Demand for rural solar home lighting systems in India will reach 3,000 MW by 2018!! Can you believe it?!
Taking into concern India’s rising rural population and the thousands of villages that are either not connected to the country’s power grid, or lack uninterrupted power supply, this figure seems relevant.
Adoption has been facilitated by providing subsidies and easy loans through the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD), part of the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE). This subsidy system has been in place for some time however, the cost and technology options for the rural solar market in India are stuck due to the government-stipulated specifications and service models. Therefore inspite of huge government spendings and initiatives to extend the reach and reliability of grid in the rural areas, not a lot of positive changes can be noticed.
Astonishingly, experts still believe that no matter what, the growth of rural solar lighting will still explode over the next five years. For more on these predictions, please have a look at this interesting article on a similar topic, ‘Rural India Turns to Solar Power’. Loop Solar, an entrepreneurial Indian solar lamp venture based out of New Delhi, India has decided to look at the rural market with a fresh approach. The company found that if this potential solar market is allowed to grow outside of all government subsidies, around 3,000 MW of solar could be added in the form of small solar home lighting systems and lanterns in the next five years.
PV Magazine‘s article about Loop Solar’s predicted 3 GW target states that the rural market’s potential for solar powered home lighting systems is huge with the market currently being served by a lot of small companies in many areas. These small companies are working withing tight budgets, which can lead them to supplying substandard equipment and, subsequently, overall customer dissatisfaction with the products.
Loop solar states that the current distribution models of institutional (profit or non-profit) partnerships, company owned branches, micro-franchising and traditional distribution all have their share of shortcomings. Therefore building an entrepreneurial, India-wide rural solar specific assembly, distribution, installation and service network is one solution for the time being. Later the policy framework can be revisited to embrace the need for flexibility and optimising locally available resources within the grid, envisaging that rural electrification can be a commercial reality in India.