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Solar lanterns spread light of hope

Aug 03, 2010

TERI, Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) along with other corporate partners unveiled their innovative solar lanterns at a conference held in Delhi.The lanterns are designed to provide off-grid lighting solutions for villages.

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The fact that 400 million people in India still have no access to electricity is startling. Their basic needs of lighting houses, institutions and commercial places are met through the use of kerosene oil in lamps and lanterns.

Given this situation, there is an alarming need to revisit electrification in India. The solution could lie in providing off-grid solutions for the thousands of villages by harnessing new and renewable sources of energy. The target of universal electrification by the year 2012 could be met this way.

Rural energy solutions were the focus of discussion at a conference held in New Delhi on 23rd July 2010, where The Energy Resource Institute (TERI) launched the ‘New Generation Cost Effective Off-Grid Lighting Solutions for Rural Electrification’ under their flagship Campaign - Lighting a Billion Lives (LaBL).

The conference was presided over by Jitin Prasada, Honourable Minister of State for Petroleum and Natural Gas, who, along with D.K. Gupta, Secretary, Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, unveiled the new generation cost effective solar lanterns for rural lighting.

The Minister, in his address reiterated the fact that a vast majority of rural population is deprived of electricity leading to widespread use of kerosene. Despite prolific electrification, 6.5 crore households still have to depend on kerosene oil even for lighting purposes.

“Solar lights provide a clean, versatile source of light to the millions of households. Various government departments and corporates should synergise their efforts for this initiative”, he emphasised in his speech and added that “These initiatives will be excellent if rolled out in full measure; they should not be restricted to micro levels”.

Citing institutional support for the campaign, Deepak Gupta, said that “In the remote gauge electrification programme, around 5000 villages have been covered. In the last few years, rural banks have started financing regions where there is grid but electricity shortage.

“Thousands of villages have benefited from this, especially from Bihar, Haryana, UP and this has transformed into better education, better health, women empowerment etc”, he said. ”We are trying to meet rural demand by upscaling this initiative, and deploying 20 billion solar lighting systems under Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission.” 

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“A capital subsidy of 30% has been assigned and loans at 5% are extended to facilitate further endeavours for harnessing alternative energy sources.” Gupta stated.

R.K.Pachauri (Director General, TERI) Akanksha Chaurey (Director, Decentralized Electricity Solutions, TERI) and several other solar technology partners from India and overseas were in the conference to showcase public-private-people-partnerships for rural electrification.

Pachauri in his address stressed the significance of solar power in a sustainability-driven world. He said that the burden of kerosene subsidy on the government could be eased by facilitating renewable sources of energy.

“Solar lights provide a clean, versatile source of light to the millions of households. Various government departments and corporates should synergise their efforts for this initiative”

He identified that PVs will provide lighting on a durable, reliable and sustainable basis. They are cost-effective; the hardware cost of installing the PVs is around $5 billion for the 1 billion population target. The amount is nominal as compared to the $3 trillion package rolled out for environmental protection by various countries of the world.

He also appealed to the Prime Minister of India to shift the subsidy burden of kerosene towards solar lanterns which, in collaboration with MNRE, will be help to create jobs besides lighting up rural homes.

TERI has been working hard to innovate, both design and dissemination, and make the solar lanterns more accessible to the people. Production using solar energy is gradually shifting to larger scale and breed ’rural solar entrepreneurs’.

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