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Graphically Speaking

On The Grid
Renewed governmental interest and private sector investment has brought back the spotlight on solar-based mini grids

‘Power-for-all’, is a promise that the government has been working on, in a country where over one-fifth of households live in acute darkness. Today, even though it claims to have electrified nearly 22 million of the total 40 million households, the parameters on which it decides that, is a bit murky to say the least. According to the definition by Ministry of Power, a village is considered to be electrified if a mere 10% households, apart from public offices, schools, hospitals and community centres in the area have power.

Naturally, the private sector has stepped in. By turning their attention to solar-powered mini grids, organisations are now working with states where main grid access continues to be limited. Some of the names that are trying to make a change are Rockefeller Foundation, Mlinda Foundation and Boond. Most of them work in partnership with the state and central governmental bodies such as West Bengal Renewable Energy Development Authority (WBREDA), Odisha REDA and Indian REDA.

The World Bank study titled ‘Mini Grids For Half a Billion People’, states “500 million people can be provided with electricity by 2030, with the right policies and about $220 billion of investment.” That amount will suffice to build around 210,000 mini grids that distribute electricity via poles and wiring infrastructure. In India, it is seen as an approach to electrify villages that are off-grid and/or under-electrified. The report mentions that two of the top three private developers by number of grids are also Indian: OMC (99 mini grids) and Husk Power (45 mini grids). India also has the highest number (1905) of planned third generation mini grids, systems that encompass a comprehensive set of the latest hardware and software technologies. India stood third in the highest number of installed first and second-generation mini grids, behind Afghanistan and Myanmar.

Hence, even when the government’s claims fall flat, a few organisations are leading the way in this field by operating profitably and making power accessible to hinterlands shrouded in darkness.

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