It's not a grid too far for India's remote pockets

It's not a grid too far for India's remote pockets

Drawing power from the sun, wind, water and a whole lot of imagination, momentum grows for experts and innovators working at spreading light and energ

It's not a grid too far for India's remote pockets


Off-grid refers to a power generation and distribution system that is independently capable of generating, storing, and distributing power. It is most likely harnessed from renewable sources like solar energy, wind, water, tidal waves, bio-gas, and biomass. An off-grid system is unique by not being connected to a conventional grid. It is an alternative for those areas lacking connectivity. According to Krishnan Pallassana of The Climate Group, “Many regions don’t have grid-supply, or may lack transmission lines. In this case, a system of generating an independent electricity system may be encouraged, called ‘off-grid’.” In all, around 2-3 million Indians depend on off-grid solutions.


If you trace the evolution of electric power, it’s evident that its beginnings were small, much like the household off-grid supply of today. Electricity powered a single light bulb, then two, and finally a town. This was how it eventually transformed into grids, lighting up the world. Off-grid power is now a tool to help people in remote areas. Experts say that off-grid energy generation and distribution has existed in India for decades. Right now, India’s off-grid power outout is estimated at 1,200 mW. In the next decade, the country’s power requirement is estimated at 750 gW. Off-grid solutions will play a key role in tackling power security going forward.


The Centre has several policies for off-grid solar. The ‘Off-grid and Decentralized Solar Generation’ scheme by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE), provides a 30 per cent Central Financial Assistance (CFA) on the capital cost. In addition, rural banks like NABARD provide 40 per cent subsidy. CSTEP is an organisation that works with the government to formulate policies on off-grid energy. “The government aims to electrify every household in India by 2022. Hence, off-grid becomes relevant,” CSTEP’s Saptak Ghosh says. Selco, Essential Energy, and The Climate Group are among the many players active in providing power to areas beyond the power grid.


Ideally, power supply ought to be equitably distributed. But owing to several geographic, economic, sociological, demographic, and technological factors, there is a ‘power struggle’ for ownership of power. Many areas, especially in underdeveloped and developing countries, lack the benefit of constant power supply, resulting in outages lasting several hours. A consistent dearth in power affects education, healthcare, industry, and many other sectors. Then there are those regions, with no power at all, plunging into perennial backwardness. Hence, off-grid is a boon for people who want to see the light of day, and of the night. Adds Pallassana, “Off-grid is a solution not only for the rural power deficit, but for the overall power situation in India.”


There are many areas so remotely located that the grid could never find its way there. These include forests, mountains, islands, deserts, and other topographies. Several off-grid technologies and solutions function, spreading light, and cheer, to the remotest and darkest corners. Depending on the natural conditions of a place, including the amount of sunlight, wind, or water sources, prevalent at a location, engineers may deliver the required off-grid solution. Today, off-grid helps power many settlements in India, in the Sundarbans, the North-east, Bihar, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Lakshadweep, and Andaman and Nicobar, among others. Of India’s installed capacity of 278.734 gW as of September 30, 2015, some 1,200 mW is from off-grid installations.


Off-grid technology is very simple in its delivery. “It is important to note that being a tropical country, India enjoys 300 days on sunshine. Besides, the land is home to 7,000 km of coastline, and produces biomass and biowaste from a billion people. These renewable resources offer off-grid immense potential,” Pallassana says.  There’s an off-grid solution suited for any topography. In the tropics, solar energy is ideal. Similarly, in windy, open spaces, wind turbines can twist the strong gails into sparks of current. And, for those regions with a vast coastline with choppy seas, the waves provide the perfect source to draw power. Others are excited by hydrogen cells and batteries for specific usages.

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