Secure and reliable electricity access with renewable energy mini-grids in rural India

Energy access is essential for economic and human development and is an important driver for the progress of India. Access to modern forms of energy, especially electricity, becomes even more important for the socio-economic development of rural areas (which lag behind urban areas in terms of infrastructure). “Full electrification” to achieve social and economic development goals (and SDGs) in India requires 24/7 electricity access for every household, family and local enterprise, even in rural communities. To achieve this goal, successive Indian governments have focussed on providing access by extending the centralised grid while still trying to incentivise the use of decentralised off-grid solutions through renewable energy sources such as solar and biomass. Although a considerable number of villages and households have gained access to the grid, the
reliability and quality of power supply still remain a growing challenge for rural consumers. Mini-grids have thus emerged as pivotal in providing ancillary services to the grid and improving the level of services to last-mile consumers. To this end, a number of private companies have emerged, setting up mini-grids in unconnected villages in order to bridge this electrification gap and drive economic development around rural clusters. Nonetheless, investment in renewable-powered minigrids in India still lags behind, partly because of a lack of replicable and sustainable models in the face of subsidised grid-electricity tariffs that make alternative solutions cost uncompetitive.

This study assesses the viability of renewable-energypowered mini-grids to both drive and support economic growth in India from the perspective of augmenting the current electrification of rural areas.

Secure and reliable electricity access with renewable energy mini-grids in rural India. Assessing the co-benefits of decarbonising the power sector.

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Year of publication: 2019

Editors: Ayodeji Okunlola, David Jacobs, Laura Nagel, Sebastian Helgenberger, Arunima Hakhu
and Sarah Kovac – IASS, IET, TERI and UfU

Technical implementation: Bigsna Gill and Rashmi Murali – The Energy and Resources Institute
(TERI), India

DOI: 10.2312/iass.2019/020

 

This study is part of a 2019 series of three studies assessing the co-benefits of decarbonising the power sector in India, edited by IASS, IET, TERI and UfU.