Expanding the Growth of Solar Energy in Rural Maharashtra to Accelerate Decentralized Energy Infrastructure

Mr. Arun Rao - Director - Marketing Magenta Power

Microgrids are small self-sufficient power systems which generate, distribute and meter power consumption within a limited area. While the conventional power grids cater to thousands of homes and the typical rooftop solar unit caters to a single home, microgrids fit into the space exactly between these two.
Just imagine a rural setting where about 30-50 homes decide to become a self sufficient producer and consumer of power. They have a centralized power generation plant (either solar or wind or both), a centralized battery bank storing power and a cable network providing last mile connectivity to the homes. Each home pays precisely for the power that they consume just like people in cities do. However in most cases this microgrid is owned either by the community and society or by a private company.

This sounds great! So what are the challenges? Well, the biggest challenge is the cost of power delivery. Rural India has an appetite of power cost of around Rs.5-6/- per unit. While this is possible in a typical rooftop solar plant (with net metering), the additional cost of having a battery bank and the cable network for last mile connectivity, in case of a microgrid means that the cost of power escalates beyond Rs.8/- per unit.
This is where the government needs to play a key role as their social obligation and election promises of providing power to 100% homes can be fulfilled without the huge investments in conventional power grids. Under the Saubhagya scheme launched by the GOI in 2017, an ambitious target of 100% electrification was embarked upon. Under this scheme, the Rs.16,320/- crores has been allocated for last mile connectivity to households.
Microgrids is clearly an area where participation of private companies can play a big role. It provides a tremendous opportunity to generate employment in rural India as well as gives opportunities to entrepreneurs to own and distribute power as a business.

Mr. Animesh P Manek - Director Avishakti Solar 

Around 65% of the population of India still lives in rural areas. It is important for the rural areas to accept solar energy in order to achieve true decentralized energy infrastructure.
The rural population of India uses various forms of fuels for their daily needs. Although electrification has been done in villages
all across India, electricity is still not the primary fuel. Candles and kerosene lamps are still a common sight across the villages. The issues—unavailability continuous supply of electricity and such as billing and electrical appliance as an added expenditure.
The rural communities aren’t closed to adopting new forms of fuels—kerosene lamps and wood create harmful smoke and aren’t easy to use. For solar to become a viable option, the cost of electricity will have to be the same as that from grid, if not less. Also, the
For this to work out, it becomes vital that the power plant designing is done with exceptional punctiliousness. Scruffily designed plants will give rise to more problems than solving the existing one. Poorly performing plants that are prone to failures and damages can lead to negative perceptions of solar technology and thereby low uptake of the same.
Another significant aspect that can sway solar technology adoption is government policy. Very clear guidelines explaining the policies and planning associated with solar adoption must be made available to the rural communities. Ambiguity in the policy will lead to additional barriers in the process.
Last but not the least, creating the right awareness about the benefits of solar technology will go a long way. The awareness campaigns and workshops must be designed targeted for rural population explaining the basic maintenance of the solar panels and batteries.

Mr. Rounak Muthiyan, Director, Kalpa Power Pvt Ltd

According to Maharashtra 2011 census 54.78% of its population lives in its rural areas (Census 2011). This rural population is not only home to the vast majority of the state’s poorest people, but the majority is also considered to be living in energy poverty having a heavy reliance on traditional fossil fuel & agriculture
Improving Rural Grids in Maharashtra- After decade of on ground working with farmers and rural families, Rural needs require sustainable answers for not only pumping but also for making lives better.
As per my experience of Grid improvement and integration of renewable energy,my version is an intelligent combination of three strategies: 1) Grid Reinforcement, 2) Use of storage and 3) Renewable energy curtailments. Such approach provides a solution to integrate a maximum of renewable energy generation on low capacity grids while minimising project cost and increasing the percentage of utilisation of assets

Solar energy can provide universal modern energy services which drive development and help improve living conditions, particularly in rural communities where their use as a decentralised energy source can be viable and efficient option.
The Context- Modern energy is essential for nearly all aspects of rural welfare such as cooking, sanitation, , producing & processing of their harvest, and education. The rural electrical grids, responsible for providing power to rural population are weak with heavy losses and low capacity. Renewable energy represents an efficient way to generate electricity locally.
Present Status- In the state of Maharashtra, MSEDCL and EESL efforts of grid reinforcement and local generations is worth mentioning. In this scheme across Maharashtra solar power plants land around MSEDCL substations being developed by EESL. Power Generated through these plants been injected into several rural substations.
In view of the above facts and in order to contribute to the target set by Gol, MSEDCL is willing to use spare land at its substations for the generation of solar energy to mitigate its RPO target given by Hon’ble Commission





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