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India approves more off-grid and decentralised solar PV applications programme

A press statement released on 6 June said that the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, run by the Indian Prime Minister Mr Narendra Modi, has approved the implementation of Phase-Ill of Off-grid and Decentralised Solar PV (Photo Voltaic) Application Programme to achieve additional 118 MWp(Mega Watt peak) off-grid solar PV capacity by 2020.

Under Phase-III of Off-grid and Decentralised Solar PV Application Programme, 300,000 solar street lights will be installed throughout the nation, in areas where there are no power girds and street light systems, specifically in North Eastern regions and Left Wing Extremism (LWE) affected districts.

The programme will also promote standalone solar PV power plants of individual size up to 25 kWp (Kilo Watt peak) in areas where grid power is not available or not reliable. The idea is to provide a steady electricity supply to public service institutions such as schools, hostels, village councils (panchayats) and police stations, etc., and to increase the participation of women in education and social activities. The aggregated capacity of solar power plants will be 100 MWp.

The project will distribute around 250,000 solar study lamps to students in the North Eastern States and in LWE affected areas.

North Eastern, other hill states and islands will receive 90% of the benchmark cost for solar street lights and solar power projects. Other states will receive financial aid up to around 30% of the benchmark cost of the projects. For solar study lamps, beneficiary students will have to pay only 15% of the lamp cost, and balance will be provided as financial support through the provision of systems like these to students in schools in remote areas.

The total cost of the project including its three components is IN ₹1,895 crore (around US $280,649,500) of which IN ₹637 (US $94,530,800) crore will be provided as central financial support.

Earlier this year, the Minister of Power, Mr Raj Kumar Singh announced, “One million solar study lamps have been distributed in three Indian states under the One Million Solar Study Lamps Program which was approved in January 2014 by Ministry of New and Renewable Energy for empowering underserved communities. The states which benefited from this program are Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Rajasthan”.  

The off-grid solar systems are also likely to generate better job opportunities for beneficiaries in rural and remote regions, consequently increasing self-employment in those areas. The implementation of Phase-III will create employment opportunities equal to approximately 867,000 man-days for skilled and unskilled workers, excluding the increase in self-employment.

The Off-grid and Decentralised Solar PV Applications Programme has the potential to greatly impact and improve the lives of people in rural India through the provision of electricity to places where grid power is either unavailable or unreliable.

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