Solar worries

Punjab joins the list of states setting up solar power projects.

“The Punjab government, in collaboration with US-based SunPower Corporation and Enterprise Business Solutions (EBS), has decided to set up solar power plants in the state. The plants are expected to generate 1,000 Mw over the next two years”

Its a decent start.  Punjab has installed power capacity of 6000 MW – and adding solar capacity of 500 Mw is a pretty good way to get green.

However, I am beginning to get a little concerned over the enthusiasm to go solar in India.  It’s not clear, for instance, what the capex on this project will be and how that compares with other sources of electricity – and importantly with other solar plants worldwide.  Is there a subsidy involved?  Is this a competitive process?  What are the metrics we are using to measure the effectiveness of this investment?

Shock nahi laga

The power ministry defines a village to be electrified if:

  1. Basic infrastructure such as Distribution Transformer and Distribution lines are provided in the inhabited locality as well as the Dalit Basti/ hamlet where it exists. (For electrification through Non Conventional Energy Sources a Distribution transformer may not be necessary)
  2. Electricity is provided to public places like Schools, Panchayat Office, Health Centres, Dispensaries, Community centers etc. and
  3. The number of households electrified should be at least 10% of the total number of households in the village.

A cynic would argue that a village can be declared electrified if 10% of the total households in the village are electrified.

And, this does not include any provision of electric supply – all we are currently talking about is an electric connection.  Many villages barely get any electricity at all – maybe a few hours a day.  Some of the better villages get 6-8 hours a day.

Oh, and there are apparently 80,000-1,20,000 villages in the country which are un-electrified.

Even with the best intentions, the state has a mammoth challenge ahead of it – if we are to achieve true, 100% electrification.  The private sector has a huge opportunity – especially in applications that use renewable energy sources like solar and for MFI organisations that help consumers finance these applications.