Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Slums find solar attractive

India’s Ministry of Housing released a “Slum Census” of 2011, the most comprehensive government estimation since 2000. One in six urban Indians, about 64 million people, live in slums — cramped quarters of 20 households or more in “unhygienic conditions.” The report predicted the total Indian slum population would topple 104 million by 2017.

Three states unveiled sizable solar installation plans. Rooftop solar, whose unit cost in India has dipped below diesel and natural gas, can grow quickly, from 1,000 megawatts to 12,500 in four years, according to a recent report from the consultancy KPMG. In Ahmedabad, a company recently started offering water “ATMs”:  stands that dispense drinking water treated with solar power. In Bangalore another startup, is trying to replicate the success of India’s mobile revolution. Seeing the success of the mobile revolution in the payment model, which allows phone owners to pay as they go, the company has sold over 100 solar PV units to households across the state using a similar system.
Another company has found buyers in the slums where electricity comes rarely and then, at a premium.  While most residents own a mobile, charging the same is often the problem. A solar PV unit becomes attractive. The success points to what experts have been saying again and again – to go for decentralised models using renewable, locally available sources. In a scenario where supply just cannopt match demand, where projected capacity additions are far off the reality graph, distributed and decentralised is the way ahead.

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