From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Climate proofing
Mains level : Paper 3- Decentralised model of solar power generation
Power regulatory body in Rajasthan recently ordered discoms to solarise unelectrified public schools. The move has several benefits and therefore can be emulated by the other states as well.
Expanded electricity access in rural areas and shortcomings in it
- Estimates suggest that India has doubled the electrified rural households, from 55% in 2010 to 96% in 2020.
- However, the measure of access to power supply has been the number of households that have been connected to the electricity grid.
- This measure discounts large areas of essential and productive human activities such as public schools and primary health centres.
- And despite greater electrification, power supply is often unreliable in rural areas.
Solar energy: Solution to electrification in remote parts
- To address the above problems, the Rajasthan Electricity Regulatory Commission (RERC) has ordered the State’s discoms to solarise unelectrified public schools.
- The RERC has also suggested installation of batteries to ensure storage of power.
- Apart from enabling education, this ruling would benefit several other crucial aspects of rural life.
- The RERC order also directed discoms to seek corporate social responsibility (CSR) funds for the solarising drive and allows schools ownership of the power systems in a phased manner.
- This removes the burden of infrastructure development expenses on discoms, while also ensuring clean energy for the schools.
- The power that is generated could also be counted towards the discoms’ Renewable Purchase Obligations (RPO).
- Large-scale projects are generally financed by companies that wish to profit from economies of scale.
- They are less interested in investing in rural electricity as it is not as lucrative.
- Large-grid based projects add to the supply of power in urban areas, and therefore, only marginally further greater energy access goals.
The decentralised model of power generation
- While Rajasthan has land mass with vast, sparsely populated tracts available to install solar parks, bulk infrastructure of this scale is susceptible to extreme weather events.
- With climate change increasing the possibility of such events, a decentralised model of power generation would prove to be more climate resilient.
- With battery storage, the susceptibility of grid infrastructure to extreme weather events could be mitigated.
- This is called climate proofing.
- As solar installations become inexpensive and with rapidly advancing battery storage technologies, decentralised solar power generation has become a reality.
The ruling by Rajasthan’s power regulator not only helps in increasing access to electricity, achieving targets of renewable energy but also suggests solutions that other States could emulate.