Clean energy and energy efficient approaches in rural India
Setting the scene
Although India has one of the fastest growing economies in the world, up to 40 percent of the population still has no access to electricity. In particular, rural communities are reliant on inefficient energy sources – wood and cow dung for cooking, diesel and kerosene for lighting, and diesel for day-to-day agricultural applications, including water pumps and irrigation systems. As a result, women and children spend up to three hours a day collecting firewood and drying dung for fuel, causing further degradation of already degraded forestland, and households are forced to spend a disproportionate amount of their daily income on diesel and kerosene.
The project is being undertaken in Baran, an underdeveloped district in the south-eastern corner Rajasthan, India. Almost 40 percent of its population are categorised as Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (both groupings of historically disadvantaged people), and the area is prone to drought and famine. Most of the target villages are isolated, have limited, if any, access to electricity, and use traditional energy and farming practices that hinder long-term development.
Baran is the poorest district in Rajasthan, where 70 percent of the population lives below the poverty line.
The project aims to reduce the energy burden of approximately 2,000 households across 15 villages. This is being done through transforming communities’ traditional energy use to renewable and energy efficient technology. Using a holistic approach, a range of technologies and techniques will be introduced to meet the energy needs of entire villages. Some of the key activities include:
- Provision of solar lighting at both the household and village level
- Provision of efficient wood stoves for cooking
- Provision of solar pumps for water retention and irrigation
- Provision of biogas units for cooking and lighting
- Introduction of farmer-managed natural regeneration (FMNR) to support reforestation and help restore water catchments and degraded land
- Introduction of improved agricultural techniques and practices, including composting and organic farming
These activities are expected to bring about widespread positive social impacts: livelihoods will improve as farmers adopt improved agricultural techniques and produce greater crop yields; household incomes will increase as solar energy reduces reliance on kerosene; women’s and children’s health will improve as hours spent collecting wood and cow dung, and cooking in smoke and toxic fume-filled homes are eliminated; and children’s access to education will increase as solar power allows them to study at night.
The project will ensure both active participation and a sense of ownership by the community. Village committees will manage a common fund for the maintenance and repair of the renewable energy units, and households will contribute a nominal amount on a monthly basis. Selected youth will also be provided with training for maintenance and repair at the village level.
The project also has carbon credit potential through reduced emissions from use of solar lights, fuel-efficient stoves, biogas units and reforestation of degraded land. Income would be fed back into communities to ensure sustainability and further development.