Off-grid solar improves lives, here’s why it still plays a big role in India

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Image: Greenlight Planet

The last decade has been a significant one for India’s electricity sector – with several policies and initiatives dramatically increasing the country’s electrification rate to nearly 100%. Yet, despite this impressive progress, new research shows that small scale solar, such as solar lanterns and home systems, still has a transformative role to play in the country’s future.

Launched today, GOGLA’s ‘Powering Opportunity in South Asia’ report shows why.

Solar home systems create big impact

The study surveyed 949 off-grid solar households across South Asia, primarily including rural customers from the Indian states of Assam and Uttar Pradesh. It found that 94% of people felt that they had improved quality of life since purchasing their solar home system (SHS). Families reported that the SHS allowed their children to study more (in the evening) and led to better health by replacing harmful lighting sources such as kerosene lamps. 90% of households also reported feeling safer thanks to their solar home system.

A number of households were also using their SHS for enterprise, leading to increased income. 12% of customers reported being able to undertake more economic activity, while the increased time available for work – due to more light/work hours and better connectivity – is equal to 4 full-time equivalent jobs being created for every 100 systems sold. 1 in 10 households said they can generate an additional income of $66 per month on average, thanks to their solar home system.

As a complement to grid electrification, small scale solar has a powerful role to play

Significantly, while previous research has focused largely on people for whom the SHS represents their household’s first access to modern electricity, 61% of households in the South Asia study are using their system as a backup to the main grid. This highlights how big impacts benefits are still seen when SHS are providing complimentary energy security in areas of weak or unreliable grid. These learnings provide clear and relevant insights for decision-makers in India and other countries with rapidly expanding grid access.

Clean, affordable electricity access is one of the most important issues of our time and the off-grid solar industry is poised to make a significant contribution in this regard. Globally, around 280 million people have already benefitted from small scale solar technology, with over 950,000 products being sold in India in the first half of 2019 alone. In the coming decade, the industry is anticipated to play an even larger role – with increased size of systems, rising consumer aspirations and maturity of the industry in knowing and understanding its consumers well.

With small scale solar products continuing to boost welfare and larger, innovative appliances, including solar water pumps and refrigeration, now entering the market, the best is yet to come for the off-grid solar industry – and consumers will be the biggest beneficiaries. At GOGLA, we hope to work with governments and all other stakeholders to help the industry reach its true potential to further benefit the customers that it has been diligently serving for the past decade!

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