Best minds from UK and India ideate on business models for off-grid electricity supply

A one day workshop titled “Decentralized off-grid electricity generation in developing countries: Business models for off-grid electricity supply” was organized today at TERI University as part of an ongoing interdisciplinary research project “Off-grid Access System (OASYS)”.

The research project has been implemented by a consortium of Indian and British universities led by the University of Dundee, with TERI and TERI University, University of Manchester and Edinburgh Napier University from October 2009 to September 2014.

This workshop with the OASYS project team is aimed at researchers and practioners to interact, engage and discuss the way forward for implementation and operation of the off-grid access projects in South Asia. Funded by DFID and Research Councils UK, the project intends to find appropriate local solutions, which are techno-economically viable, institutionally feasible, socio-politically acceptable and environmentally sound, for sustainable electricity supply to off-grid areas.

The workshop was formally inaugurated by Mr. Rajiv Seth, the Registrar of TERI University and was attended by about 40 specialists and stakeholders involved in off-grid electrification.

The workshop delved on the fact that Institutional issues and development of viable business models for rural electricity and energy supply needs adequate attention. Thus systematic analysis and research to find appropriate local solutions which have scale-up the potential and can be replicated, need to be found instead of universal or global solutions, to bring them to the mainstream.

In his address Mr. Shantanu Mitra, Team Leader, Climate Change and Development, DFID India said, “DFID sees off-grid renewable energy as having a key role in tackling both poverty reduction and climate change. Scaling up of such technologies will have to be driven by the private sector, based on sustainable business models. We have a lot to learn about how such models can work in remote areas, and how there development can be supported by appropriate policies. The OASYS project is addressing a question that has great relevance to today’s development challenges.”

Dr Subhes C Bhattachryya, Team Leader OASYS, and Sr. Lecturer, University of Dundee, while sharing his views on the project said, “This applied, multi-dimensional, collaborative research brings together the expertise of both British and Indian researchers on an important development issue.” He further added “Its focus on business and participatory approaches to off-grid supply is expected to produce practical local solutions for wider application in South Asia and beyond. It will also include a demonstration component and investigate up-scaling and replication possibilities.”

Ms Akanksha Chaurey, Director - Decentralized Electricity Solutions, TERI while highlighting the wider business potential for off-grid solutions suggested the need for clear regulatory arrangements and targeted financial support for wider social benefits. She further said that “TERI has always believed in partnerships as a way forward to build a sustainable future and this project enhances sharing and advancement of knowledge amongst India and UK.”

This project will review the off grid electrification sector, investigate a suite of alternative decentralized business solutions and corresponding institutional frameworks for electricity and rural energy supply with a specific focus on South Asia through case studies, demonstration projects and applied academic research involving UK universities, South Asian universities, research institutes, think tanks, and other stakeholders as appropriate.

This research proposal is based on the premise that the a strategy has to promote innovative solutions as opposed to prescribing standard templates for adoption for which each rural area wil have to search for its own solutions. This research will focus on hybrid, multi-functional technological platforms using innovative participatory delivery mechanisms (such as franchisees, licensees, co-operatives or other local enterprise models) and alternative funding options (e.g. Micro-finance, capital grants, subsidies, fee-based systems).

The specific objectives of the research project are:

  • to investigate and suggest cost-effective, secure and sustainable local solutions to electricity access problems taking into account resource, skil and other constraints into consideration and to recommend the appropriate institutional arrangements;
  • to demonstrate the functionality of such identified solutions through appropriate demonstration projects in selected areas of South Asia;
  • to recommend and support up-scaling of identified and demonstrated energy solutions to other rural areas;
  • to facilitate, build and develop interdisciplinary research skills in UK universities and in partner institutions in South Asia, and a real collaboration between academia and other stakeholders;
  • to disseminate the lessons and experiences gained through the investigation and demonstration works to a wider academic and non- academic audience; and
  • to develop collaboration between academia and other stakeholders and ensure two-way capacity building and knowledge transfer.

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