The present government has set an ambitious target of achieving 100% rural electrification in India. It is, by all means, expected to reach the target, and solar panel installation will play a major role in generating sustainable power, crossing all villages and semi-urban areas. There are few states such as Rajasthan, where the state administration is extending all its support to multiply number of solar panel manufacturers by each passing day.
Majority of the total population of Rajasthan is rural. The village populace requires government-aid for economic development and improved standards of living. The reasoning of providing isolated grids (including solar system for home) is the first step towards meeting the sustainable development goal.
Local initiatives in Rajasthan
With a present rooftop capacity of 47 MW, the Rajasthan government is making efforts to achieve a total capacity of 2300 MW Solar power (majorly through rooftop capacity) by 2022. The state administration is building awareness about solar panels for home, as a part of its vision.
At the same time, it is also incentivizing the consumers, by giving them affordable cost of Rs 3-4 per unit for electricity consumption and also, net-metering. Under this policy, the consumer is required to use and pay for the power they require. The surplus power generated through the solar plant can be fed into the company’s (discom provider) grid.
Status-quo in Rajasthan
According to an official report, at the household level, as on 30th April 2016, approximately 24.65 lakhs rural households i.e. around 30 percent of the total rural households in the state lack access to electricity and have to rely on subsidized kerosene as their primary source of lighting.
The alarming fact is that any village, which has 10 per cent household power access, is officially shown as- electrified. This is as per the current terms and definition set by the Ministry of Power. Another significant factor is-the majority of solar plants in Rajasthan have failed to deliver in solar energy rich areas such as Jaisalmer, Udaipur and Jodhpur districts. Collectively, they dominate the landscape of un-electrified villages in the state.
Where is the gap?
It is now evident that solar panels for home, including mini-grids, are the need of the hour in Rajasthan. The present use of Coal and Kerosene, are not just harmful for the environment but makes electricity consumption expensive. Solar power plants in Rajasthan should adapt to the practice of installing mini-grids or rooftop solar system for home. This will help the government achieve the 100% rural electrification in the real sense.
Earlier, some of the identified reasons for mini-grids not picking up pace, was lack of investment, high tariffs, bureaucratic delays, high operating costs, and therefore, low demand from villages. But with the present government now committed to electrify every village, and with growing list of solar power plants in Rajasthan, it is not a distant reality anymore.
The solution lies in Mini-grids
Solar panel installation, meeting localized needs, is way forward to meet the set rural electrification demand. Solutions such as mini-grids, grid-tier inverter system, solar panels for home, are necessary now. The state government has to work out a program for using mini-grid (up to 500 KW) capacity to light every home in Rajasthan.
The sophisticated system of solar lights will benefit the poorest of the people. It also has the potential to reduce their expenses on electricity. Many households in India are still dependent on Kerosene and candles, to light up their homes. They incur huge cost, just to pay for the light. Solar panels at home means, less expense and affordability. An average Indian household can significantly reduce electricity pay, by using solar power to run fans, computers, TV’s, cell phones, and more.