India will power close to 900 remote villages in Arunachal Pradesh bordering China using advanced off-grid renewable energy kits that will bring electricity to about 16,000 households, power minister Piyush Goyal said here. The government will later this week invite price bids from companies for the project which also involves installing more than 4,000 off-grid street lights. The falling cost of renewable energy makes this a better power supply option in far flung areas than laying transmission lines for grid connected power which could be time consuming. Energy efficient bulbs, fans and battery back up for eight hours are part of the package.
Small off-grid solar power systems for individual consumers and micro-grids supplying solar power with a few commercial enterprises as anchor customers are gaining currency as the preferred way of lighting remote villages in India. This complements the Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojna, a village electrification programme announced by Prime Minister Modi for powering 18,452 villages by 1 May 2018. So far, 13,002 villages have been electrified under this scheme since its launch in 2015. The adoption of off-grid power supply systems is improving as many private project developers get low cost international finance for tapping the rising rural power demand in India.
The power minister said that the central government will make sure that state distribution utilities comply with their obligation to meet a part of the power demand with renewable energy. One way could be to disallow defaulting utilities from buying power from exchanges, said the minister. Goyal said the central government will seek to bring more transparency in the electricity sector by creating a national power portal which will have links to all the existing applications giving realtime data in the power sector. Besides, states will be urged to disclose the merit order of their power purchase–the ranking of various power sources available at a particular time and the energy cost–to bring more transparency in how states procure power starting with the lowest cost supply. “We will urge states at the next power ministers’ conference to disclose details of the merit order, the power they purchase and the price, in the proposed portal,” said Goyal.