VIKALP SANGAM: Alternatives Confluences

The thematic Vikalp Sangam on Energy at Bodh Gaya, Bihar, adopted at Vision Statement, titled
Towards Energy Democracy

                Energy Democracy: A Vision Statement Read by Lalita

(Video of Statement read by Lalita Ramdas) (in Youtube)
(Link to text of Statement)   ( in Hindi)

Energy/Electricity - Getting into the theme |>| 
Even though traditional energy still addresses bulk of the needs of poor people and alternatives in these need to be explored, this Sanagm is concentrating on Electricity as the mainstream is getting into renewables in a big way, and critical issues like decentralisation, democratisation and even adverse long term environmental and technological impact need to be highlighted.

Ashok Srinivas of Prayas |>|  India has a capacity of 270 GW: 65% coal based and 20% large dams, 15% modern renewable. 95% of electricity delivered in India is unreliable. Power generation has been the major contributor of the current public bank debts. 

Policy Issues |>|

In their presentation, Prayas emphasised that low rate electricity sources should be allotted  to those who cannot afford it.  And the Shift to Renewable Source must be calibrated in  a manner that the burden of such change is not put on those who are basic needs consumers. The other need is to focus on energy efficiency, including those relating to transmission and distribution losses. Further the regulatory and review institutions must be decentralised and democratic in both supply and demand

Mr.Sharma spoke of his model for electricity the Tamil Nadu energy requirement.
Conventional technologies of Thermal, Hydel and Nuclear are not sustainable, and we have to move to renewal alternatives. While solar is becoming popular, Tamil Nadu also has a fair bit of wind energy. The potential of ocean energy need to be explored. But we cannot imagine that alternatives will supply us endless energy, as there are limitations to its growth. We must go for as much more distributed (decentralised) energy sources (production) (roof-top, bio-mass, micro hydro). We must also find  ways to reduce our demand, through efficiency and selective use.  Most of our high T & D losses (the highest in the world), are on the distribution side rather than transmission, and we need to shift from our transformers closer to points of use. In any case, we will need a paradigm shift from the current GDP centres model of development, which are dependent on energy guzzlers like cement and iron.

Aditya Ramji: On Policy & Implementation of off-grid and renewable energy |>|
While the Power Ministry is focused on large projects, renewable energy is governed by the Renewable Energy Ministry, which is not allocated as much resources or mandate that is needed to make it the focal point of new energy. Furthermore, decentralized solutions are completely absent from policy and planning. There is need for innovative solutions like the one announced by the Railway Minister to set up micro-grid in their remote stations, where the roof tops and land is available, which  provide power to the station as well as supply to the nearly villages.
The off-grid sector has been promoted by supplying solar lanterns, setting up home systems or  micro grids. But  RE products lack standardisation and regulation. There is a very limited data on RE installations in the country and hence, huge allocations are made without any reliable and proper information base.

Representatives from SELCO Foundation, Badlav Foundation, WWF, LEDEG, BASIX, Barefoot College, Ekta Parishad, Switch On and Tara Urja foundation shared their experiences in break out sessions. The outcomes and debates were shared.
Group Discussions : Gr I |V>| : In Group I, Pravin Singh asked if we have considered all the downsides of the new push for solar power.. Will it be like the Green Revolution, which after implementation showed it ugly head Barefoot College which worked on training grandmothers as solar technicians, are now training for grid connectivity. They face changing government funding policies, which undermine tested training protocols for these sections.
Basix has worked to demonstrate the technology within economically viable paradigms.
Group Discussions: Gr II |V>|
Gr III warned that our Solutions tend to put the onus on the demand side ie the consumer, thereby disadvantaging the poor
Discussions in Group III |V>|
While one case demonstrated proof of concept including commercial financial viability, Ekta Parishad relied on the Gram Sabha to take it project decisions. How does one decide one in favour of the other. In any case, any system which aims to reach the very poor will have to be subsidised. Outcome at  Gr 4 |V>|
Different scales of solar from nano to pico throw up both economic, techninal, and organisational challenges. But these are being ironed out. Financial viability seems to be the main deciding factor, for scaling up, as charity and governmental funding seems to withdraw.
Gr 5 |V>|

The Story & Ground Zero at Dharnai (videos  to be uploaded)

Dharnai – the solar village. The origins of the experiment lay in the Greenpeace report ‘Hiding Behind the Poor, Part II’ – which highlighted the energy inequity in the country. After Bihar government released an RE(Renewable Energy) policy, Greenpeace provided a roadmap, which required 76,000 crore investment.  Chief Minister of Bihar, Nitish Kumar, offered that while the report looked great on paper, if Greenpeace could electrify one village and present it as working model, Bihar government would take it as an example for the rest of the state. The estimated cost was 4.5 crore per village. The project had to be a 24X7, community run community owned, community run, pilot project.

The objective of the Dharnai experiment was to challenge the centralised model of electricity generation. Dharnai had electricity 30 years back, but then became de-electrified though its neighbouring villages had electricity.  Dharnai has 420 households spread across three hamlets; good social infrastructure  – three to four schools, model anganwadi etc. A 75 kW solar micro-grid was launched in July 2014.  30 kW was to be generated for agricultural pumps, income from which was meant to cross subsidise the household lighting tariff. The VED did not agree. But since the revenue from the agricultural pumps was essential for the viability of the project, something the that VEC did not appreciate,  the agricultural pump sets had to be allotted to other users willing to pay.

According to Ramapati, community ownership and decisions making has to be accompanied with capacity building, otherwise it might backfire. 


The German Experience 
Where is the demand for change going to come from? |>|

The larger paradigmatic change will have to come from peoples movement. However there are space in the current regulatory framework for a degree of citizen's involvement, and specialised civil society group. There is also need for some smart messaging.
Peoples Movements have been resisting destructive development, while NGOs, and social entrepreneurs are working on alternatives and renewable energy. Process of confluences of these approaches are needed.

Prayas on Energy
Energy - Thematic Session at Sewagram Vikalp Sangam

Appropriate Energy Policies for India in a Climate Constrained World

India’s energy policy future: Here be dragons
Ashok Sreenivas * Prayas Energy Group

Shankar Sharma

Feedback on National Electricity Plan on Generation – 12th & 13th Plan periods

A White Paper on Electric Power Sector

‘Hiding Behind the Poor’’

Draft Renewable Energy Act 2015

A new energy policy being prepared by the NITI Aayog will be ready in the next 10 to 12 weeks and will lay greater emphasis on solar energy and natural gas for the country’s energy mix.

Expectations of CSOs from National Energy Policy being drafted by Niti Aayog