Mr Anubhav Patnaik, a state legislator for the Khandapara constituency in the Indian state of Odisha and a member of the Climate Parliament network, helped to organize an awareness-raising workshop earlier this month, in association with the Indian organisation Clean Energy Access Network (CLEAN). The main objective of the workshops was to interact with the leaders of village communities and make them aware about decentralized renewable energy (DRE) solutions with specific focus on solar and its applications. The workshop saw participation from 100 Gram Panchayats in both locations.
The Clean Energy Access Network is an all-India representative organization launched in 2014 with a clear mandate to support, unify and grow the decentralized clean energy sector in India. It particularly aims to bring together diverse stakeholders across India working to improve energy access for the rural and urban poor and create an inspiring model for countries around the world to follow.
One of CLEAN’s members was also present in the workshop for solar demonstration which actually helped them understand the technology better. The 2 hour session included a talk, photo and video presentations, demonstrations and a Q&A session.
Interaction with PRI representatives revealed that the government statistics is more or less correct and around 10 – 15% of the households in the constituency might not have electricity connections. The ones without connections are from tribal community staying nearby or in the forests as this district has good forest cover. The power cuts, if at all, in the summer season is minimal at about 4 hours during the daytime. So the households do not see the need for buying renewable sources of energy at an individual level.
The awareness sessions with the representatives focused on possibilities around renewable sources of electricity and cooking. Different products and services around solar electricity and biomass cooking was explained and discussed.
Most of the participants knew about solar technology per se but weren’t aware about its applications. Workshop helped them know about various possible applications of solar.
Several myths on working of solar were cleared during the workshop.
Given the context of the region, discussion with the PRI representatives and the MLA who was present in both the meeting, there was primary interest in the following areas of interventions -
Adopting Solar Street lights
Solarising the Drinking water supply pumps
Solarising Schools for basic stuff as well as for modern audio/ visual aids.
Promotion of Solar Irrigation Pumps
Most of the above is primarily to capitalize the expenses so that regular cash flows are minimised in terms of regular electricity bills. Street lights and Drinking water supply falls in this category and the Panchayat institutions are responsible for running and maintaining these basic services. Given that the PRIs will be receiving for direct Central Financial Assistance (CFA) and State Financial Assistance (SFA), they can utilize the budgets for capitalizing investments into renewables under both the heads, if planned well over their tenure..
Issues in the constituency are not due to access but more from capitalising the expenses so that regular cash flows are minimised in terms of electricity bills.
The scope of solar irrigation is very high as the water level is pretty high. In most of the places that the team visited the water table was less than 50 feet. Most farmers only do single cropping due to high dependence on monsoon and under exploitation of ground water resources for irrigation. So the central government/ NABARD scheme for irrigation was shared.
But there is a different challenge on this - very little interest among farmers to do 2nd cropping. This is due to the larger welfare policy in the state. So solarising irrigation itself might not help usage in mass scale unless coupled with other programs around making agriculture a viable livelihoods opportunity.
Success of any intervention would need sustained behavioural change exercises.
The scope of solar irrigation is very high, so the central government/ NABARD/ OREDA scheme was shared.