The Rise of Community Solar Initiatives Brightening Sustainable Future

Highlights :

  • As of January 2023, data released by the National Family Health Survey showed that 86% of India’s poorest 20% of households now have access to electricity, increasing from 53% in 2017.
The Rise of Community Solar Initiatives Brightening Sustainable Future The Rise of Community Solar Initiatives Brightening Sustainable Future

Swati Singh, Product Marketing Manager of Oorjan Cleantech 

Dayanita was born in the rural agrarian and fishing community of Hill Kaka, a remote hamlet in Poonch district, that’s almost cut off from the rest of India. At 19, she has never seen a light bulb lit up in her home. The rocky terrain, coupled with a history of militancy, is perhaps a militating factor hampering the connection of Hill Kaka to the national grid. Dayanita wishes that a time will come when the electrification train will get to her village, like some other distant areas within Jammu and Kashmir.

Like Hill Kaka, this sordid tale lingers in other communities like Khiriya Barka in Madhya Pradesh, which has never seen light. There are several other rural communities in India still lacking basic power supply. Many others, including in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Haryana, and even Rajasthan still experience long hours of power cuts, ranging from two to eight hours.

As of January 2023, data released by the National Family Health Survey showed that 86% of India’s poorest 20% of households now have access to electricity, increasing from 53% in 2017. This means that there are still millions of Indians without access to electricity. The rural electrification programme of the current administration has, to a large extent, made some commendable progress and given succour to millions, but the challenges of funding, manpower, and logistics when dealing with hard-to-reach communities remain.

Community initiatives & solar alternative
In the last few years, the move to electrify rural India with the use of alternative and renewable sources like solar energy has intensified. Spurred by the national grid shortfalls, ingenuity, private sector investments, and the advocacy for green energy, these efforts have resulted in the creation of solar farms across many communities in India. However, the coverage of solar energy in India is still at an abysmal level.

Solar currently accounts for around 14% of India’s total installed power capacity, offering as much as 70,000 megawatts in installed capacity. It is also no surprise that states with the worst power problems in India are leading the way in the solar revolution, including Rajasthan (17,839 MW) and Gujarat (10,133 MW), according to August 2023 data. India currently ranks number four in the world in terms of energy consumption, but needs much more than it currently produces, especially considering the rising population and the rising demand for industries and manufacturing.

These efforts are a mix of government interventions, community efforts, and private-sector investments. By setting up solar farms, rooftop solar installations, and mini or mega solar grids, such community initiatives are helping to bridge the power supply gap in India.

Empowering communities
Centered on empowering communities, transforming lives, and safeguarding the planet, these impactful community projects are instrumental in bringing about positive change. It’s important to note that such community projects are local in nature, driven and implemented by members of the community themselves. Consequently, the increased installation of solar power systems not only provides a boost to the local economy but also exerts positive influences on broader macroeconomic indicators. Furthermore, these ventures serve as engines of job creation, creating employment opportunities for local residents and improving their overall livelihoods.

This cuts across the value chain; from the installation and maintenance of solar panels to the management of the energy systems. As a ripple effect of these initiatives, members of the community are also empowered with valuable skills and employability, driving sustainable economic growth from within.

Community solar projects are in line with environmental conservation goals. The shift from fossil fuels to solar energy helps to reduce the unhealthy reliance on coal and contributes to a cleaner, greener economy. The adoption of sustainable practices in energy production is a crucial step in mitigating the impacts of climate change and creating a healthier future for generations to come. India’s power supply is still largely driven by coal, which makes up between 55% and 75% of India’s power generation mix. Regrettably, this is not a sustainable source of power. Moving to solar offers a lot of benefits, including green and sustainable electricity as solar is a renewable source, no threat of depletion, no environmental hazard as against coal mining, and a cost-effective power solution.

Beyond initial installation costs, as well as occasional maintenance and replacement of cells or batteries, solar power does not attract any other expenses. Furthermore, it can provide electricity on a large scale, as long as there is sufficient sunlight in the area. Thankfully, India gets an average of 300 days of sunlight each year, making it home to almost five trillion kilowatt-hours of renewable and clean solar power yearly.

The push by government to go coal-free by 2070 is achievable, but it requires consistent collaborations and engagements, as well as sustained investment in the sector, especially in the country’s rural communities. This concerted effort will ensure a gradual but steadfast transition towards a more sustainable, clean energy future.

"Want to be featured here or have news to share? Write to info[at]