"There is no silver bullet to address the energy needs. A variety of solutions are needed and there is no need for an either/or comparison across different solutions.”By making the above statement at the UN Foundation's workshop ”Advancing Energy Access in South Asia”, Ms. Leena Srivastava (Director, Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, Govt. of India) aptly summarized the status of energy access efforts.
The UN Foundation, along with its several partners, organized a workshop on Advancing Energy Access in South Asia in Patna (Bihar). The workshop, held during 10-12 September, was well attended by practitioners, investors, government agencies, and multilateral and bilateral donors. The entrepreneurs shared their successes, challenges and next steps that they are working on for providing clean energy solutions. Financial institutions, government bodies and donors informed the audience about different ways through which they are helping entrepreneurs.
|Mr. Satish Babu sharing his insight on adoption of technology.|
Picture Credits - Energy Access Practitioners Network
The followings are the main lessons from the workshop:
1. The sector is in an early stage. Mr. Harish Hande (Co-founder SELCO) drew an analogy between a baby learning to walk and the sustainable energy access sector. He warned against impatience. He said the sector would become profitable gradually. Most of the entrepreneurs are working on finding a profitable way for providing clean energy in rural India. It is a tough task and it will take time.
2. All stakeholders need to work together. The entrepreneurs and others, who are working in this sector, need to work together and share their experiences. There are many success stories of individual entrepreneurs overcoming challenges. For example, SELCO (a pioneer in Solar Home Systems) figured how to work with bankers to get easy loans for buyers of solar home systems. ONergy (an enterprise working in West Bengal) solved the problem of providing repair services for its product in remote areas by creating small renewable energy centers. Greenlight Planet worked with villagers and trained them to become resellers of renewable energy products. All of these successes need to be shared so that other entrepreneurs can learn from them.
3. The sector needs more active support from financial institutions. Almost all entrepreneurs present in the workshop underlined the challenge of arranging finance for their ventures. They also felt that most of the buyers of renewable energy products require cheap and easy loans for their purchase. The existing financial institutions are not very forthcoming to provide these loans. On the other hand, the bankers mentioned many challenges they have to deal with in the rural energy sector, such as a perceived high risk and lack of information about the available products. However, entrepreneurs believe that many of the challenges can be overcome if financial institutions work more closely with the existing entrepreneurs.
The IGEN-RE team shared experiences from its different activities. Mr. Hari Natarajan presented learnings from GIZ's experience with micro-grid work in UP and West Bengal (you can download the presentation here).