Notes from the Field

We live in a time when any conversation on energy access invariable begins with gigawatts and megawatts and millions of people. Being on the field as a part of SELCO’s induction gave an insight into what a few watts mean for one poor rural household at a time. In Puttur, a 40 watt panel powers two LED lights has been helping women roll tobacco at night – a common occupation in the region. The additional income generated not only pays for the entire system and make it their asset, but also creates increased disposable income. In Manipal, a migrant worker community entrepreneur charges 25 batteries and rents it out every night for a small price to his neighbors to power their lights. Again, he makes enough to pay for the system and invest in more.
The immediate impacts of a decentralized energy intervention and financial linkage becomes clear with one visit to such communities. The opportunity costs of livelihood creation hardly gets captured in various plans for 2020, 2030 and so on that place their bet on high capital investments and grid extensions. Asset creation is a critical step towards poverty alleviation, and DRE interventions can facilitate that change today. Not five years from now.
Women go to the fields to work during the day, and find time to roll tobacco only at night when all other work is done. A solar light enables them to earn 800 to 1,000 rupees per week.
This house in Puttur was one of the beneficiaries of the Bhagyajyothi Scheme, through which the state government gives grid connection to power one light. The woman here was explaining how unreliable that power is, and how they rely more on the solar lights instead.

In this IEC (Integrated Energy Center), a solar panel charges small batteries in a community store in Manipal. Households who own a led light (purchased for a nominal amount) pay the entrepreneur to get their batteries charged during the day. His list of customers can be seen on the board.

A decade ago, one of the big challenges around solar technologies was to create awareness among people. Now, anyone can go to the closest town, get a cheap solar panel and install it themselves. Here is one such house in a migrant community near Belgaum.

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