Solar-Based Decentralized Energy Solution-A Case of Entrepreneur Based Model from Rural India
In India one of every three rural households depends on kerosene based lighting systems that are characterized by low illumination and hazardous smoke. Given the existing and foreseeable gap between demand and supply, universal modern energy access can only be achieved in the short to medium term through a combination of grid and off-grid approaches. The paper presents a case study of solar photovoltaic based micro-grids (generating 75 W–1 kW) used to meet basic lighting requirements of 30 rural communities during peak demand hours (6–10 pm). The communities have adopted micro-level solar-based off-grid systems, which are owned and managed by local entrepreneurs with a 45% equity stake. Case study analysis of this project, in the state of Uttar Pradesh in India shows that: 1.Grid-connected (and even unconnected) rural communities without assured lighting offer a latent market for decentralized alternatives. 2.Access to finance networks at the local level facilitates private investments in off-grid solutions. 3.Technology innovation and customization is necessary for customer satisfaction and management efficiency. 4.Affordable off-grid solutions based on solar energy can be an economically viable and socially acceptable alternative to fossil fuel systems. Analysis of the project output concludes that decentralized solutions and private investments can play a major role not only in providing universal modern energy access but also in enhancing livelihood options at the village level.