Road to accelerating clean power in India requires distributed grid innovation

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7 January 2018

The third India Energy Access Summit takes place from February 12-13, 2018 in New Delhi. Hosted by The Climate Group and Clean Energy Access Network, the event will catalyze leaders and innovators from India and beyond to accelerate clean power for all. Ahead of the Summit, William Brent, Director, Power for All, who is part of the advisory panel constituted for counselling on the Summit, blogs about the critical role of distributed grid innovation for India to achieve its national sustainable energy and climate goals. 

India made an historic contribution to energy access between 2000 and 2016, providing half a billion people with electricity for the first time. It is now faced with a much more daunting task -- delivering power to 300 million hard-to-reach rural Indians by early 2019, under a recently announced government plan called Saubhagya. 

To support this ambitious plan, the Clean Energy Access Network (CLEAN) and The Climate Group are convening the 3rd India Energy Access Summit in New Delhi on February 12-13, to create opportunities for the public and private sector to work more closely together. In particular, the Summit will bring together leaders from the decentralized renewable energy (DRE) sector -- in finance, policy, business and civil society -- to highlight the critical and complementary role solar home systems and renewable energy mini-grids must play in achieving the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 7 -- access to modern, affordable, sustainable and reliable energy -- as well as India's national climate commitments.

A growing body of evidence illustrates that innovation from more than 200 private Indian companies is already demonstrating clear socio-economic benefits of distributed energy systems: by catalyzing rural enterprise, creating good new jobs for women and youth, delivering better healthcare and education, accessing clean water and supporting Indian farmers through solar-powered irrigation and cold storage. 

Clean distributed energy is a powerful contributor to the national development agenda including 'Make in India', 'Startup India' and 'Skills India'. But its potential is still largely untapped.

Amid the global transition to more consumer-centric, distributed and digitized energy systems, the India DRE sector is ready to further leverage the private sector and commercial finance. This requires greater public support. For example, less than 1% of electricity subsidy in India currently goes to DRE, severely constraining its potential to do what it does best -- scale quickly to deliver impact in a financially sustainable way.

The upcoming Summit will be an important opportunity to deepen the national and international dialogue on public-private partnership, and identify specific actions to better integrate decentralized solutions into India's path toward electricity access that leaves no one behind. 

It will also spotlight India's leadership in electricity access, and put forward case studies of success that other countries can learn from. 



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