MNRE Proposes Framework to Promote Rural Livelihood through Distributed Renewables (2)

The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) has proposed a policy framework to promote decentralized renewable energy (DRE) systems for livelihood generation in rural India.

The decentralized renewable energy livelihood applications include solar dryers, solar-powered cold storage, and solar charkha that can directly help livelihood generation. Stakeholders can send their suggestions and comments by November 2, 2020.

The Ministry noted that various agencies have so far conducted successful pilots and business models in segments like agriculture, agro-processing, dairy, poultry, fisheries, tailoring, that can be replicated in large volumes.

However, these are a small portion of the overall spectrum of livelihood activities across India’s 600,000 villages. The MNRE has realized that there is a need to scale-up the currently available DRE livelihood applications in rural areas and explore new DRE livelihood applications in rural areas.

The following interventions are proposed under the draft policy framework to promote DRE livelihood applications in rural areas:

  • Enable a market-oriented framework to attract the private sector for the development and deployment of DRE livelihood applications
  • Easy access to end-user finance for DRE livelihood applications
  • Introduction of standards, stringent monitoring, and evaluation frameworks
  • Skill development for strengthening the service infrastructure at the local level
  • Encourage innovation and research to develop efficient and cost-effective DRE livelihood applications.

The implementation of this framework would require accessing demand, research and development, pilot and up-scaling of projects, access to finance, skill and capacity building, and public awareness.

The MNRE added that it would develop a regularly updated list of DRE livelihood applications in consultation with stakeholders. The MNRE and other ministries and state-level institutions will help develop new devices and applications for the rural economy. The private sector, technology incubation centers, bilateral and multilateral agencies, and NGOs would also participate in the research and development activities. The government would also pursue financial institutions for credit facilitation for this program.

The draft proposal noted that the MNRE would facilitate the development and implementation of skills through DRE livelihood applications training programs. It will collaborate with the Skill Council for Green Jobs, IITs promoting rural development and technology, National Institute for Rural Development, and other organizations falling under concerned ministries and departments. Central and state government ministries and departments under their existing programs could also take up public awareness campaigns to push the adoption of DRE livelihood applications.

The state nodal agencies for renewable energy with significant expertise would coordinate with these implementing agencies to provide technical support for DRE livelihood applications in rural areas. Alternatively, the state agencies would also function as implementing agencies for the livelihood applications program.

Recently, MNRE also invited bids for evaluating the third phase of its off-grid and decentralized solar PV applications program. The study will be done on a trial basis, and the consulting firm will collect data from at least five states for each of the three applications. The ministry also published a draft notification on the specifications of lithium batteries that can be used for off-grid solar applications like solar street lightings and solar study lamps.

The program was initially valid until March 31, 2020, and later it was extended to March 31, 2021. It was also decided that the projects would be installed under the renewable energy service company (RESCO) model during the extended period. MNRE had also issued guidelines for off-grid solar power projects under the RESCO model.

The off-grid and decentralized solar program is part of the National Solar Mission with a target of 2 GW capacity from off-grid solar applications by the year 2022. The study has to evaluate the program’s execution by collecting information from state implementing agencies, beneficiaries, and other stakeholders.

Image credit: Society for Energy, Environment and Development