Decentralised Solar Energy: How To Chart Sustainable & Inclusive Path Forward For South Asia


By Praviin Kumar & Alexander Hogeveen Rutter

In June this year, G20 Energy Ministers met under India’s Presidency, as part of the first G20 Energy Transitions Working Group, to accelerate an inclusive clean energy transition. The group used the opportunity to emphasise the need to address technology and financing gaps and to meet the energy needs of all communities. 

This is where decentralised solar energy comes in. The International Solar Alliance’s recent report Solar Energy for Universal Energy Access shows that around 475 million unelectrified people globally are best served by off-grid solar solutions for their primary energy supply, including solar energy kits and mini-grids. 

For India and South Asia, where energy access is no longer such an acute issue, they also have a key role in providing backup power in areas of weak grid and in powering agriculture, enterprise and health. Decentralised solar technologies also help communities adapt and build resilience to climate change, with droughts, floods and heat waves affecting millions across the region annually. 

South Asia has long been a pioneer in decentralised renewables, with both India and Bangladesh acting as catalysts for the growth of solar lantern, home system and mini-grid markets, and now acting as a hotbed for innovation in the solar-for-weak-grid, solar-for-WASH and solar-for-agriculture sectors. For example, market leaders in the cold storage space, such as Ecozen and Inficold, are now helping thousands of Indian farmers preserve their produce and boost their incomes, whilst over 200,000 farmers are now using solar water pumps to irrigate their crops. 

The ISA is also driving south-south cooperation and supporting the development of new productive use applications of decentralised solar. For example, the organisation’s SolarX Start-up Challenge supported Musana Carts Uganda to build out their sales of solar-powered street food vending carts to vendors on the move and helped Urban Greens to design a solar-powered aquaponics micro-farm, which is entirely renewable-powered and uses just 10 per cent of the water of traditional farms.

At the same time, the decentralised renewables sector is developing solar generators, hybrid solar systems and solar inverters to help families, businesses and public facilities gain 24/7 power supply in areas where the grid can become overloaded.

It is with this backdrop, that the South Asia Forum for Distributed Energy in August organised by GOGLA, and supported by the International Solar Alliance and Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, brought together the South Asian distributed energy community to chart the business-driven route to a cleaner, more inclusive and climate-smart future. 

The event’s central focus on public-private collaboration saw industry experts explore the ways that the decentralised renewables industry can work together with governments to stabilise the electricity supply and drive the productive use of renewable energy to create energy security, resilience, and green growth. As we live through a period of weather extremes, the event also profiled the urgent need for more, and more catalytic, carbon and adaptation finance, to reach the poorest and most climate-vulnerable with clean decentralised solar solutions that help them adapt and build resilience to climate change.

The South Asia Forum for Distributed Energy served as a platform for the latest innovations in smart solar technology. We look forward to continuing our efforts in bringing together business, financial and political leaders in the region to be part of the new South Asian clean energy frontier. 

(Kumar is the South Asia Regional Representative at GOGLA. Rutter is a Private Sector Specialist at ISA)

Disclaimer: The opinions, beliefs, and views expressed by the various authors and forum participants on this website are personal and do not reflect the opinions, beliefs, and views of ABP Network Pvt. Ltd.


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