interview | Rajiv J. Shah Other States

‘Solving energy poverty is key to moving people out of poverty’

The Rockefeller Foundation’s tie up with Tata Power aims to ensure clean solar electricity for 25 million Indians

President of The Rockefeller Foundation Rajiv J. Shah who recently visited Parsa and Derni villages outside Patna to review the impact of solar-powered mini-grids installed by the Foundation, said the non-profit organisation aimed to end energy poverty and help enhance productivity of the people by ensuring clean and low-cost electricity to households and businesses.

Why is this project important?

The whole Rockefeller team is very focussed on using science, technology, and innovations to help everyone lift themselves up. You can see how the technology used in the plant and the extraordinary innovation has made it possible to offer 24x7 reliable electricity at a reasonable price to people here. The impact has been quite significant. Girls get to walk on the streets and feel safe under street lighting. We heard this from two or three girls and safety was the first thing they mentioned. We heard at a school where children said that with more lighting, they are able to study more, read more.

In every part of the world, we have found that not having reliable, guaranteed access to electricity at a reasonable price is basically a constraint to human productivity and you cannot move up from poverty if you don’t have access to energy and electricity.

Don’t you think that providing reliable, low-cost electricity is the government’s role?

In every society and every economy around the world, in order to reach everyone with electricity, the government has had to play a big role in making investments, changing rules and regulations, encouraging world communities in different kinds of solutions. Smart Power India works closely with the government and our partnerships have enabled to provide some subsidies for the capital costs to establish these plants and regulatory environment that allows them to serve the communities. That’s very important and we think it needs to continue to be a close collaboration.

The government has made a public commitment to provide reliable electricity for everybody in India. That should be the top priority for the government.

Smart Power India is working in three States — Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, and Jharkhand so far. Why did you choose these sites?

We believe that poverty and energy poverty go together fundamentally. If you solve energy poverty, people will move out of poverty. These are the regions where most of the remaining energy poverty is. And for many of these homes and businesses, their constraint to growth, their constraint to labour productivity improvements, their constraint to income growth is lack of reliable access to low-cost electricity. You cannot just have diesel generation everywhere, it is far too expensive, far too dirty, far too cumbersome, far too complicated and it crushes real inclusive economic development.

What are the future goals for this project?

Broadly the goal in India and Rockefeller’s goal around the world is to end energy poverty. There are 840 million people around the world who live without access to electricity. There are more than 100 million in India alone. People who we met have access to electricity but they don’t feel productive, they cannot grow their businesses as they depend on diesel when the power goes out.

That’s why we launched this big partnership with Tata Power, which is the single largest joint venture investment aiming to address energy poverty that will reach 25 million people.

Smart Power Initiative also highlights the possibility of environment-friendly solutions. What is the kind of environmental impact of the project?

This strategy shows renewable power can be made accessible to everyone in this country. Our project with Tata Power alone will help reduce carbon emission by one million metric tonnes a year, reduce diesel consumption by the equivalent to taking 3000 cars and trucks off the road between Mumbai-Delhi every day. We are demonstrating to the world that poor communities can and should have more access to power and can do it in a very clean way and that is better for our environment and ultimately for our planet

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Printable version | Feb 29, 2020 7:35:25 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/solving-energy-poverty-is-key-to-moving-people-out-of-poverty/article30314939.ece

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