The Indian government recently provided subsidies worth $10 million for projects aimed at promoting the use of solar energy in rural areas. The subsidies went to projects which distributed solar lanterns and installed solar home-lighting systems in villages across the country.
In a statement released by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, the government provided subsidies worth about $53 (or Rs. 2400) on various solar lanterns models costing between $55.5 and $192 (Rs. 2500 and Rs. 8660).
The Indian government has been pushing for promotion of solar energy use in rural and remote areas of the country and rural electrification is one of the main goals of India’s National Solar Mission which aims at installing 20,o00 MW of solar power generation capacity by 2022. This included both grid-connected and distributed power generation systems.
The government has also announced several policy initiatives for expanding renewable energy-based power generation in rural areas, the most prominent being the Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojana (RGGVY).
The RGGVY scheme was launched in 2005 and aimed at electrification of villages and providing power supply to poor families. This program is being financed by the central government or companies owned by the central government. The infrastructure addition under this program involves addition of transformers and transmission lines in order to connect the villages with the grid or with the distributed power plants. For areas where connection to the grid is not feasible, the families would be provided solar lanterns and solar lighting systems.
Since its inauguration in 2005, the program covered 587 districts in 27 states. A total grant of Rs. 23190.5 Crore ($515 million) has been released for electrification of un-electrified villages, increasing power infrastructure in electrified villages and providing home-lighting systems to poor families. The $10 million subsidy is part of this rural electrification program.
Number of the villages and hamlets identified for electrification through renewable energy sources are 6727. The government has several renewable energy options for providing power to these villages — biomass gasification plants, small hydro power plants, biogas engines, solar photovoltaic systems and solar home-lighting systems. But out of 6727 villages and hamlets only 296 have been/are being connected with distributed biomass gasification and small hydro power plants while the others (6431) have been/are being provided electricity through solar PV systems.
The government intends to connect all these villages to distributed power plants but in the case that such an arrangement is not feasible, solar home-lighting systems would be provided to the families. Poor families are being provided such lighting systems at 100 percent subsidy.
Several private companies and non-profit institutions are running programs for distributing solar lanterns in remote un-electrified villages. The most prominent among them is the Lighting a Billion Lives program which was launched by The Energy and Resources Institue under the leadership of Dr RK Pachauri.
Solar home-lighting solutions are the stepping stones of a green rural energy revolution. A green energy revolution is extremely essential for developing countries like India. On the one hand, they are looking for rapid inclusive economic growth and, on the other hand, they are faced with the resource crunch and struggling to work out an energy solution which is green and cheap.
Image: Barefoot Photographers of Tilonia/CC