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64 lakh Indians are waiting for the light

January 8, 2024 11:53 am

64 lakh Indians are waiting for the light
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The report lauds India for remarkable strides in electrification, extending power to 450 million people in the past two decades. Despite this success, 64 lakh individuals in India still lack electricity, particularly in remote areas.

In the evolving landscape of energy access and sustainability, the recent report by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) sheds light on India’s remarkable progress in providing electricity access to its citizens over the past two decades. Despite significant strides, the report underscores the challenges that persist, emphasising the need for connectivity and the quality and affordability of energy services. This special story delves into the report’s key findings, highlighting India’s achievements, persistent gaps, and the broader context of energy access in the country.

Progress in Electricity Access

The report lauds India for remarkable strides in electrification, extending power to 450 million people in the past two decades. Despite this success, 64 lakh individuals in India still lack electricity, particularly in remote areas. These underserved communities, identified as among the poorest, present a complex challenge for grid connectivity. Examining the renewable energy sector’s dynamics, the report notes significant progress fuelled by India’s solar energy surge. The country stands out for substantial solar energy investments, showcasing sustainable solutions in remote areas.

Chetan Singh Solanki, founder of the Energy Swaraj Foundation and Brand Ambassador of Solar Energy for the MP government, says, “One size does not fit all. There are areas where the best way to provide electricity access to the remaining 64 lakh people is by generating locally. With the advancement in solar energy and storage technology, providing access by generating electricity locally will be faster and cheaper.”

Approach to Energy Services

The report emphasises an often overlooked facet of energy access discussions: the vital nexus of quality and affordability. The provision of electrical connections needs to be increased; the focus must ensure that energy services align with social and economic development needs. Access to electricity is not just about illumination; it is a catalyst for community empowerment and comprehensive development.

Further, the report scrutinises another critical aspect: cooking fuel. Traditional biomass remains the predominant choice, with a concerning annual decline in adopting cleaner solutions like LPG and electric cooking. In India, 40 percent of households still rely on biomass, highlighting persistent challenges in transitioning to sustainable alternatives.

Dr. Karunamoorthy Neethimani, Managing Director of Wind Plus, says, “Uneven distribution, infrastructural challenges and social-economic factors knot the power lines, leaving villages and other undeveloped areas teetering in the shadows. To shine light everywhere, we must bridge geographical divisions, stop industrial snarls, and empower communities. Only then can the glory of progress banish the ghosts of darkness and bathe the whole of India in the beginning of decent progress.”

Moving ahead with the report, the journey in providing electricity access to its citizens is a testament to the progress achievable through sustained efforts. However, the challenges highlighted in the ESCAP report underscore the complexity of the task. Solanki says, “As prevention is better than cure, energy conservation is better than energy generation. Before generation, focus on conservation and efficiency is essential. While we move towards 100 percent electrification, efforts should be made first to reduce electricity wastage.” 

In the process, India must continue its commitment to energy access, adopting a holistic approach beyond connectivity to ensure the quality and affordability of energy services. Dr Karunamoorthy says, “To achieve 100 per cent electrification, stakeholders must unite in purpose; this includes making investments in robust infrastructure, embracing innovative technologies, and extending their reach with off-grid solutions.”

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