Over 300,000 households have been electrified through solar-based standalone systems, the Minister of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) R.K. Singh said in Lok Sabha recently.
In October 2017, the SAUBHAGYA program was launched to achieve universal household electrification by providing last-mile connectivity and electricity connections to all households in rural and urban areas with the provision of solar-based standalone systems to unelectrified households where grid extension is neither feasible nor cost-effective.
The minister noted that all willing unelectrified households had been electrified as on March 31, 2019, excluding the 18,734 homes in left-wing extremism affected areas of Chhattisgarh.
Since the launch of the SAUBHAGYA program, 26.3 million households have been electrified across the country up to March 31, 2019. These include over 300,000 households electrified through solar-based standalone systems.
The government had announced a corpus of ₹29.37 billion (~$393.38 million) for off-grid renewable energy generation sources in the past three consecutive budgets, beginning with the financial year 2016-17 and ending FY 2018-19.
Answering another question, Singh informed that Jaipur Vidyut Vitran Nigam Limited had not awarded any contract for off-grid electrification under the SAUBHAGYA program. The work for providing solar-based standalone systems under SAUBHAGYA in Ajmer Vidyut Vitran Nigam Limited has been awarded to 11 companies, he added.
To maintain the quality of these off-grid solar applications, the MNRE has issued specifications of lithium batteries that can be used for off-grid solar applications like solar street lightings and solar study lamps.
MNRE has also extended the third phase of the off-grid and decentralized solar PV applications program until March 31, 2021. The off-grid and decentralized solar PV applications program phase III was launched by the MNRE on August 07, 2018, and was slated to be valid for financial years 2018-19 and 2019-20. Under this program, the Ministry aims at providing solar-based applications in areas where grid power is either unavailable or is unreliable. Applications such as solar home lighting systems, solar street lighting systems, solar power projects, solar pumps, solar lanterns, and solar study lamps are covered under the program.
While this off-grid solar applications program of the government has taken off, MNRE recently scrapped Phase II of the Atal Jyoti Yojana (AJAY) program due to the global COVID-19 outbreak. Under the program, 12 W LED solar streetlights were being supplied in parliamentary constituencies with 75% of the cost being borne by the MNRE and the remainder coming from the Member of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS). The decision came in the heels of the government deciding not to operate MPLADS for two years financial years – 2020-21 and 2021-22.
Rahul is a staff reporter at Mercom India. Before entering the world of renewables, Rahul was head of the Gujarat bureau for The Quint. He has also worked for DNA Ahmedabad and Ahmedabad Mirror. Hailing from a banking and finance background, Rahul has also worked for JP Morgan Chase and State Bank of India. More articles from Rahul Nair.