The newly launched Smart Power initiative will promote economic development in rural areas through access to reliable and renewable energy.

New Delhi: The Rockefeller Foundation today committed USD 75 million for rural electrification programme for bringing clean power to 1,000 villages through mini-transmission grids in two of India’s most populous states of UP and Bihar.

The programme aims to benefit one million people by promoting micro entrepreneurship in rural areas by providing a steady supply of clean and affordable power.

The initiative through a Delhi based organisation Smart Power India will set up power plants based on alternative energy sources like solar, wind, bio-mass and hybrid across the country for providing electricity to rural households and telecom sites situated in the selected villages.

The Smart Power initiative aims to promote economic development in rural areas by providing access to reliable energy from green sources and will partner energy service companies (ESCOs), telecom tower operators, investors, nonprofits, and government agencies for providing 1,000 villages with access to power in the next three years.

Judith Rodin, President, The Rockefeller Foundation, said that access to electricity was crucial for inclusive economy. “Every step towards increasing rural access to modern energy sources can help India reach its full economic potential. We believe the provision of power will open up greater opportunities for economic development in rural areas- paving the way for a more inclusive economy.”

Rodin added, “The Smart Power model is a unique market based innovation that can support India as it achieves its ambitious electrification goals and bring green revolution. With this model a small-holder farmer depending on diesel electricity will see a jump of 40 per cent rise in his income.”

The Smart Power model is an innovative way to deliver clean energy through decentralised mini-grids. The mini-grids provide market opportunities to investors and will be able to integrate into the national grid system which the government is extending.

Under the Smart Power model, an anchor tenant, for example a telecom company operating local cell towers, would serve as the base demand for power and make it profitable for an ESCO to build a power plant which is large enough to serve both lighting and productive loads.

With this structure in place, the ESCO is willing to venture into rural communities and is able to sell power to local businesses and households – thus meeting the need for various uses of power – lighting, productive loads (such as carpenters, agricultural loads – irrigation, grinding mills) and other business needs benefiting new and future local businesses and homes.

Jaideep Mukherji, CEO, Smart Power India said, “The Smart Power model is an innovative solution for what has been an intractable problem in India. We have a unique opportunity at this time given that the government is supporting investments in rural electrification to spur economic development.”

Mukherji said that the telecom revolution and the proliferation of cell towers, and the private sector partners looking for new avenues for investment could be helpful in addressing social challenges in rural areas.

Dr Zia Khan, Vice President of the Rockefeller Foundation, said that smart power had the potential to significantly improve social lives. “It allows flexible hours of cooking for women,” he said.


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