Titled “India’s huge need for electricity is a problem for the planet,” a detailed Forbes article highlights how 300 million (30 crore) Indians are having either scarce electricity or a complete lack of it.
Most of what it tells is familiar story for many of us Indians, though I must say, it will be more familiar to those living in the states of Bihar and UP where villages unconnected to the grid are more commonplace in relatively developed states such as Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat or Karnataka.
The report does not in any way suggest a solution, and its main objective appears to be to highlight how Indians might be justified in their need for much higher amounts of electricity even if it is from coal.
I am not going to take up the topic of environment vs development. It is a difficult one, and I leave it to our politicos to debate it out at the COP 21 at Paris later this year.
But what is popping out from the article is the need for off-grid power solutions that could significantly benefit these 300 million people. Sure, grid power could eventually reach many of them soon, but just having the grid is not enough – what is also needed is enough number of hours of power from the grid, and this could take quite a while, perhaps decades.
A few decades is a very long time, and with an optimal transition solution that can help them right away, these millions could start getting into the next orbit of economic and social development, without having wait for this to benefit their next generation.
In a LinkedIn post earlier this year, I had said on how these 300+ million could be provided the crucial escape velocity that can help transform their lives:
“The single most important lever that can provide the escape velocity to transform these hundreds of millions of Indians into healthy, well-educated and more productive stakeholders is electricity.
Imagine 300-400 million underprivileged Indians becoming healthier, brighter and more productive. Can you imagine a more powerful driver to make India an economic superpower?
With its strengths, in the form of stable technology, modularity, flexibility and fast decreasing costs, solar provides an avenue for India to become “electricity” secure….”
I would go further this time and stress on off-grid solar.
A look at the picture below will tell you why:
The above is reality in tens of millions of households in many parts of rural India.
To the extent that solar can supply even the smallest amounts of light to the children and the womenfolk of these millions of households, so much the better for them. For their studies and their work.
And by the way, such use will even ensure that for India, development can co-exist with environmental protection. I recall meeting an entrepreneur in Hyderabad when we were the judges on a renewable energy contest at ISB two weeks back – his company supplies such lighting to many remote rural areas in India and he says he has been able to provide useful light at just 6 W of solar per household.
SIX FREAKING WATTS OF SOLAR ARE ALL REQUIRED TO PROVIDE THE ESCAPE VELOCITY. AWESOME.