Request you to kindly drop in all your mails/queries to or call us at
+91-120-6799125 (D); +91-120-6799100 (B)


User Name


Forgot Password?

Set as Default

POV : Role of Distributed Energy Resources for Powering Rural India

By Team Infraline Megazine, 05 Nov 2018, delhi
Industry : Power

India has been making steady progress in its ambitious rural electrification goal. Despite aggressive electrification programs and achievement of 100% village level electrification, complete household electrification remains a distant dream.

Mr. Simran Grover,CEO,Bask research Foundation

India has been making steady progress in its ambitious rural electrification goal. Despite aggressive electrification programs and achievement of 100% village level electrification, complete household electrification remains a distant dream. As of 10 October 2018, 158.43 million rural households have electricity connections, which is about 92% of the 172 million total rural households. Quality of supply at the last mile remains a major concern, and it is often cited as the primary cause for ‘low willingness to pay’ for electricity services. Unreliable power supply, long-curtailment hours and poor voltage quality have a significant and lasting impact on livelihood opportunities, cost of doing business and most importantly, it greatly limits the capacity of public institutions such as schools and healthcare centres to function to the best of their capacity. Lack of reliable and good quality of electricity supply to the last mile communities also impacts dissemination and success of government programs such as ‘Digital India’ and ‘Smart Villages’. Energy surplus does not equate to energy access As reported by the Central Electricity Authority (CEA), India’s peak power deficit stood at 0.9%, while overall national electricity deficit stood at 0.6% in the first four months of the current fiscal year. Unfortunately, national energy sufficiency is by no means reflection of quality of electricity services in rural areas. Supply of high-quality power at the last mile is constrained by the two key challenges: poor fiscal health of DISCOMs and stressed or over-loaded distribution infrastructure. To ensure that line losses in distribution lines are in compliance with international standards, HT (High Tension, 11kV and above) to LT (Low Tension, less than 11kV) ratio of 1.0~1.2 is recommended. In most Indian states, this ratio is typically above 2.0 for rural distribution networks, implying higher aggregated technical and commercial losses, commonly known as AT&C losses. This also results in voltage drops beyond permissible limits, frequent technical faults, and adversely affects performance of electrical equipments. Distribution infrastructure including 11kV distribution transformers and 33/11kV sub-stations are often found to be over-loaded in rural networks, implying inability of DISCOMs to provide 24x7 electricity supply despite surplus energy generation capacity. Poor fiscal health of DISCOMs further compounds the challenge of electricity supply in rural areas. Debt-laden distribution companies often curtail their losses by curtailing supply to rural villages since Average Realised Revenue (ARR) is usually less than Average Cost of Supply (ACS). Because of the same reasons, capital investment for strengthening the rural distribution infrastructure is a lowpriority task for DISCOMs. This creates a vicious cycle of high AT&C losses, poor quality of supply, high frequency of faults and low willingness to pay. Based on the current trends, access to 24x7 good quality and reliable power in rural villages is going to be a more complex challenge than simply connecting them to the grid. For about two decades now, many private organisations (and government programs) have been working to bridge the energy gap at the last mile using distributed energy technologies such as solar, biogas and even wind. Modularity of distributed or decentralised energy solutions imply short commissioning periods and flexibility of catering to varied energy requirements. Solutions such as solar home systems and solar power packs are effectively improving energy reliability for those who can afford them. For households, which are still to be connected to the grid, such solutions are able to cater to the basic and critical energy needs. To cater to the energy needs beyond basic lighting and mobile charging, minigrids seem to be a more feasible alternative. Interestingly, mini-grid developers prefer working in electrified villages with poor supply of electricity since energy demand in such villages tends to be much higher than completely off-grid villages. This is simply because the likelihood of existence of institutions and small enterprises which are energy-dependent is much higher, allowing developers to leverage certain economies of scale. Traditionally, decentralised renewable energy (DRE) enterprises have faced stiff challenges in scaling up. In the absence of a consumer-friendly financing ecosystem, reliable quality standards and poor regulatory framework, market for poor quality use and throw products has mushroomed. The Government has always focussed on subsidising technologies, rather than investing in the creation of a better last mile ecosystem which could significantly reduce the cost of doing business and improve the consumer experience. Mini- and micro-grid developers have also struggled to secure appropriate financing for their projects. High-levelised cost of electricity because of low capacity utilisation factors, high cost of last mile operations and capital investments in distribution infrastructure imply that mini-grid developers rarely venture outside the scope of CSR and government projects in pursuit of sustainable business models. Developers who strive to build sustainable business models, independent of grants and subsidies, face commercial risks because of the expansion of the grid, the improvement in power quality supplied via main grid and the high-levelised cost of electricity Distributed energy resources The last mile energy ecosystem has rapidly evolved because of the expansion of the main grid over the last decade or so. DRE solutions are uniquely positioned to bridge energy gaps and strengthen the last mile distribution infrastructure. Solar battery packs and home systems are poised to strengthen their position in electrified but underserved markets, leveraging the lower cost of solar modules and better storage technologies. But a much larger potential is waiting to be explored through gridintegration of micro-grids (or mini-grids). Grid integrated micro-grids can range from a few kilo-Watts to a few Mega-Watts, and they can synchronise with the main grid at HT or LT voltage levels. Integrating micro-grids with the main distribution infrastructure has multi-fold benefits such as eliminating the cost of setting up a parallel infrastructure, reducing the cost of systems through storage optimisation, significantly improving capacity utilisation, eliminating the need for secondary power sources such as diesel generators, and reduced operations and maintenance cost. Hence, grid integrated micro-grids shall achieve significantly lower cost of electricity generation and they can efficiently compliment supply from the main grid because of their modularity and scalability. Micro-grids can also improve the quality of power by facilitating reduction in line losses, providing reactive power support, serving as a demand-response instrument for grid balancing and energy arbitrage. Most importantly, micro-grids can increase the resilience of our grids to internal and external security threats. Given the current state of the distribution infrastructure across most states in India, we have a strong potential and opportunity to completely leapfrog the transition to Smart Grid through planned and strategic integration of micro-grids and other distributed energy resources (DER) with the existing distribution infrastructure. If recent trends of clearing the price of power in day-ahead markets are any indication of future trends, there is immense scope for power procurement optimisation and energy arbitrage that can be leveraged through such measures. Unfortunately, the road ahead is not without challenges. The private sector mini-grid players have been wary of working with the public sector distribution companies because of many reasons. Our experience with developing community mini-grids under the aegis of the State Nodal Agencies (SNA) and even not-for-profit initiatives has been poor at best. While the technology has grown by leaps and bounds, our understanding of the potential of micro-grids or mini-grids continues to be archaic. Efforts of a few SNAs to provide some framework for grid integration of mini-grids have failed to leverage the latest technology improvements, and the same have not found any takers in the market. Way forward The road to energy sustainability and security for India, honouring the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) committed under the Paris Agreement in 2015, is not without challenges. While the CEA shall come out with appropriate technical standards for providing the framework for grid integration of DERs at various voltage levels, the regulatory commissions need to provide mechanisms for fair monetisation of the multitude of services offered by DERs. The increasing complexity of power systems calls for multi-stakeholder research and policy development activities, especially to establish the value proposition of the latest technologies and fair monetisation of new revenue streams in the Indian power markets. A ground-up energy planning shall be central to our next generation electricity grid, paving the way for affordable, reliable and sustainable Power for All.

Latest Happenings

  • National Institution for Transforming India (NITI Aayog), has set up a national level committee with members from various ministries and states for developing and implementing Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) to drive smarter mobility in the country.
  • BMTC to monitor movement of buses through GPS and passengers to track their arrival at bus stops using the BMTC smartphone app
  • Union minister for road transport and highways, Nitin Gadkari intends to have “intelligent traffic system” in India to tackle to road mishap menace and prevent “unnecessary loss of life”.
  • Current policy initiatives aimed at promoting electric vehicles , If this plan succeeds, the Centre estimates, 9,500 million litres of fuel will be saved and there will be a reduction of 2 million tonnes of GHG emissions by 2020.
  • India needs $1.5 trillion of investment in infrastructure over the next decade, India’s finance minister, Arun Jaitley, has stated.