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Book Chapter

Decision-Making and Planning Framework to Improve the Deployment Success of Decentralised Rural Electrification in India

Abhishek Jain, Paul Kattuman
June 2015 | Energy Access

Jain, Abhishek and Paul Kattuman. 2015 “Decision-Making and Planning Framework to Improve the Deployment Success of Decentralised Rural Electrification in India” In Sustainable Access to Energy in the Global South, edited by Silvia Hostettler, Ashok Gadgil and Eileen Hazboun. Geneva: Springer International Publishing Switzerland.

Overview

This book chapter, in collaboration with the University of Cambridge, identifies factors that have been crucial in successfully translating off-grid technologies into sustainable solutions for electricity access. The findings indicate that in addition to appropriate technology adoption, the success of decentralised rural electrification depends on proper management of socioeconomic, operational, environmental, and economic challenges.

It provides a multi-tier decision-making framework to assist the planning and management of decentralised rural electrification and enhance the sustainability of projects. In addition, it proposed a multi-dimensional framework to improve the deployment success of distributed renewable energy (DRE) in India and other South Asian nations including Nepal and Bangladesh; and sub-Saharan African region. Further, the research team visited two micro-grid installations for validation of emerging research patterns against ground realities and conducted interviews with various stakeholders.

Key Findings

  • The electrification rate among rural households in India was only about 55 per cent, even though the grid had reached more than 97 per cent of villages.
  • Many micro-grids, solar household systems and solar lanterns were defunct, with programmes for micro-hydro projects in regions like Leh having failed partially.
  • Lack of skilled human resource in remote areas to manage operations and maintenance of off-grid systems, along with insufficient training and limited retention of trained personnel was a major operational challenge.
  • It is necessary to change prevailing perception of DRE as an ad hoc solution into a view of DRE as a sustainable solution catering to contemporary community needs.
  • Raising debt for DRE projects was a major hurdle, as solar PV developers chose not to apply for subsidies.
  • Lack of awareness about electricity, especially about its productive usage, posed challenges to its adoption by communities.
  • DRE technologies are based on renewable resources and do not contribute to global environmental challenges such as climate change, therefore, developers generally perceive DRE projects to be inherently environment-friendly.

Key Recommendations

  • Provide policy support and political will towards DRE and towards the overall development of remote rural areas to create a conducive ecosystem for scaling up DRE.
  • Provide patient capital financing for DRE, as it is a public infrastructure development. Investment should not focus solely on short-term returns.
  • Reduce uncertainties and provide clear policies regarding the future of off-grid installations, which will build trust amongst DRE proponents.
  • Enhance technical and financial innovation in DRE in order to resolve its limitations, such as limited capacity and hours of supply, which can be resolved by scaling up the system as demand increases.
DRE can be a sustainable solution for fostering rural electrification in India and other developing countries struggling with electricity access.

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