Bridge India

Solar electricity for all? Modi’s idea for electrifying India

India’s new government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced that it wants to provide electricity to all households by 2019. This is a challenging task, considering that only 55.3% rural households and 67.2% households across the country have access to electricity as per the 2011 Census[1]. 43.2% of rural households and 6.5% urban households use kerosene for lighting.

  • Such a program would require around 19.5 GW of distributed solar
  • The challenge will be to create a viable market place with sustainable solutions
  • The target is very ambitious. It shows that electrification and solar are high on the agenda of the new government

Modi's-electrification-plan_blog-image

Modi’s new government wants to use solar energy to provide a minimum level of electrification across the country. Let us assume that all of India’s 81 million currently unelectrified households will be electrified using solar power. To meet their daily basic requirements, 275 W/household for 3 hours per day (Scenario 2), they will need 240 W of solar panels. This means that approximately 19.5 GWp of solar PV needs to be installed, requiring an investment, under current prices of around INR 250 per system[2] (USD 4.27), of around INR 4,800 bn [USD 82 bn]. This will open up huge opportunity for private sector participation in electrification programme. If the expense is incurred in equal annual installments in five years until 2019, the funding would be the equivalent of 1% of India’s 2013 GDP each year.

modi's electrification plan- blog-graph

Electrical loads

Scenario 1*

Scenario 2

Scenario 3

Load per household (W)

58

275

500

Number of lights (9 W)

2

4

6

Number of fans (50 W)

_

2

4

Electric socket – electronic gadgets (40 W)

1

1

1

TV sets (100 W)

_

1

1

Computer (100 W)

_

_

1

A robust national framework for implementation and funding support for states would be critical to achieving this target. A dedicated nodal agency at the centre to co-ordinate effectively with state level agencies could help. A vast awareness and marketing campaign would be required as well as a significant push in capacity building at the local level for installation, operation, maintenance and repair of such systems. Of course, the state would not have to do everything itself. In fact, it should not. Instead, it should allow a competitive ecosystem of private companies, investors and banks to do most of the legwork.

To that end, it would help, if the government can layout a clear long term policy to provide visibility to market players. A few private sector companies are already setting up rural electrification projects in India and many more are showing interest in the sector. In addition, the government should set up an independent agency that can ensure standards of execution quality in a non-bureaucratic manner.

While the goal may sound ambitious, it is clear that providing electricity to all citizens needs to be a top goal for any government. What the new government should be wary of in implementing such a scheme is the creation of a bubble along the lines of the microfinance market in India. The focus needs to be on real solutions, based on viable and scalable business models, reliable technology and trustworthy providers.


[1]http://censusindia.gov.in/2011census/hlo/Data_sheet/India/Source_Lighting.pdf

Scenario 1 is as per Remote Village Electrification Programme of Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE), Government of India

Scenario 2 and 3 are based on assumptions of various household loads

[2] Solar PV system with battery bank


 InduKalpa Saikia is the Sr. Manager, Project Development at BRIDGE TO INDIA.

3 comments

  • I had prepared Solar Roadmap for Karnataka and Kerala while working in WISE. My analysis was based on extensive tour and interaction with all the stakeholders. My suggestion is: a) subsidy grant should be completely removed, b) only interest subsidy should continued, c) each bank should be given green energy mandate and annual target, d) each branch of the bank should have a green table and e) self sustaining market mechanism should be catalyzed by govt agencies by regulating and not controlling the market. No SNA should be involved in the program. It is possible to achieve the target by mainstreaming the solar gadgets as any other consumer items with consumer awareness by government.