Micro grids based on renewable energy, which will allow decentralised generation of power for clusters of villages, could fill the energy gap in rural India, said energy experts of the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) at a workshop on Friday, where they presented a model for mini grid.

At present, a population of 300 million, nearly a fourth of the country, has no access to electricity. Over 800 million cook on biomass and suffer from indoor pollution. Nearly 45 per cent of all rural households have no electricity and depend on kerosene for lighting.

The CSE suggested that while the choice of technology could be left to the developer, in the grid-connected villages, mini grids will act like a franchise to the electricity distributor. “Using reverse bidding, renewable energy-based mini grids will be set up for a cluster of villages to ensure minimum supply of twelve hours of electricity. The developers will receive feed-in tariff and the villagers will pay a minimal rate for the power they use,” noted the CSE experts.

In the instance of grids expanding to villages that are unconnected thus far, both the grid and the mini grid could interact with each other.

“The consumer can pay the tariff of conventional energy and the difference can be paid as feed-in tariff by the discoms. The money for the feed-in tariff can come from sources like the National Clean Energy Fund,” said Chandra Bhushan, deputy director general, CSE.

Rooftop solar power generation

“We need mini grids in rural areas that lack grid connectivity as well as those that have grids, but no electricity. In urban areas like Delhi, we need rooftop solar power generation such as the net metering for solar roof top generation proposal that the Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission (DERC) sought suggestions for last December,” said Aruna Kumarankandath, programme officer, renewable energy.

Earlier this month, discussing their policy recommendations to the NDA Government, environmentalists from the CSE had pointed to micro grid models already under experimentation in States such as Chhattisgarh.

“At present, under the Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojana, electric line and poles have been installed in several villages, but there is still no electricity. We need a massive programme on mini grids, we need more rooftop solar plants. We have suggested the government to give minimum one unit electricity per day to every rural household by 2019,” the environmentalists had recommended.

In Delhi, the DERC had asked for feedback on a proposal for self-owned net metering and third party-owned net metering and connectivity in respect of rooftop solar projects. Delhi has 250-300 sunny days in a year and over 700 sq km of built-up area for installation of photo-voltaic systems.

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