Grid connected rooftop solar panels, which are usually considered an urban thing, have started appearing on the terraces of rural Telangana, thanks to Stree Nidhi, a cooperative credit facility jointly promoted by self-help groups and the State government.
As part of its ‘Climate Financing’ initiatives, the credit cooperative federation has funded installation of grid-connected photovoltaic systems on the rooftops of 205 households in 49 villages of 10 districts in the State. The districts are Kamareddy, Jagtial, Sangareddy, Medak, Nirmal, Nizamabad, Jangaon, Karimnagar, Suryapet and Adilabad.
It has resulted in savings of a minimum of 150 units of power consumption per household per month, translating into at least 3.7 lakh units per year. Buoyed by the results, the Stree Nidhi authorities have set themselves an ambitious target of 10,000 such installations by the end of the year.
As per the circular issued by the Rural Development wing of the State government in December last year, the scheme rides piggyback on the subsidy offered by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy for grid connected rooftop solar systems, mediated by the Telangana State Renewable Energy Development Corporation (TSREDCO) together with the power distribution companies.
Around 20% of the total cost of installation will be offered as subsidy under the scheme, and the rest is to be borne by the beneficiary. This is where Stree Nidhi comes to the aid, and offers substantial portion of the beneficiary contribution as loan. For a 2kWp (Kilowatt peak) unit, the cost of which is ₹1.44 lakh, the subsidy component is ₹29,176 and the loan offered is 1.15 lakh. Beneficiary has to shell out mere ₹5,134 upfront. For a 3 kWp unit, the beneficiary contribution is as low as ₹9,126.
The loan is repayable in 60 months, at the interest rate of 11% per annum. The scheme is available only for self-help group members having their own RCC building or the double bedroom house allotted by the State government with 160 to 200 square feet of rooftop space.
“Our power bill has plummeted to bare minimum, and we are contributing a large number of units to the grid every month, paid back at the rate of ₹4.5 per unit by the discom. While the loan will be paid off in five years, the benefits accrue over the next 25 years. With power charges set to increase year on year, I am happy that I have opted for this,” said Durga Bhavani, a tailor and Village Organisation Assistant of the self-help group from Thimmapur village in Kamareddy district, where 15 installations have been done.
Badige Venkata Ramana alias Ramu, sarpanch of Ankole village in Kamareddy district, who was the brain behind the scheme, got it installed in 14 homes of his village.
“I got this idea while watching the YouTube video of a professor running his electric vehicle through batteries charged from the rooftop solar system. As it was investment heavy, I approached commercial banks seeking loans, which were promptly rejected. Then I approached the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly Pocharam Srinivas Reddy who facilitated it through Stree Nidhi,” Mr. Venakta Ramana shared.
Stree Nidhi was started way back in 2012 as a credit cooperative federation which runs on the corpus provided partly by self-help groups through block and town level federations, and partly by the government. Established in the aftermath of a large number of suicides in the then joint State of Andhra Pradesh by victims of Micro Finance companies, its primary objective was to provide micro credit to women members of the self-help groups and supplement to the credit flow from banking sector. Over the years, the society has grown from strength to strength giving out affordable loans with insurance component.
“We have considered it appropriate to launch climate financing to reduce carbon emissions, and with the same objective, started financing rooftop solar systems. We have set ourselves an ambitious target to reach out to 10,000 SHG members during the current financial year. This initiative would help not only in sustainability of energy supply but also reduce expenditure on power significantly over a period of 25 years,” Managing Director of Stree Nidhi G. Vidyasagar Reddy said.