Mini-grids can quickly achieve universal access in India, cut emissions: report

13-12-2017, Vienna, Austria

Renewable energy mini-grids have huge potential to contribute to the Indian government’s 24x7 Power for All agenda by rapidly expanding reliable electrification in thousands of suitable villages, as well as mitigating significant greenhouse gas emissions, according to a new publication, “Scale and Sustainability: Toward a Public-Private Paradigm in Powering India”. This report was published by REEEP with the support of the Rockefeller Foundation.

“Current plans to provide ‘Power for All’ in India via the country’s utility or distribution companies (known as DISCOMs), through main-grid extension and utility-scale generation projects, are largely polluting, slow to build, and expensive. The central utility grid is 70% coal-powered, and the proportion of fossil fuels is still expected to be greater than 50% of the energy mix in 2040,” the report said.
Based on REEEP calculations, mini-grids could serve 36.5 million people and mitigate greenhouse gas emissions of up to 122 million tonnes of CO2e between 2020 and 2035 if the 15,500 suitable villages in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh states are electrified using renewable energy grids rather than via the fossil fuel-dominated main grid. That equates to the emissions of 30 coal-fired power plants in one year, according to EPA data.
In order for such benefits to be delivered, however, distributed energy service companies (DESCOs) operating mini-grids must be included in long-term power infrastructure planning, including their eventual integration with the main grid in the majority of cases, the report says.