Renewable energy supply for rural areas

Project description

Title: Renewable energy supply for rural areas
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB)
Country: India
Lead executing agency: Ministry for New and Renewable Energy, Government of India
Overall term: 2008 to 2014


Providing access to electricity in rural areas of India is a major challenge. The fuel is generally of poor quality, and energy is used inefficiently; the power supply is unreliable and access to it limited, with about 500 million people in rural areas still unable to benefit from modern energy services. This not only has an adverse effect on economic productivity; more importantly, it also affects people’s quality of life and is having a strong impact on the environment. The unsustainable use of locally sourced biomass and an increasing dependence on fossil fuels are causing environmental degradation at local (land degradation), regional (air, water and soil pollution) and global levels (greenhouse gas – GHG emissions contributing to climate change).

The national Ministries of Power and of New and Renewable Energy are addressing these challenges through a multi-pronged approach with programmes, such as the Rajiv Gandhi Scheme of Rural Electricity Infrastructure and Household Electrification, the National Biogas and Manure Management Programme, and Biomass Gasification. At the same time, locally based measures that use renewable energies to secure the rural power supply are opening up new opportunities for economic productivity while also reducing GHG emissions and local pollutants resulting from the extensive usage of fossil fuels.


Model approaches for a renewable energy supply have been developed and demonstrated. These meet the energy requirements of rural people, while raising economic productivity and thereby contributing to a sustainable improvement in living conditions in rural areas; they also provide inputs for further rural energy interventions and they reduce carbon emissions by focusing on technologies not based on fossil fuels.


The project takes into account India’s diverse rural landscape. It is carrying out cluster-based pilot interventions in 26 villages in two distinct regions: Korba in Chhattisgarh, and Kolwan in Maharashtra. It involves the use of three different renewable energy technologies: straight vegetable oil-based electricity generation, dry anaerobic digestion of napier grass, and napier grass-based fuel pellet production. The project integrates the respective communities into its activities through the formation of village energy committees (VECs), sub-VECs and village energy enterprises (VEEs).

Key approaches used to increase the productive applications of the power generated under the project include the promotion of entrepreneurship and the dovetailing of government schemes, such as integrated child development schemes. In this way, the project adheres to a sustainable and integrated concept addressing environmental, economic and social concerns.

Results achieved so far

To date, some 12 villages have been commissioned to produce the new fuel products, and their production is progressing successfully. In these villages, the community structures have been formed, and they are actively involved in managing the production systems. An operations team is also in place to manage the systems. In three villages, management of the systems has now been handed over to the local community.

Enterprises have been established using the electricity derived through the project. The businesses include rice hullers, irrigation pumps, flour mills and producers of ready-to-eat food. The VECs and sub VECs are now involved in revenue collection. Meanwhile, supply chains for important feedstock have been established, based on contract farmers who grow napier grass and with links to jatropha seed traders.

Links have been established to the governmental schemes, especially the integrated child development schemes; and capacity building programmes have been initiated with a special focus on women.