Kartikeya Singh, MESc

2010 TRI Fellow in India

Leapfrogging rural India towards sustainable energy independence

It is clear that all countries need to be forging paths towards low-carbon economies by way of large renewable energy projects, the likes being implemented across the world through solar-thermal plants and wind farms. But when addressing development of the poorest of the planet and recognizing the challenges developing countries face in electrification of the rural population, the best solution is decentralized renewable sources to meet local energy needs. These countries should assess the energy ladder of a rural home and implement a variety of energy solutions to meet those needs in an integrated manner. There are many appropriate technologies that are available; further research and development in technology as well as sound economic and management models can help their deployment rate increase. 

When examining the energy needs of rural populations, three needs stand out: cooking energy, lighting energy, and some energy for small-scale industrial application. Thus, the types of technology for such needs include solar, biogas or biomass gasification, micro-hydro, micro-wind, and biofuel. 

This research will attempt to improve upon previous knowledge of rural energy by doing a critical assessment of the barriers to the different kinds of technology options present for villages. This is crucial in order to advance research and development and to identify the appropriate technologies that will be sustainable for rural development in the long run. While much subject matter exists for large-scale renewable energy technologies, often the pro-poor technology options are under-funded for research and development. This correlates with fewer evaluations of how these options can be scaled up to improve the livelihoods of millions. As 80% of India’s required infrastructure is to be built by 2030, many people will require the expertise in this field in order to make sound policy decisions.