Editorial✍ Financial Express Prelims cum Mains

Four Ps to power energy access

Inequality has many dimensions:

  • Nowadays, a lot of discussion is centred around economic inequalities—in terms of income and wealth.
  • But societal inequalities go much deeper and encompass many aspects that often go unnoticed.

Access to energy is one such aspect:

  • One such area that divides the populace pertains to energy access.
  • Discourse on universal energy access is still limited to practitioners and policy-makers, besides those who are at the receiving end.
  • Lack of access to clean energy has wide-ranging ramifications—from health to quality of life to education to lost opportunities for livelihood enhancements.

 

Steps taken to ensure access to energy:

  • Over the years, India has made strides insofar as rural electrification and clean cooking energy is concerned, including in the recent years through programmes like Ujjwala, Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana and Saubhagya.

Real access only when it is reliable and affordable:

  • While infrastructure has been created and connections provided, a sizeable population continues to rely on traditional sources for meeting its lighting and cooking needs.
  • The reasons range from reliability of supply to affordability of electricity/LPG.
  • That in most of the cases these are not easy to reach locations adds another layer of complexity.

 

Government can’t do it all on its own:

  • If the country is to prosper in an inclusive manner, its unserved/underserved population must be provided access to clean energy.
  • Regular government schemes have their limitations, time lags and budgetary constraints.
  • Then there are systemic inefficiencies in last-mile implementation and maintenance, especially for those who have limited disposable income.

Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) are useful but by themselves could be of limited impact:

  • Historically, public-private partnerships (PPP) have been on the forefront, mainly for infrastructure development, complementing limited public resources along with relatively expeditious delivery.
  • Can’t capture social concerns: But in PPP there is generally a lack of systematic mechanism to capture social concerns of the locals.

Public-Private-People Partnerships (PPPPs) are needed:

  • In the back drop of limitations of PPP, a more people-centric partnership—public-private-people partnership (PPPP)—was conceptualised.
  • Since it includes end-users’ perspective in PPP, it is a people- or end-user-oriented approach.

 

PPPPs suited for energy access:

  • Provisioning of clean energy access is a user-centric initiative involving rural community at different levels.
  • So, it makes sense to adopt PPPP for its effective implementation.
  • The bottom-up, active participation of those that are set to gain the most can be the cornerstone of PPPP for clean energy access initiatives.
  • A workable framework can be made where all stakeholders including government departments, donor agencies, private sector and civil society work together to help address basic energy access issues  .

All players have a role:

  • All players—government departments, donor agencies, private sector and end-users— can work in tandem to create a lasting impact.
  • Realising the criticality of a people-centric approach, a PPPP roadmap was charted out to achieve scale, effectiveness and efficiency in clean energy delivery in the form of individual power packs, solar home systems, improved cook stoves, etc.
  • Government creating infrastructure:
    • Government is creating infrastructure and providing connections for rural electrification and clean cooking energy
  • Financial help from various sources in access to clean energy devices:
    • The segment of society that faces energy access challenge is also economically weak, and lacks the wherewithal to afford modern gadgets.
    • Thus, a partial financial support towards the hardware cost is mobilised from corporates or bilateral donors.
    • This helps make owning clean energy devices affordable.
    • The balance of the hardware cost is contributed by the individual beneficiary availing small loans from SHGs or village organisations.
    • This contribution gives them a sense of ownership, which leads to better sustainability of the product.
  • Local entreprenuers can ensure linkages:
    • To ensure adequate after-sales service, linkages with local energy entrepreneurs are one of the priorities.
    • Engaging local entrepreneurs for efficient and reliable energy delivery can help fulfil energy access gaps in remote areas.
  • Example: Lighting a Billion Lives campaign:
    • This is one such initiative that associated with the Bihar Rural Livelihood Promotion Society (JEEViKA) for a multi-year programme designed to improve energy access for its 50,000 women SHG members.

 

Conclusion:

  • While government programmes are making a sea-change in enhancing energy access in rural areas, reliable supply of electricity in the evening hours and supply and affordability of LPG in remote areas remains a challenge.
  • The PPPP model for delivering clean energy to such areas effectively supplements ongoing programmes.

 

Importance:

GS Paper III: Economy

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