Decentralized Solar Offers Energy Solutions In Climate Vulnerable Regions in India

A significant section of rural India lives in areas which are prone/accustomed to climatic adversities. Hence, people living in these regions are greater risk of being underserved, and hence, impoverished. Although there have been significant improvements in India’s rural household electrification, electricity availability for health centers, schools, and rural enterprises is still limited.

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A new report titled, “Powering Development in Climate Vulnerable Areas: The Role of Decentralized Solar Solutions in India” by the World Resources Institute (WRI) has outlined a brief study on how climate change affects electricity demand and debilitates the infrastructure that supplies the electricity. And how a decentralized solar solution should be installed while taking climate adversities into account. 

The authors did a case study on 14 decentralized solar installations at facilities for essential services, such asDecentralized solar solutions healthcare, education, and livelihoods in three states of India including, Rajasthan, Jharkhand, and Assam. 

The key findings examined the experience of installing and operating DRE solutions, the challenges faced, and benefits accrued says that the electricity demand for the delivery of essential services is impacted by climate risk in three ways:

Backup power: Reoccurring power cuts happens due to the damage in grid infrastructure during the time of climatic adversities like floods, heavy winds, thunderstorms, etc. That results in the need for backup power support. 

Demand surges: The demand for electricity rises essentially in climatic mishappenings to cope with the climate-induced damage. Demand surges in hospitals, for communication, or pumping and filtration of water due to contamination or scarcity. 

Service expectations: Electricity demand will increase for ongoing activities such as digital education, quality healthcare, and income and livelihood enhancements that build the long-term capacities of communities to cope with climate events.

The researchers analyzed that climate change impacts the technical, operational, and financial design of a project (decentralized solar installation). In states like Assam, Jharkhand, and Rajasthan solar installations need to deal with floods, waterlogging, thunderstorms, lightning, water scarcity, extreme temperature, and heavy winds. 

However, none of the installations covered in the case studies specifically incorporate predictions of future climate change into their project design. The report finds only a limited number of installations having operational clarity on roles and responsibilities during and after a climate-related event or have funding arrangements in place to deal with the aftermath of an event. 

Ensuring the sustainability of energy systems is an area of concern for decentralized solar energy practitioners. Decentralized solar energy systems are expected to have a long usable lifetime, but often fail to meet expectations because of technical, financial, operational, and logistical problems.

The report suggests considering three aspects while installing decentralized solar installations in climate-vulnerable regions. These are: 

▪ Technical considerations include understanding the current and future climate risks in the region, how they affect the demand for and supply of electricity, and what technology options, codes, and guidelines exist to ensure that the energy system continues to remain useful and functional. The implementing agencies and vendors should also consider whether project timelines include climate risks through the four stages of the project life cycle and whether the technical design considers the market availability of spare parts in case disruptions occur. 

▪ Organizational considerations include whether the contractual and non-contractual responsibilities of all participants are laid out in the event of climate-related disruptions and whether they have adequate capacity to execute them. Users and implementing agencies should account for local capacity building, contingency communication, or response plans under contractual obligations that can be activated during climate-related events. Energy project planning should consider the local community’s expectations, including the role played by energy in the community’s current and future coping mechanisms to manage climate-related risks. 

▪ Economic considerations include a realistic estimate of whether finance for the project incorporates climate resilience as a critical element of project planning. Funding agencies, implementing agencies, and users should collaborate on project planning that is flexible enough to integrate innovative financing options to hedge against short- and long-term uncertainty.

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Bhoomika Singh

Bhoomika is a science graduate, with a strong interest in seeing how technology can impact the environment. She loves covering the intersection of technology, environment, and the positive impact it can have on the world accordingly.