Jaideep Bansal, En­ergy Ac­cess Leader, Global Hi­malayan Ex­pe­di­tion (GHE), speaks about vil­lage elec­tri­fi­ca­tion in the Hi­malayas in an interview.

Jaideep Bansal, En­ergy Ac­cess Leader, Global Hi­malayan Ex­pe­di­tion (GHE), in con­ver­sa­tion with R Srini­vasan.

Power Watch India - - CONTENTS -

Kindly com­ment on the elec­tri­fi­ca­tion sce­nario in the Hi­malayan re­gion.

In the Hi­malayan re­gion of In­dia many com­mu­ni­ties have been liv­ing there for cen­turies. Un­for­tu­nately, due to the harsh moun­tain ter­rain, tra­di­tional grid lines can­not reach these vil­lages. Hence most of the vil­lages are using diesel gen­er­a­tors for elec­tric­ity, which is sup­plied four hours a day. Some vil­lages have so­lar power plants that sup­ply elec­tric­ity. Most vil­lages have been pro­vided with a ba­sic home light­ing sys­tem that al­lows vil­lagers to op­er­ate two CFL lamps for a cou­ple of hours. GHE’s in­no­va­tion: Our so­lar mi­cro-grid tech­no­log­i­cal so­lu­tion is based on Di­rect Cur­rent (DC) tech­nol­ogy. This is an ef­fi­cient so­lar sys­tem de­sign for de­cen­tralised power gen­er­a­tion as it in­volves no DC to AC con­ver­sion losses. The ca­pac­ity of these mi­cro­grids ranges from 150W to 250W.

A typ­i­cal 250W mi­cro-grid so­lu­tion can sup­port up to 30 LED lights. To sup­port this tech­nol­ogy, Global Hi­malayan Ex­pe­di­tion (GHE or the or­gan­i­sa­tion) has de­signed its own DC LED lights. These are en­er­gy­ef­fi­cient LED lights and pro­vide 320 Lu­mens of light from just 2.5W of power. The or­gan­i­sa­tion has also de­signed its own low power DC high definition LED TV and DC LED street-lights at 20W to sup­port the low power mi­cro-grid so­lu­tion. All our mi­cro-grids au­to­mat­i­cally switch on when sun­light is low and switch off when the sun is shin­ing. Our DC LED TV’s have an in-built timer that al­lows max­i­mum five hours of op­er­a­tion so that there is no mis­use from the com­mu­nity. Using DC mi­cro-grid tech­nol­ogy al­lows us to elec­trify a vil­lage with min­i­mum in­vest­ment and max­i­mum im­pact. The rea­son the or­gan­i­sa­tion chose a DC mi­cro-grid so­lu­tion is:

1. Re­mote­ness of these vil­lages does not al­low con­ven­tional power lines to be ex­tended to these vil­lages be­cause of the harsh moun­tain ter­rain. 2. Since there are no med­i­cal fa­cil­i­ties in these vil­lages, the risk of shock from a AC cir­cuit can be a big health haz­ard so the or­gan­i­sa­tion chose DC tech­nol­ogy to elim­i­nate the health haz­ard from AC.

3. Mi­cro-grids bind the com­mu­nity to­gether con­nect­ing 4-5 house­holds to­gether who share elec­tric­ity from the grid.

How did the Global Hi­malayan Ex­pe­di­tion (GHE) be­gin its mis­sion to­wards pro­vid­ing clean en­ergy to the re­mote Hi­malayan com­mu­ni­ties? What were the lessons learnt and chal­lenges faced dur­ing the process and how were they over­come?

Global Hi­malayan Ex­pe­di­tion was founded by Paras Loomba af­ter he was in­spired by an In­ter­na­tional Antarc­tic Ex­pe­di­tion he par­tic­i­pated in dur­ing 2012. Hav­ing ex­pe­ri­enced the im­pact of cli­mate change first hand in Antarc­tica, Paras de­cided to start a sim­i­lar ex­pe­di­tion in the Hi­malayas fo­cus­ing on im­ple­ment­ing so­lu­tions based re­new­able en­ergy tech­nolo­gies for the re­mote Hi­malayan com­mu­ni­ties that have been liv­ing in dark­ness for cen­turies due to their in­ac­ces­si­ble ge­o­graph­i­cal lo­ca­tion.

GHE seeks to pro­vide clean en­ergy, ed­u­ca­tion and wire­less con­nec­tiv­ity ac­cess through so­lar power, to help im­prove the liv­ing stan­dards of the ru­ral pop­u­la­tion. The ini­tia­tive fo­cuses on im­ple­ment­ing a holis­tic de­vel­op­ment model for the ru­ral un-elec­tri­fied Hi­malayan com­mu­ni­ties by pro­vid­ing en­ergy ac­cess through so­lar mi­cro­grids for these re­mote vil­lages lo­cated in the higher reaches of the Hi­malaya. GHE’s ob­jec­tive is to im­ple­ment the so­lu­tion in a sus­tain­able, scal­able and en­vi­ron­men­tally ben­e­fi­cial man­ner, lead­ing to an over­all de­vel­op­ment of the com­mu­nity and em­pow­er­ing the lo­cal vil­lage pop­u­la­tion. En­ergy ac­cess in­ter­ven­tion has acted as a tool for fur­ther de­vel­op­ment and growth in these re­mote ar­eas and has led to an in­crease in in­come and liveli­hood cre­ation.

Chal­lenges faced by the team were the harsh ter­rain and lack of com­mu­ni­ca­tion fa­cil­i­ties in the re­gion, mak­ing trans­porta­tion and lo­gis­tics a big prob­lem. GHE also faced the lack of skilled man­power in the re­gion for set-up of so­lar mi­cro­grids. They were over­come through en­gag­ing the lo­cals in the op­er­a­tions as­pect and train­ing lo­cal peo­ple to be­come so­lar en­gi­neers. The or­gan­i­sa­tion worked hands on with the lo­cals to stream­line and set up lo­gis­tics in the re­gion which al­lowed it to run its op­er­a­tions seam­lessly in the re­gion.

The or­gan­i­sa­tion fol­lows a six-point ap­proach when pro­vid­ing en­ergy and ed­u­ca­tion ac­cess to these re­mote Hi­malayan com­mu­ni­ties.

1. Sur­vey of vil­lages and com­mu­nity mo­bil­i­sa­tion: It all starts with sur­vey­ing re­mote vil­lages that the or­gan­i­sa­tion plans to elec­trify. Our team un­der­takes treks to these re­mote vil­lages to un­der­stand the ter­rain and the to­tal cost re­quired to elec­trify the vil­lage. Hav­ing reached the vil­lage, the team then mo­bilises lo­cal vil­lagers to un­der­stand their cur­rent en­ergy needs. Mo­bil­i­sa­tion also in­volves for­ma­tion of a vil­lage de­vel­op­ment com­mit­tee that will un­der­take the task of main­tain­ing the grid and help set-up the vil­lage joint bank ac­count, where the monthly pro­ceeds for main­te­nance and up­keep of grids will be de­posited by each house­hold. 2. Fund-rais­ing: The next step is to raise funds for elec­tri­fi­ca­tion of sur­veyed vil­lages. The or­gan­i­sa­tion con­nects not only with in­ter­na­tional de­vel­op­ment agen­cies but also multi-na­tional com­pa­nies that see their CSR mis­sion align­ing with the work it is ex­e­cut­ing in the Hi­malayas.

3. De­sign and man­u­fac­tur­ing: Once the fund­ing is con­firmed, GHE cus­tom de­signs and man­u­fac­tures its own DC prod­ucts: LED lights, LED TV’s and so­lar charge con­trollers.

4.Trans­porta­tion and in­stal­la­tion: With the funds in place, ma­te­ri­als are man­u­fac­tured and trans­ported from Delhi to Ladakh in a truck. Once the ma­te­ri­als reach Ladakh, GHE un­der­takes the elec­tri­fi­ca­tion of vil­lages in two ways: a. Lead­er­ship ex­pe­di­tions: GHE in­vites cor­po­rates to sign up for em­ployee lead­er­ship ex­pe­di­tions to Ladakh that in­volves them hands-on in elec­tri­fi­ca­tion of the vil­lage. b. Com­mu­nity in­stal­la­tions: In some vil­lages, the or­gan­i­sa­tion en­gages the lo­cal com­mu­nity and trains

them in set­ting-up mi­cro-grids them­selves along with its elec­tri­cians.

5. Main­te­nance and re­pair: For ev­ery vil­lage that the or­gan­i­sa­tion elec­tri­fies, two per­sons from the vil­lage are se­lected and trained in so­lar mi­cro-grid main­te­nance. The vil­lagers pay these vil­lagers from the money col­lected to cover the cost of any grid main­te­nance.

6. In­come gen­er­a­tion - Once elec­tri­fi­ca­tion of vil­lages is done, the or­gan­i­sa­tion pro­motes home-stays in these vil­lages which gen­er­ates rev­enue for GHE and also brings ad­di­tional in­come to the vil­lagers through tourist vis­its.

Sug­gest government poli­cies to lend im­pe­tus to your ini­tia­tive.

The government un­der the lead­er­ship of Piyush Goyal is do­ing amaz­ing work in elec­tri­fi­ca­tion of ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties. If the government can work hand-in-hand with or­gan­i­sa­tions such as GHE, ru­ral elec­tri­fi­ca­tion work can be com­pleted much faster than the ex­pected time­lines. The government needs to fos­ter such re­new­able en­ergy en­ter­prises just as it is do­ing for web-based start-ups.

How does GHE man­age the fund­ing process?

The fund­ing pri­mar­ily comes from three sources. a. Cor­po­rate: Com­pa­nies that see their CSR mis­sion align­ing with work GHE is ex­e­cut­ing in the Hi­malayas fund it for elec­tri­fi­ca­tion of vil­lages. b. De­vel­op­ment agen­cies: Ro­tary and IEEE that have a mis­sion to im­prove the lives of com­mu­ni­ties. c. Crowd fund­ing: GHE gets to­gether vol­un­teers who crowd fund to elec­trify vil­lages.

Com­ment on sta­tus of the mis­sion - To im­pact 1 mil­lion Hi­malayan lives and cre­ate 1000 en­trepreneurs in the next 10 years through cre­at­ing busi­ness mod­els based on clean en­ergy ac­cess and for­malise en­ergy ac­cess part­ner­ships with African, South Amer­i­can and Asian Moun­tain Part­ners- this year and go­ing for­ward.

Start­ing from 2013, GHE has been able to achieve the fol­low­ing im­pact:

1. It has to date elec­tri­fied 25 vil­lages since it be­gan its pi­lot model of DC-based elec­tri­fi­ca­tion in 2014.

2. It has in­stalled a to­tal of 120 mi­cro-grids with a to­tal ca­pac­ity of 21.6 kW. With these mi­cro-grids it has in­stalled a to­tal of 3400 LED bulbs, 60 LED street­lights and 36 LED HD TVs.

3. It has di­rectly im­pacted 10000 lives through the elec­tri­fi­ca­tion of 25 Hi­malayan vil­lages. The es­ti­mate is taken using cen­sus data of the vil­lage from the vil­lage head, along with sur­veys car­ried out with each house­hold of each elec­tri­fied vil­lage.

4. It has also set up 2 DC-based ed­u­ca­tion cen­tres

pro­mot­ing ex­pe­ri­en­tial ed­u­ca­tion and de­vel­op­ing un­der­stand­ing around sus­tain­abil­ity themes.

5. The ini­tia­tive has im­pacted 1200 stu­dents over the course of four years through the set-up of the E-Base. 6. Cre­ated 15 home-stays in the vil­lages that have been elec­tri­fied.

7. The ini­tia­tive has also im­pacted 8200 lives in­di­rectly. This has been mainly trekkers who have trekked through these vil­lages over the last 3 years. 8. There has been an in­crease in in­come of ap­prox­i­mately $24,000 across the 25 vil­lages elec­tri­fied through en­gage­ment in tourism.

9. It has also trained 35 vil­lagers as en­try-level so­lar grid tech­ni­cians. It has in­di­rectly and di­rectly em­ployed 43 vil­lagers to as­sist in its ex­pe­di­tions, vil­lage sur­veys and so­lar grid in­stal­la­tions. Of this num­ber, 15 have been women who are lead­ing home­s­tay re­lated ac­tiv­i­ties.

10. It has saved 63 tonnes of kerosene on an an­nual ba­sis and helped mit­i­gate 157 tonnes of CO2 gases on an an­nual ba­sis from these vil­lages.

Based on suc­cess in the Hi­malayas, GHE plans to repli­cate its tech­no­log­i­cal so­lu­tion and scale its op­er­a­tions in all off-grid moun­tain­ous com­mu­ni­ties of the world fac­ing a sim­i­lar en­ergy ac­cess prob­lem. GHE has part­nered with ini­tia­tives in Nepal and Peru who would be repli­cat­ing its DC mi­cro-grid based so­lu­tions to pro­vide elec­tric­ity to un-elec­tri­fied re­mote re­gions of their coun­try. Sim­i­lar in­ter­est has been re­ceived from so­cial en­ter­prises in Africa who are keen on adopt­ing the DC so­lu­tion ow­ing to its higher ef­fi­ciency and safety. The vi­sion is to pro­mote home-stay based tourism in all these moun­tain­ous com­mu­ni­ties once elec­tri­fied. GHE has also been in­vited by the Kaza­khstan government to demon­strate its tech­nol­ogy at their Fu­ture En­ergy Expo 2017. The or­gan­i­sa­tion re­cently started set­ting up in­no­va­tion cen­tres in Ladakh pow­ered by DC tech­nol­ogy. The cen­tres have been set up in ru­ral schools that pro­vide pri­mary and sec­ondary ed­u­ca­tion with the aim of pro­mot­ing dig­i­tal lit­er­acy among vil­lage stu­dents. It has in­tro­duced Linux/win­dows OS based low power com­put­ers (<12W) with en­ergy ef­fi­cient LED mon­i­tors and satel­lite connection for in­ter­net ac­cess.

The Hi­malayan In­no­va­tion Cen­tres com­prises on an av­er­age six fully fledged sys­tems that re­quire less than 150W of power for 10 hours of op­er­a­tion. This is a per­fect demon­stra­tion of how a high­per­for­mance en­ergy-ef­fi­cient sys­tem can pro­vide dig­i­tal ed­u­ca­tion for ru­ral schools and it has had a hugely mo­ti­vat­ing im­pact on stu­dents. It has al­ready re­ceived 14 in­ter­ests from com­mu­ni­ties in North East In­dia and from com­mu­ni­ties in South and Cen­tral In­dia for reap­pli­ca­tion of these in­no­va­tion cen­tres. It has been pro­mot­ing its moun­tain home­s­tays through an on­line book­ing por­tal where one can se­lect a trail and ar­range for one’s stay. All the home-stays are man­aged by women and are in the vil­lages elec­tri­fied by GHE over the last four years. A UN-led ini­tia­tive Moun­tain Part­ner­ships recog­nises the work our or­gan­i­sa­tion is do­ing and GHE is part­ner­ing with moun­tain com­mu­ni­ties to col­late all home-stays un­der a sin­gle um­brella of moun­tain home-stays.

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