How Bijli has connected 65,000 Indian villagers to clean energy: Krishnan Pallassana
- 09 February 2016
Krishnan Pallassana, India Director, The Climate Group, reflects on the achievements and lessons of The Climate Group’s Bijli – Clean Energy for All project, and outlines some future projects that are now growing out of it.
Nearly two years after The Climate Group’s Bijli – Clean Energy for All project began, I look at the results of it and feel immensely proud.
We started in 2013, aiming to connect Indian villagers to solar power and pilot a business case solution to the problem of 400 million Indians currently living off grid.
As the project winds down, I am overjoyed to say we have connected over 65,000 people. During the course of the project, we also directly reduced 317.10 tons of CO2 equivalent emissions per year and hosted the first ever India Off-Grid Energy Summit. Most importantly, the project has demonstrated the viability and reliability of the off-grid solar energy business model.
When I visit the project and meet its beneficiaries I can see the incredible difference the project has made to so many people’s lives. Citizens across the Indian states of Maharashtra, West Bengal, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh are now enjoying clean and affordable solar power. Dirty and expensive kerosene is now a thing of the past, as are the medical fees that come with lung problems induced by burning fuel.
Instead, locals are paying a much smaller fee to enjoy clean power in the form of hand-held solar-powered LED (light-emitting diode) lights, home-lighting systems and micro-grids.
As Usha Bai, from Satpipri Village told me at the beginning of the project: “I am very happy. My son is not at all coughing now, saving me of weekly visits to the local doctor. I learned that kerosene was causing all the problems to my son. I need not use kerosene anymore in the evening.”
The Bijli – Clean Energy for All project was able to deliver these off-grid electrification models with the principal funding of the Dutch Postcode Lottery. With the help of the Netherlands-based charity lottery, The Climate Group has both implemented the project and looked at to how best to scale up the business models.
This has involved the completion of consultations with over 220 stakeholders in the off-grid rural electrification space in India and across the world, as well as the creation of an Energy Access Advisory Board to provide advisory support on the strategy.
We discussed the lessons learnt from these exchanges in a lively debate last month in Amsterdam, with the panel consisting of The Climate Group’s CEO Mark Kenber, Linsey McGoey, Linda Polman and Alexander Kohnstamm from Pharma Access. The event sold out and the crowd included politicians, decision makers from the Dutch philanthropy world as well as students. For me, it further confirmed the global interest in and importance of the models that Bijli – Clean Energy for All has piloted.
Furthermore, together with the Dutch Postcode Lottery we have created two energy mobilization networks – the Clean Energy Access Network (CLEAN) and South Asia Network for Clean Energy (StANCE). The fruits of these endeavors are detailed in our report, the Business case for Off-grid Energy in India, which we produced with the help and funding of the Goldman Sachs Center for Environmental Markets.
NEXT STEPS FOR BIJLI
We have plans for the Bijli – Clean Energy for All model to be implemented on a much wider scale: bringing solar energy to individuals on a state-by-state basis. While reaching 65,000 people is a great achievement, it only scratches the surface of the 400 million people currently without access to grid electricity in India today.
So The Climate Group has advanced plans to establish the Bijli Catalytic Fund in the very near future. This debt fund will aim to lend much-needed finance to local renewable energy companies, allowing them to scale up our model to reach states across India.
For The Climate Group, the Bijli – Clean Energy for All project has also highlighted the need for public-private partnerships in the renewable energy sector in India. With this in mind, we are also in process of developing a business model that installs large-scale renewable energy grids with locals and governments as stakeholders.
Much like the Bijli – Clean Energy for All project and the Bijli Catalytic Fund, this public-private partnerships model will require philanthropic funding and impact investors. Please contact us if this is something of interest to you.
We could not be more pleased with how Bijli – Clean Energy for All has developed. We have set a precedent for what a vibrant, low carbon future for India could and should be.
Outlining the benefits of localized business solutions to the problem of 400 million off-grid Indians has been a steep learning curve, on which I have continuously felt heart-warming personal pride. And I know The Climate Group in India and the team in London have been incredibly humbled and inspired by this incredible journey.
Thank you to all involved.
The closing report of The Climate Group’s project Bijli — Clean Energy for All shows how this project helped reduce greenhouse gas emissions and simultaneously enhanced the lives of rural villagers in India by connecting them to cheaper, cleaner and more reliable renewable energy sources.