Time To Shift Power Debate From ‘access’ To ‘Reliability’ Of Supply

Time To Shift Power Debate From ‘access’ To ‘Reliability’ Of Supply

My village in North Bihar has been grid-tied for several decades: most houses are metered or pay a fixed periodic charge. And yet most households hoping to have their children study in electric light in evening or have a fan work in summer or watch a TV show of their choice do not rely on grid power. They know the grid will fail them exactly when they need it.

Houses rely on backup: a set of inverter and batteries to store power from the grid; a parallel connection for electricity supplied by diesel generators operated by some local entrepreneurs who charge a few rupees for each point of light or fan for three hours in evening; solar lamps; and the traditional kerosene lamps. Most families would keep all these options at home given the lack of trustworthiness of grid supply.

The diesel-generated power is dearer than the grid supply, but more reliable, and therefore has a big subscription base in the village. A household typically ends up paying every month for the intermittent grid power and evening supply from diesel generators, and locks up a substantial sum in inverter, batteries and solar lamps.

Many homes with the ability and willingness to spend big initial capital, have now begun installing rooftop solar panels that frees them from dealing with multiple power supply sources and hassles.

This description of coexistence of multiple sources of electricity for a society that after all consumes very little energy lays bare the inadequacies of our energy supply system and incompetence of policymakers who are unable to grasp the consumer need or build a robust system that can offer a unfailing supply. Read More…

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