Co-authored with Sameer Kwatra
As leading economies in the world pledge to become carbon neutral, a huge opportunity lies in India’s villages to advance the country on the path to decarbonization and ensure a green economic recovery. With pilots starting this month, Hariyali Green Village Plans aim to demonstrate a model to transform village energy use in India by making clean energy available and affordable while improving livelihoods.
Two out of every three people in India, over 870 million people, reside in villages and despite tremendous progress in recent years, millions of them still do not have access to reliable and clean electricity. Inefficient equipment and vehicles and polluting fossil fuels account for nearly all energy used for transportation and 70% of energy consumed for agriculture.
The Green Village Plans, developed by NRDC and partner, the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), are based on extensive in-person surveys of household-level energy consumption conducted in two pilot villages — Nagano Math in Gujarat, and Beraniya in Rajasthan. Each plan is women-led, and brings together stakeholders including local communities, suppliers, financiers, and government officials to implement effective clean energy solutions for the village.
As part of the Green Village Plans, NRDC and SEWA are implementing clean energy solutions at three levels, as summarized here.
- Clean energy appliances for every household: While appliance ownership in most households is low, electricity expenses are significant. Through SEWA’s field staff and grassroots network, the team has worked on explaining the economics of efficient appliances and provisions of the state and national solar pumps schemes to households. Supported by Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL), families in each Green Village will have the option to purchase a package of energy efficient appliances such as LED lamps and high efficiency ceiling fans at significantly low cost and with overall savings on their energy bills. The appliance package also includes solar lamps to reduce expense on kerosene and provide night-time illumination.
- Community electric vehicles and solar appliances for livelihood: In NRDC and SEWA’s fieldwork, communities have expressed interest in clean energy solutions — such as electric three wheelers and solar-based milk chillers — that can help enhance livelihoods. But households are wary of incurring large expenditure without demonstration of successful operations. For each village, SEWA and NRDC are exploring group models of ownership for expensive livelihood appliances, such as solar pumps and working on supporting farmers interested in water-saving practices, such as micro-irrigation. Pilot implementation of electric three wheelers and other livelihood solutions will help in assessing suitability of the technology and build confidence for further investment. NRDC and SEWA are also engaging with the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy’s AREAS initiative to bring down the cost of implementing renewable energy based livelihood solutions by aligning with national and state level incentives.
- Green schools and community spaces: Community spaces in many villages in India lack access to clean energy services. For the two pilot villages surveyed, there were no streetlights in either of them; and one of them had no electricity in the primary school. In addition to meeting basic energy needs, clean energy interventions in community spaces can also serve as good demonstration sites for the village. Hence, NRDC and SEWA have developed plans for a “green” school where students will be introduced at an early age to clean and efficient technologies and can learn more about them through experience. The green school will act as a demonstration site for the community and training on specific appliances for the community can be conducted at the school.
India, like several other nations, has faced multiple simultaneous crises in 2020 — the covid-19 pandemic, economic slowdown, and extreme weather events ( locust attacks, extreme heat, cyclones, and floods). Building rural resilience and investing in sustainable livelihood opportunities at the village-level are vital to India’s recovery.
The Hariyali Green Villages initiative involves developing an ecosystem for clean and efficient solutions, ensuring access to government policies and affordable finance, spreading awareness about technologies and policies, and investing in local skills and jobs to enable lasting transition to clean energy.
Sameer Kwatra is Climate and Clean Energy Expert, NRDC India Program.