The trials and tribulations of the Village Energy Security Programme (VESP) in India
The Indian Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) launched the Village Energy Security Programme (VESP) in 2004 but discontinued it during the 12th Five Year Plan, starting in 2012, after a series of unexpected challenges. Planners structured the program so that a village energy committee (VEC) ran a decentralized village program involving biomass gasifiers, straight vegetable oil (SVO) systems, biogas plants, and improved cookstoves. This suite of technologies was intended to produce electricity and thermal energy to meet the total energy requirements of rural communities. At the end of January 2011, a total of 79 VESP projects were sanctioned in 9 states and 65 of these projects were fully commissioned, yet more than half were not operational. The MNRE envisaged that the VESP would provide energy services to eradicate poverty, improve health, reduce drudgery, enhance education, raise agricultural productivity, create employment, generate income, and reduce migration. However, VESP projects have had limited success, and the trials and tribulations of the VESP offers important lessons for policymakers launching rural energy programs in India and other developing economies.