Empowering Rural Enterprises by Eliminating Energy Poverty through Monitoring of Solar Assets
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Empowering Rural Enterprises by Eliminating Energy Poverty through Monitoring of Solar Assets

By auther pic. Faiza Ruksar Arif

January 30, 2020

Empowering Rural Enterprises by Eliminating Energy Poverty through Monitoring of Solar Assets

24x7 electricity has allowed the community to increase work hours and customer retention

While India has made remarkable progress in bringing electricity to every village, the achievement is a mirage that continues to mask the challenges of accessibility, monitoring, and management of electricity girds and electrification initiatives across rural India. India faces a terrible power reliability situation. Rural electrification by itself means little when load shedding and power outages are frequent enough to make the term a mere technicality. The reality remains that nearly one-fifth of India's rural households (around 31 million) and small enterprises remain in acute darkness. Electricity insecurity hampers negatively the productivity and labour productivity of rural SMEs and, is one of the key bottlenecks for rural economic development.

 

To overcome this intermittent and irregular electricity supply these enterprises have turned to local diesel gen-sets which are neither cost-effective nor environmentally friendly, leading to SMEs redirecting 15-20% of their income towards alternatives sources to meet their energy demands. Doorastha Analytics is a Government of India recognized Start-Up founded in May 2017 that tackles issues on thesustainability of Solar Off-Grid Systems and lead to micro/mini-grid failures. The key aim of the organization is to bring forth groundbreaking initiatives to Decarbonize, Digitize and Distribute microgrids for the socio-economic development of rural enterprises and the BoP segment. A solution named iLUMY (Intelligent Laghu Urja Mapan Yantra) was developed and prototyped for measurement and monitoring of Solar Micro & Mini-grids. Doorastha Analytics is driven by innovation & research with a deep commitment to reduce energy poverty and empower rural enterprises through a revolution in optimizing operations and revenue for solar micro & mini-grids.

 

Doorastha's iLUMY (Intelligent laghu Urja Mapan Yantra) is an intelligent cost-effective mechanism used to measure and monitor small energy systems remotely located in real-time. This innovative solution offers last-mile accessibility, 24x7 reliability and clean renewable electricity for Small and Microenterprises (SMEs) and the Bottom of Pyramid (BoP) segment of the population. The core components of the instrument include a pre-paid smart meter, a grid controller, coupled with a cloud-based analytics platform that provides real-time performance of the solar assets. The pre-paid smart meter is installed at the customer's end and is recharged by the iLUMY App. The performance analytics of the mini-micro grids are visualized on the Doorastha analytics dashboard and weigh in heavily on the decision-making process of the initiative. To facilitate the easy adoption of solar energy, Doorastha provided the Pay-as-you-go (PAYG) financing payment model which enables rural enterprises to affordably avail electricity without payments being demanded upfront. Doorastha's program has adopted two-business models: Build-Own-Operate (BOO) & Platform-As-A-Service (PaaS) where the one model entails installing and owning the micro-grid while the other involvesinstalling iLUMY within a new or existing DRE (Decentralized Renewable Energy)  network.

 

This initiative has enabled ease in the collection of revenue, preventing theft and pilferage. By employing a tracking grid usage on a cloud-based software analytics platform, Doorastha has also improved efficiency and optimized operational performance. The solution has provided improved grid management and real-time data, which has proven momentous to the decision making process for Energy Service Companies (ESCOs).

 

Doorastha has successfully piloted the iLUMY solution across two rural markets in Uttar Pradesh, providing 24x7 energy services to 120 small rural enterprises. The prototype at a village market in the Juanpur district of Uttar Pradesh has served as a success story, having enabled rural micro-entrepreneurs to increase their income earning capacities and employment opportunities tremendously. The adoption of energy-efficient appliances has positively impacted 720 lives, specifically those with small businesses and women, having to extend their work hours thereby increasing their income by 25-30%. It has also enabled saving on diesel alternatives, with the organization reporting saving of around 4,320 liters of diesel & kerosene yearly within the district. The money saved on diesel has been reportedly been redirected towards the education and well-being of them and their families. The iLUMY solution has also created jobs like micro-grid operators, technicians, and field salespersons and has also provided training to local people for running the solar micro-grid, thereby revitalizing the rural economy. The endeavour has also proven to be environmentally friendly and sustainable and has led to a 20-25% reduction in the use of kerosene and diesel resources for daily energy requirements. The learnings from the ground have shown a net saving of 2.41 tons of CO2 emission in the atmosphere through this solar microgrid solution.

 

The locals remain optimistic about their future and livelihoods and participate in the process of maintaining the grids. Tiwari Ji, who runs a tea stall praises the program, "Stable and continuous energy access from solar microgrids has enabled me to have extended my work hours during the evenings.  Previously I used a hand fan or blowpipe to keep the chulha burning but now I have used the fan given by Doorastha, to reduce the drudgery. The fuel burns efficiently and I make deliveries on time. My income has increased by 20-25% also with improved customer retention. The PAYG financing payment model has allowed me to avail reliable services at a lower cost. Now that we get reliable electricity from Doorastha's microgrids, I look forward to buying a small refrigerator to store milk products."

 

Locals enjoy stable low cost electricity and increase working capacities

The success stories from the ground have catapulted more opportunities for the organization to capitalize on. The organization is steadily moving towards providing access to clean energy-based productive loads that would lead to livelihood generation through cluster identification both for agri-businesses and services-based manufacturing clusters. The distinctive ingredient of Doorastha's iLUMY recipe is that it has been conceptualized and developed as a "bottom-up" approach and thus grounds itself in the energy needs and lived reality of the communities and enterprises at the grassroots. This ideology has enabled the organization to offer a unique solution that transforms a grant-based off-grid model into a sustainable revenue-based business model while also enhancing and maintaining performance and revenue output.

 

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Impact-Story is a series on development and CSR interventions leading to some impacts on the ground. If you have a project, innovation or intervention that has changed the lives of a few people or a community, please share a brief note at csr@ngobox.org. Our Team will get back to you after validating the information for a detailed coverage

Author

Faiza Ruksar Arif is a content specialist and researcher based in Bangalore who has worked extensively on curating curriculum and educational programs for adolescents in Telangana. With a Master’s degree in Gender Studies from Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Faiza is on a mission to improve social realities by equipping women and other marginalized sections, with improved access to health, education and livelihood opportunities. She also dabbles in artwork and is passionate about issues pertaining to mental health and minority politics.

 

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