Bundelkhand Day III
Rampura visit was another landmark today. A small village of 59 families. Never experienced electricity in its life of more than a 100 years is since the past 9 months enjoying clean and dependable solar energy based electricity. The village streets are safer when lit at night, children study at home under CFL lamps and are saved from the intense heat with fans, a computer center is now possible and is opening up so many more possibilities and small village industries are possible.
The availability is limited but equitably distributed with a focus on maximum gains to the community at large. The service is not free and consumption is checked through differential tariff. Even though the electricity comes at a price more expensive than the government service, it is appreciated because of its dependability, and even so full cost cannot be charged from domestic users as that would make it too expensive and inaccessible.
The management, the maintenance, the tariff system, the knowledge of battery life and how to maximize it through careful usage, the priority of use etc. is all in the hands of the village society – the loop seems complete.
Many lessons - from the perspective of a visitor especially the technical visitors of CSV - the "neatness and completeness of the package" the attention to detail in the hardware was really appreciated. (would the Indian versions be able to provide the same look and feel quality as this German one?)
The whole issue of differential tarriff, the method of prioritization of use of this limited quantum (8.7KW) in a collective manner was much discussed.
This does provide an interesting case to continue to track how a community will resolve conflicts when demand rises for the available power and how solutions may be found - technologically, financially and socially - increasing capacity / modules, having sole use models for high load requiring enterprises, moderating consumption, continued prioritization as Manoj mentioned for those uses that provide maximum community benefit etc.
In addition, the team discussed the whole issue of competitiveness vis-as vis the sarkari bijli and its pricing. What kind of policy advocacy is required at this point to enable providers of renewable energy with a level playing field. Teams from Maharashtra could identify with the high price of power from the solar source as they have a pretty high tariff for fossil energy already, but the Budelkhand team could identify with the pinch.
What of households that live in fields - and have individual homesteads in farms?? - we could not see the other battery charging model but manoj and his team did explain - the solar home lighting system was sought....
The capacity of the local village leader in the understanding of issues, the community factors, the technical knowledge required for efficient working and maintenance, etc. was definitely inspiring. One wished there were more of such people - probably there are - we just need to dig a little deeper.