Renewables Can Contribute Towards Poverty Alleviation


T&D India January 26, 2022

As the nation gets set for Net Zero target announced by Hon’ble Prime Minister at COP26, we are seeing a pivotal shift towards collective policy and industry effort, focused on generating equitable economic growth for the people through a green pathway, notes Jaideep Mukherjee.

Transitioning to a cleaner energy system represents a unique opportunity to meet our climate goals while enabling socioeconomic development for the people, creating new employment opportunities, and enhancing human welfare.

Smart Power India uses these learnings to come up with innovative models of delivering clean and reliable energy at the last mile, with interventions to encourage use of alternative sources.

Efforts to protect the planet have excluded the energy needs and economic aspirations of billions of people in the developing and emerging world. In order to safeguard the livelihoods of their citizens, developing and emerging countries have had to prioritize their growth at the expense of our shared climate future, and India is not an exception.

Lack Of Grid Access

Even with high levels of access, there are certain sections of customers in rural India, especially micro enterprises, which are still un-served or underserved by the power grid. Lack of quality and reliable electricity creates barriers for the social and institutional infrastructure of villages, posing challenges for improvement in healthcare, education, women’s development, and livelihood generation. This points to vast untapped potential that can be utilized to catalyze economic development and move closer to our goal of an inclusive clean energy transition. Despite being generation surplus, low levels of consumption in rural areas due to these gaps and resulting dependence on diesel presents an interesting paradox.

To this end, one of the fastest and most cost-effective emerging solution is distributed renewable energy. Smart Power India invests in technical assistance, on-ground implementation and facilitation of solutions such as mini-grids and rooftop systems, which have helped communities gain access to reliable energy from clean sources for household and productive use, with recorded improvement in customer satisfaction. Rural businesses are opting for solar minigrid connections and rooftop systems to improve productivity, increase revenues and compete in the market.

The Significance Of DRE

Distributed renewable energy (DRE) caters to a multifaceted problem of generating demand by providing reliable access to the remotest of communities while reducing their carbon footprint. Time and again, in the last few years, we have seen exemplary impact of power from mini-grids in improving various socio-economic outcomes of the villages where they are installed. They have led to higher incomes and savings for rural entrepreneurs and empowered women to be equal stakeholders in this conversation. By facilitating the provision of good quality service to customers giving special focus to billing, collection and grievance redressing, ESCO’s are able to match the customers’ aspirations without falling into a debt spiral.

As we near a new proposition of policy action towards these goals with the new budget, we need to recalibrate our priorities going forward and create a suitable ecosystem for clean energy to penetrate lives and make strides in poverty reduction. Importance must be given to thoughtful activations on ground that incentivize replacing conventional sources of energy, educate people about the usage of appliances and managing power expenses, and create channels for fast complaint redressing.

These interactions will eventually lead to higher adoption rates and new demand. Schemes for access to C&I sector should give prominence to facilitating easy financing for customers along with training and skill development, market connect, and guidance on expansion.

Stakeholder Commitment

Most importantly, building on the call for national transformative partnerships by GEAPP (Global Energy Alliance for People and Planet) and other clean energy consortia spoken about at COP, we need sustained commitment of stakeholders from different spheres of energy access, to come together to provide the financial ecosystem required for scaling of DRE solutions to a national level. GEAPP will bring together preeminent philanthropic, government, donor, MDB, DFI, and private sector partners to build a unique international platform to transform the energy system in 60+ priority countries.

At its core, the alliance is focused on delivering transformational projects that will accelerate and scale an equitable energy transition across the emerging and developing world. This is to be supported with tailored financial solutions that address key investment bottlenecks like local currency, pooled procurement, and risk guarantees. Philanthropic capital to create significant public and private financial leverage will give a greater push to ESCOs to deliver the intended impact.

Funding of projects, on ground implementation with the help of ESCOs, multilaterals, philanthropies, technical experts and citizens themselves will bring everyone on the same wagon, with a common goal of manifesting the great transition.