India Considering Off-Grid Renewable Options for Rural Electrication

With all of the discussion of India's economic growth (and growing carbon emissions), it's sometimes easy to forget that this nation of over one billion citizens is still developing. According to an article from yesterday's Financial Express, a 2001 census showed that 519,570 villages in India do not have power. While many of the villages are grid-accessible, the process of getting them hooked up has been slow.

What's the answer to providing electricity to these communities? According to "several experts," renewable, community-based distributed grids:

Keeping in view the electrification needs of about 5,19,570 villages and 56.48% of the households, several experts are of the view that generation of power through new and renewable sources of energy, distributed and managed on community basis (taking off grid transmission course) can be a better alternative for faster rural electrification.

The ministry for new and renewable energy sources has estimated a potential for 84,776 mwe grid-interactive power generation from non-conventional sources, like agro residues, wind power, small hydro projects, cogeneration from bagasse and from industrial wastes.

India's Ministry of New and Renewable Energy lays out its plans for rural electrification on its website. While the government will promote "...an optimum mix of both conventional and non-conventional energy," the program's first provision seems to give preference to clean technologies: "Provision of the most cost effective mix of various energy sources and options for meeting, the requirements of sustainable agriculture and rural development by giving due weightage to environmental considerations."

As the Financial Express article notes, electrification is vital for rural economies, and not just in India. And for those parts of the developing world where political instability is a fact of life, decentralized renewable generation will likely prove more reliable than a grid connection. Finally, development that's relatively free from increases in carbon emissions will mean that impoverished people around the globe can improve their standard of living without significant contributions to global climate change. A "win-win-win..." ::India's Financial Express

UPDATE:
Thanks to reader Manu for correcting my mistaken identification of the State of Haryana's Ministry of Renewable Energy as the national agency. That's been corrected.

Image source: State of Haryana Ministry of Renewable Energy

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