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The Lighting a Billion Lives campaign of TERI has provided the answer to India’s energy crisis, especially in rural areas
Over 75 million households in India do not have access to electricity and the per capita consumption in rural households is only around eight units per month, compared to 24 units in urban households, says a government panel report of January 2014. The reason for this low level of consumption, however, is not less demand, but poor access to electricity. This deficit in power production can also jeopardize the growth of the world’s third-fastest growing economy. However, along with the rapid increase in energy demand, there are also growing concerns about the economic and environmental consequences of conventional power generation sources and, this, today calls for effective energy governance.
Energy poverty has become the biggest stumbling block for economic development in rural areas. Children find it difficult to study at night and people depend on expensive, environmentally harmful and unhealthy fuels like wood and kerosene to light their homes. Lack of electricity infrastructure is one of the main bottlenecks in the development of rural India and the importance of cheap and safe source of lighting is the answer to its energy needs.
The ‘Lighting a Billion Lives’ (LaBL) is an initiative of The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) to bring light to the lives of the masses deprived of the basic facility of proper lighting in their homes. Research shows that even a few hours of 20-40-watt solar-powered lighting in homes can result in better grades for schoolchildren, better productivity for needle work artisan groups and other cottage industries, and even better sales at fruit stands, where the produce is no longer spoiled by the fumes from kerosene lamps. So access to electricity has also brought a substantial increase in the income of impoverished communities.
TERI is working with NGOs at the grassroot-level to produce solar power and install solar lamps in rural areas. Solar lanterns have not only brightened the dark evenings of rural households, but have made better economic sense. Since its launch in 2008, TERI’s LaBL has touched over 2.5 million lives across 2,596 villages in 22 states in India. The initiative has helped generate more than 2,500 green jobs with the support of more than 150 energy enterprises and 114 partner organizations. More than half a million households today have benefited from this initiative.
TERI installed Solar Charging Stations (SCSs), which comprises community-based solar lantern systems with an entrepreneur-driven and fee-for-service delivery model, where locals can borrow the lanterns by paying a minimum charge.
The initiative is supported by a network of Energy Enterprises (EE), which have been established and linked to all SCSs to ensure proper after-sales service of the lanterns. The EEs are engaged in sales and service of all renewable energy products, such as solar lanterns, solar home lights and improved cook stoves. This initiative has had a cascading effect on communities, as energy entrepreneurs have begun to train other farmers and local people on livelihood, education, health and women’s empowerment.