Decentralised clean energy tech can impact 37 mn livelihoods in India’s agri, textile sectors: Study

Decentralised renewable energy technologies have a market potential worth Rs 4 lakh crore in India, notes study

By Seema Prasad
Published: Tuesday 23 May 2023
Photo: iStock.

Technologies that are powered by decentralised renewable energy (DRE) could potentially impact 37 million livelihoods in India's agriculture and textile sectors, noted a new report.

DRE technologies include solar-run textile manufacturing units, biomass-powered cold solar storages and micro solar pumps, among several others.

DRE has a market potential of Rs 4 lakh crore in rural and peri-urban communities in India, added the report released by Union Minister for New and Renewable Energy RK Singh. The document published jointly by the Council on Energy, Environment and Water and Villgro Innovations Foundation was unveiled on May 19, 2023, at the National Summit on Powering Sustainable Livelihoods.

Also read: India’s NDC: Why sector-specific targets are needed for reducing emissions

On the ground, the deployment of DRE technology is limited and scaling it becomes difficult due to the lack of evidence on the commercial viability of such solutions, researchers ascertained. Therefore, they chose to study its usage on the ground.

Currently, India has 12 mature technologies powered by DRE, they found. These are the higher capacity irrigation pumps as well as the micro pumps, silk reeling machines, dryers, charkhas, small horticulture processors, small refrigerators/deep freezers, cold storages, vertical fodder growing units, grain milling machines, looms and bulk milk chillers. Together, they collectively have the potential to impact 37 million livelihoods, the study found. There are 547,380 installations of these twelve technologies, with an estimated livelihood impact of 566,827 people.

Solar-powered technologies such as high-capacity irrigation pumps, micro irrigation pumps, solar-powered vertical fodder growing units and solar dryers have the maximum potential to be deployed. Solar pumps, in particular, are the most mature technologies due to the government subsidies provided, the study said. 

The ability of the product to give livelihood opportunities and generate income may increase its likelihood of adoption. For example, solar-powered silk-reeling machines and micro solar pumps have higher chances of adoption as they help generate more income than solar-powered bulk milk chillers and solar-powered cold storage. 

The number of days the asset comes in handy also makes a difference to users. A solar pump is generally viewed as more economically viable than a diesel pump. However, if the diesel pump is used for only 20 days a year despite high running costs, it would be more advantageous to users, the researchers added.

Uttar Pradesh leads in terms of estimated future adoption of solar-powered technologies, followed by West Bengal, Bihar, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka, the researchers added.

Another report that was released by the MNRE minister had findings from the ground. It included details of the technology used in the impact assessment. Solar silk reeling and spinning machines with 15 watts capacity within a price range of Rs 15,000-Rs 30,000 that were used by silk reelers and weavers in Chhattisgarh and Odisha were studied. Small solar refrigerators with a capacity of 65-155 watts in the price range of Rs 80,000-Rs 145,000 that were deployed in departmental stores in Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Karnataka were assessed.

Micro solar pumps with 0.3 horsepower capacity, costing between Rs 45,000-Rs 50,000, used by small and marginal farmers in Odisha, Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh were also studied. Similarly, Solar vertical fodder growing units with 30 W capacity at a price of Rs 40,000-45,000 that was used by small dairy farmers in Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka were part of the assessment, the document added.

The first phase of the study covered 767 end-users across 19 Indian states who had had access to and used the technologies for at least six months. This was to understand the impact of these technologies on communities struggling with limited access to energy. The researchers are planning the second phase of this analysis.

About 91 per cent of the users received the technologies at a subsidised cost from the government without being aware of the same. Nearly 71 per cent of the respondents to the survey said they experienced an increase in income by 35 per cent.

Some of them were able to independently afford the purchase of these machines with the enhanced ability to pay back loans. This was particularly true for 81 per cent of the users of silk reeling machines, who could double the productivity compared to the previous reeling methods. Using DRE technologies improved the confidence of 86 per cent of end users to work. It helped 88 per cent of end users extend financial support to their family members.

One barrier faced by the users, in general, was the lack of direct contact with the manufacturers to address technology defects, as they were provided through philanthropic efforts and government subsidies. The authors proposed introducing loans offered over a longer period of time with lesser interest as the users now have the ability to pay back loans. 

Read more:

Subscribe to Daily Newsletter :

Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.