A sustainable and scalable solution to provide renewable electricity to remote Sundarbans, that also led to meaningful cost savings, engaging rural community to an energy independent framework and demonstrated the possibility of a path to zero kerosene.
This was based on the Join Liability Group (JLG) Model, comprising of ten homes and ten members. The ‘Model’ is a comprehensive process for planning and establishing a technically and financially sustainable, off-grid centralised renewable source of energy in a rural setting. The project was financed and backed by National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD).
SunCraft’s role involved system design, procurement, supply, installation, testing and maintenance of the project. The innovative aspect of the project required an energy conservation approach from the demand side by introducing LED lights into a solar solution. At a low energy consumption rate – LED at 5 W and CFL at 12 W – we were able to provide three to four lights per home. User cost reduction was also achieved from this project. Current monthly kerosene bill amounts to approximately Rs. 70 to 80 per week (~Rs. 300 per month), which gets reduced to Rs. 120 – 150 per month after utilization of solar energy.
The JLG Model qualified for renewable energy (RE) loan from NABARD, repayable in three to four years. The prepaid payment model is akin to telecom services. The revenue collected from the users will cover operating expenses and cost of annual maintenance contract. After the loan is repaid, the monthly payments will go towards a fund that will be utilized to replace battery systems after every five years. Thus, the model involves a collaborative process to engage the community and provides for an energy management framework for sustainability and energy independence.
Access to safe, clean energy is fundamental to poverty eradication, curb deforestation, prevent climate change and human well-being. Usage of biomass and kerosene has direct impacts on global warming. The success of this pilot project and multi-faceted benefits open the doors to larger-scale deployments of solar energy units in the Sundarban region.
Sundarbans is a cluster of low-lying islands in the Bay of Bengal, spread across India and Bangladesh, famous for its unique mangrove forests. Lying in the low coastal zone makes this region more vulnerable to floods, earthquakes, cyclones, sea-level rise and coastline erosion. This active delta region is among the largest in the world, measuring about 40,000 sq. km. and is home to a dense population of human beings along with many rare and globally threatened wildlife species such as the Estuarine Crocodile, Royal Bengal Tiger, Water Monitor Lizard, Gangetic Dolphin, Olive Ridley Turtle. WWF-India has been working in the Sundarbans since the launch of Project Tiger in 1973 to enhance environmental awareness, develop education initiatives and invest in tiger landscape conservation.