Decentralised renewable energy holds the key to rural electrification

National consultation on RGGVY demands revamp of scheme

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Press release - July 5, 2011
New Delhi, 1st July 2011: With centre’s ambitious Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojana failing to provide quality electricity access to rural India, at a National Consultation organised by Greenpeace, energy experts, policy makers and civil society today unanimously demanded restructuring of RGGVY to include decentralised renewable energy for quick and reliable power to all.

The national consultation was attended by Dr Hermann Herz from GIZ, Mr SS Prasad from Power Grid Corporation India Limited, Raman Mehta from the Department for International Development, Mr Somit Dasgupta from Planning Commission, Mr Anshuman Karol from Society for Participatory Research in Asia, Mr Manoj Mahata from Development Alternatives, Saurabh from The Energy Research Institute, Mr TSC Bosh from Rural Electrification Corporation, Mr Srinivas Krishnaswamy from Vasudha Foundation, Mr Arun Kumar Singh from the Ministry of Power, Mr Nikhil Dey from Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan and Member of Parliament Dr D Raja.

Member of Parliament D Raja expressed concern on the findings of the social audit and raised questions on the effectiveness of the scheme. “How long will rural areas have to wait before they get energy empowered? The scheme raised people’s hopes but has dashed them again by not being able to provide reliable and quality electricity, which is not more than a few hours in some areas. The government must rectify the loopholes so that people get what is their right. Their right to electricity, their right to work, study and do business even after dark, their right to growth and a better life,” Raja said.

Talking about energy generation and electricity access, Mr Krishnaswamy pointed out that increase in installed capacity has not been reflected in the number of households electrified and hence adding coal powered plants does not necessarily mean electricity access to people. He emphasized that renewable energy could provide a solution that actually provides electricity to rural areas.

“The centralised grid based approach of RGGVY has not been able to meet people’s aspirations. Rural areas have always been neglected in this energy hierarchy. Decentralised renewable energy can break this hierarchy and provide quick, reliable and sustainable power to people. The planning commission should consider and include it in the scheme,” said Divya Raghunandan, Campaigns Director, Greenpeace India.

Mr Prasad from the Power Grid Corporation also highlighted the point that the state agencies and the government did not take interest into the scheme as they do not have a stake in the scheme.

Nikhil Dey who has been involved with social audits for the last 15 years said that it was important for people’s involvement and monitoring was key for the success of the scheme. “In the current structure, there is no role for panchayats and people,” he said.

Anshuman Karol from PRIA agreed stressing on the point that decentralised planning and monitoring was crucial for the scheme.

Ahead of the national consultation, Greenpeace conducted social audits and public hearings on RGGVY in 31 villages across Madhubani and Saran districts in Bihar, Azamgarh district in Uttar Pradesh and Srikakulam district in Andhra Pradesh.

This shift to decentralisation was echoed by Deepak Gupta, Secretary, Ministry of new and renewable energy, recently at the global energy forum at Vienna, Austria.  He highlighted the need for a fundamental rethink in India’s approach to rural electrification, and the failure of the currently prevalent grid extension approach towards fulfilling the mandate of electricity for all. He emphasized on decentralised distributed generation models (DDG) operated at the local level which rely on renewable energy sources and technologies as the way forward to deliver on energy access. This would deliver faster on access while reducing costs around centralised grid extension.1

The social audits and the public hearings clearly brought out the inconsistencies in the claims made by the Centre’s scheme and what the reality at the ground level.

In a shocking expose, it was found that while the information on the RGGVY website claimed that Saran and Madhubani districts in Bihar had achieved 100 per cent and 97 per cent electrification, in reality, almost 78 per cent of the population at Saran and almost all villages in Madhubani had no access to electricity. Similarly, in Azamgarh, eastern Uttar Pradesh (UP), the RGGVY website claims electrification upto 93 per cent, while in reality a large number of people have been denied even an electric connection. In energy deficient UP and Bihar, the supply is highly erratic and unreliable.

In Andhra Pradesh, where villages have access to electricity, RGGVY has failed to achieve intense electrification that it set out to do. Improvement in electricity infrastructure has not translated to improved supply and failed to meet the demands of the people who want electricity for more than just lighting purposes. Moreover, lack of awareness and entitlements under the scheme has lead to entry of contractors and rampant corruption as people of the area alleged in our public hearings.

“The scheme has not been able to provide even basic electricity to rural areas because it has envisaged grid extension in the absence of quality and reliable electricity supply. There are inherent problems in the scheme that need to be rectified. The Planning Commission is reviewing the scheme for the 12th five year plan. With the social audits, public hearings, regional consultation and now the national consultation, we hope to input into the review process and take people’s concerns to the policy makers,” said Arpana Udupa, campaigner, climate and energy, Greenpeace India.

Responding to the presentation on the findings, Mr Arun Kumar Singh of Ministry of Power emphasized that the ministry was engaged in getting feedback from people and had already started the process of restructuring the scheme. He also assured that the ministry will look into the recommendations of this consultation.

Greenpeace calls on the Planning Commission and the Ministry of Power to mainstream DRE in RGGVY in a significant way. The scheme should:

  • Take up a target of small scale renewable energy generation (mix of mini-grid and off-grid) infrastructure development in the 12th plan period.
  • Include electrification for 100 per cent households in a village.
  • Embed the social audit component in the scheme to enhance accountability of the system.
  • Include guidelines for energy infrastructure for irrigation and medium and small scale industries as part of rural energy programme
  • Inclusion of Panchayati Raj Institutions to enable better implementation and monitoring of the scheme.

Greenpeace will share the recommendations emerging out of today’s consultation with the Planning Commission and the Ministry of Power.

Notes to the editor

(1) Vienna Energy forum bulletin – A summary report of the Vienna energy forum 2011 http://www.unido.org/index.php?id=1001185

For further details and social audit reports, please visit:

http://www.greenpeace.org/india/en/System-templates/Search-results/?all=rggvy

Please contact:

  • Shachi Chaturvedi, senior media officer, Greenpeace India, +91 98187 50007,
  • Arpana Udupa, campaigner, climate and energy, Greenpeace India, +91 953515200,