- Estimates suggest that India has doubled the electrified rural households, from 55% in 2010 to 96% in 2020.
- And despite greater electrification, power supply is often unreliable in rural areas.
- This, however does not account for connection to public utilities and social infrastructure such as schools, community spaces etc.
Solar energy as a solution:-
- Recently to address the problems, the Rajasthan Electricity Regulatory Commission (RERC) has ordered the State’s discoms to solarise unelectrified public schools.
- The RERC has also suggested installation of batteries to ensure storage of power.
- Apart from enabling education, this ruling would benefit several other crucial aspects of rural life.
- The RERC order also directed discoms to seek corporate social responsibility (CSR) funds for the solarising drive and allows schools ownership of the power systems in a phased manner.
- This removes the burden of infrastructure development expenses on discoms, while also ensuring clean energy for the schools.
- The power that is generated could also be counted towards the discoms’ Renewable Purchase Obligations (RPO).
- Large-scale projects are generally financed by companies that wish to profit from economies of scale. They are less interested in investing in rural electricity as it is not as lucrative.
- Large-grid based projects add to the supply of power in urban areas, and therefore, only marginally further the greater energy access goals.
Decentralised model of power generation
- While Rajasthan has land mass with vast, sparsely populated tracts available to install solar parks, bulk infrastructure of this scale is susceptible to extreme weather events.
- With climate change increasing the possibility of such events, a decentralised model of power generation would prove to be more climate resilient.
- With battery storage, the susceptibility of grid infrastructure to extreme weather events could be mitigated. This is called climate proofing.
- As solar installations become inexpensive and with rapidly advancing battery storage technologies, decentralised solar power generation has become a reality.
The ruling by Rajasthan’s power regulator not only helps in increasing access to electricity, achieving targets of renewable energy but also suggests solutions that other States can emulate.