Energy Poverty Alleviation

Energy Access (EA) forms one of the  core pillars of WEC & WEC India. Energy Poverty has been the cause of concern and centre of discussions on various forums world over decades.Around  400 million people have no access to electricity. Addressing the need of these people who are potential customers for energy access is a challenge for providing sustainable business model for energy access. In this initiative the effort is to create a framework for self sustaining off grid electrification programme through entrepreneurship based model in public private partnership mode with seeking assistance  from all possible corners including Corporate Social Responsibility etc.

As a part of the Asia Regional Plan, WEC India had initiated a study on "Sustainable Energy  Poverty Alleviation for Asia" in 2009-10. Later it evolved into a global study on "Energy Access" and a knowledge network on "Village Inventory".

 Background

Worldwide, some 1.4 billion people, or over 20 percent of the world’s population, still have no access to electricity and approximately 2.7 billion people rely on traditional biomass as their primary source of energy.

The large majority of electricity-deprived people – around 85 percent – live in rural areas of the developing world, mainly in SubSaharan Africa and South Asia. The International Energy Agency predicts that “without additional  dedicated policies, by 2030 the number of people that lack access to electricity drops, but only to 1.2 billion,” while “the number of people relying on traditional use of biomass is projected to rise from 2.7 billion today to 2.8 billion in 2030.”

There have been major initiatives by Ministry of Power (MoP) and Ministry of New & Renewable Energy. These initiatives have had with varying degree of success but the bottom-line is that sustainability of Energy Access projects, especially the off-grid ones, is very challenging.  With this background and in response to the challenges of Energy Access in rural areas, WEC India has put Energy Access high on its agenda. It has been interacting with cross-section of stakeholders to deepen its understanding of issues and challenges of energy access domain and is gearing itself to play a major role in the arena of energy access

WEC India has identified the need  for a  long for a rugged mechanism for mapping the villages and creating village inventory for purpose of Energy Access. Inventory of villages which could be then taken up for electrification by entrepreneurs, NGO or by Corporates under their  energy based CSR programme.

WEC India in partnership with WEC initiated the Village Inventory Energy Access  project in India.  At the outset of the project , WEC India interacted with Govt. agencies and NGOs such as Jansamarth, BarefootCollege and Husk Power to understand the ground realities and key challenges of the village electrification and thereby assimilating the experience and wisdom acquired by leading entities working on energy access over several years and decades.

The first step to Village Inventory program was to define the process which is simple and effective. While the basic objective of the project was to create a   inventory of villages for the purpose of  energy access, the entire process was designed to understand the process of village electrification. The overall approach  of Village Inventory project has been divided in four  phases:

  • In the preliminary phase, the objective was to quickly gather village data on broad parameters like accessibility, population, availability of local resources and willingness to pay. These parameters could be considered as the broad indicators of sustainability of EA projects. In this phase, WEC India with help of VVKI, was able to establish contact with 81 villages spread across 16 states of the country. The data was collected telephonically and no personal visit was undertaken. This was possible by leveraging the existing relationship developed by VVKI in implementing their other several  programmes in these villages.
  • The data collected in the preliminary phase was analysed and the villages were mapped onthe EA sustainability index developed by WEC India. The Sustainability Index is based on key parameters of sustainability of Energy Access projects. The villages surveyed in the first round were mapped on "Sustainability Index". At this stage, 16 villages were shortlisted out of 81 villages. While initially the idea was to shortlist villages but the motive was to adopt  a different approach in catering to the villages scoring low in the sustainability index. 
  • The third phase was the Detailed Survey, the purpose of which was to gather the validate the data collected in the 1st phase and collect additional data for the 16 villages . The information  which was sought at this stage were: Average Income of the Households, Presence of NGOs and entrepreneurs, availability of Land, distance from the Grid etc. Physical visit was made to the 16 villages, to verify the ground realities and looking out for the possibility of detailed mapping. It was also designed to understand the accuracy and reliability to refine the process of collection of data.
  • The fourth phase of the project is preparation of Detailed Project Report, to serve as a Model Document recommended for use as a guide for remote village electrification  of similar category villages including those ones having some variation in number of house holds with plant and site specific modification. The report for a selected number of villages covered  technology, capacity, and specifications of equipment, cost estimates, time-line to be used and revenue model to make the project sustainable.

The above  approach was adopted to develop ability to gather energy data of large number  village quickly and at a low cost. To make this approach effective, need for a committed partner having grass-root access was realised at the outset. WEC India look at several entities and chose Vyakti Vikas Kendra India (VVKI) as its partner for the project. VVKI, a volunteered, humanitarian & educational non-governmental organization had the ability and capacity to reach out the masses.  VVKI  has been keen and willing partner to support the Village inventory programme.