“300-400 million people who do not have access to electricity in India” – this is one statistic that is so frequently used that it has become a cliche. While this statistic props up every time there is a discussion about off-grid PV, there are very few companies that have had the courage to build a business around this “300-400 million people” without electricity access. One such company is Mera Gao Power(MGP). The company has been named as one of the winners of the National Geographic’s Terra Watt prize for Innovative Energy Solutions. The other winner is Tanzania based ECG-Energy.
Co-founded by Nikhil Jaisinghani(details here) with the support of USAID, MGP states that its solar PV microgrids are providing electric lighting to 20,000 households in Uttar Pradesh. According to the press release of National Geographic, MGP’s prize winning proposed project “aims to provide electricity through microgrid technology to approximately 17,500 people in Laharpur block of Sitapur District, Uttar Pradesh, India. MGP will expand services to new communities, providing lighting to households. As a result of these new connections, children will be able to study at night, adults will be able to engage in income-generating activities and indoor air will be cleaner.”(Read the press release here). (Interestingly, some reports suggest that the market for off-grid PV systems in Uttar Pradesh is bigger than even Bihar). A related article on the award can be read here.
While it is heartening to note the recognition received by MGP, creating and developing a sustainable solar PV based micro-grid is still a very challenging task. In addition to the remoteness of locations, payment collection and maintenance challenges, the non-disbursal of 30% capital subsidy is also affecting the promoters of micr0-grids. Thankfully, Rs. 4730 Crores towards off-grid support was sanctioned recently(click here), and according to Mr. Tarun Kapoor, Joint secretary of MNRE, most of the outstanding payments will be made very shortly(click here).
In an article titled ” Indian Off-grid market – Where Solar makes the real difference“, written more than a year back, we had profiled some of the major companies in the off-grid space and were quite bullish about the prospects of off-grid PV. Even though the growth has not been as great as expected, we are quite confident that companies like Mera Gao Power will play increasingly bigger roles in the widespread deployment of the solar off-grid systems.