in a brick-and-mortar machine room built with great difficulties at site by local labourers. Apart from the on-site integration and installation time, which takes 4 to 6 weeks, further delays are also caused due to delivery lag forcing the project engineering team to hurry to the final testing and commissioning process to meet stringent project deadlines. To solve this problem, SPI is supporting Ampere Hour to devise a plug and play, containerized Energy Storage Solution (ESS) that comes pre-assembled and pre-tested from a factory to the project site, reducing the installation time to less than a week, and also replaces Le Acid batteries with Lithium-Ion batteries.This ESS solution is now deployed at our partner MGO, Tara Urja in Shivpura village in Balrampur district and is going through rigorous testing to benchmark its actual performance against the perceived performance levels.
Saving Livelihoods during the COVID Lockdown with E-Ujjwal Raths
The COVID-19 pandemic led to loss of livelihoods for many. Two E-Ujjwal Raths manufactured by Power Tech and deployed to Mihir Das and Kartik Sahoo, were being used under the Model Distribution Zone program in Odisha by SPI to carry out customer service activities and facilitate commuting for Bijulee Sathis and Bijulee Didis. The situation changed when they had to be disengaged due to the government's safety guidelines. About one month later, when movement of essential commodities was possible, the E-Ujjwal Raths were converted into mobile vending units and were sold to the customers at a discounted rate along with some financial support, so that they could become self-reliant during the lockdown. Kartik Sahoo started a fruits and vegetable selling business, earning Rs.700-800 a day. Mihir Das converted the E-Rikshaw into a Milk ATM. He started selling milk and Arisha Pitha (typical sweets of Odisha), and earned Rs.800-1000 in a day. Within 3-4 months, both the customers will be able to pay-back their loan and be proud owners of their E-Ujjwal Raths, improving their incomes significantly.

Enabling Entrepreneurship for Acid Attack Survivors with Orange Cafe, Varanasi
The Orange Café in Varanasi in February 2020 was one of the initiatives that showed the resilience of the community in dealing with the uncertainties that the pandemic brought with itself. Acid Attack survivors run the café and are its proud owners. These women also further support members of various Self-Help Groups (SHGs) in Allahabad in restarting their small business such as making incense sticks and “Papad”, which was all heavily impacted due to the COVID-19 lockdown.
We spearheaded conversations on relevant issues around access to reliable electricity especially with a customer focus through traditional as well as digital channels.
Bijuli Didi
The Importance of Electricity Animation Video
Electricity Consumption Trends during COVID19 Lockdown
Animation Video Series on Electricity Access
Demand Generation Handbook
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