Socio-technical assessment of solar photovoltaic systems implemented for rural electrification in selected villages of Sundarbans region of India
The power situation in rural India continues to remain poor with around one-third of the rural population without access to any form of electricity. The consequence of which is kerosene being used as a major source of lighting for un-electrified households as well as households with intermittent access to electricity in rural areas. While grid based electrification has been the most common approach, decentralized renewable energy options especially, solar PV systems have also been adopted as a cost effective mode of electrification. This paper presents the results of socio-technical assessment of solar photovoltaic interventions namely, solar home systems, solar mini-grid and solar AC pico-grids, which have been used to electrify selected villages in Sundarbans region of India. The study is focused on technical, financial, and institutional aspects along with the social impact assessment of PV based electrification in the Sundarbans region. The results of the study elucidate that, in general, the impacts of the solar PV solutions used for electrification have been largely positive, especially benefits of reduced kerosene consumption, ease in studying and cooking and reduced health effects. The study also finds that technology is not the only factor on which the viability of a program depends, but institutional and financial aspects also play a significant role. The need of the hour is to develop a strong institutional framework and enabling policies for achieving higher success rates in PV programs.