TOWARDS RESILIENCE – SOLAR ENERGY IN ORISSA, INDIA by Vijay Bhopal, Scene Consulting

Vijay Bhopal, Scene Consulting

View Vijay’s Slides from the February ECCI residents’ Carbon Chat Room.

From November to January I was in India along with my colleague, Anna Harnmeijer. The trip was part of an ongoing project, seed-funded through the Scottish Government International Development Small Grants Programme. This is the first field trip in a three year long project which aims to pilot a communications solution to halt the decay of off-grid renewable energy projects in rural parts of the state of Odisha.

The problem definition and premise of our solution is explained properly here. In short we are looking to improve supply chain communications using SMS Gateway technology and data connectivity to ensure that local entrepreneurs are able to create profitable businesses from maintaining small-scale solar energy projects – leading to a situation in which repairing systems is viable. At the moment the expertise and parts required are often not available locally, leading to minor issues crippling projects and an inability for problems to be fixed.

From a UK perspective this is a fascinating problem. We are used to seeing standardised O&M contracts in projects that are usually the pride and joy of the communities in which they sit. The story is far different here. Most projects are largely or entirely private donor, or Indian Government driven, meaning that villages have systems given to them for free, or for a small part-payment. This leads to an uncertainty over who owns the systems and who is responsible for upkeep in the long term. Once initial warranty periods are over projects are left in precarious positions, with provision of maintenance services offered in a somewhat ad-hoc manner from the project donors and implementers.

Once illuminated, many of the people in the 25 villages we visited, tell us that they now value electricity and would be willing to pay for their systems to be refurbished. Therefore, we aim to help implement a system that involves at least partial payment for services. We believe that the trick here is to make sure that the supply chains are localised and communications up and down the chain are easy and transparent.

This problem is being widely recognised by project implementation agencies and donors alike. We look forward to working with them to help ease the issue, starting with a pilot project towards the end of 2015.

This project is a collaboration between our organisation, Scene Consulting, the University of Edinburgh, in the shape of Dr Jamie Cross, and Indian organisations SELCO and TERI. Jamie and myself will be presenting the project at the Carbon Chatroom, 19th February 12:30 -13:30, at the Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation.

About the author:

VIJAY BHOPAL, Projects Manager

Vijay has an Earth Science background and is a specialist in renewable energy development, energy finance and modelling. He takes the lead of Scene’s consultancy work and has a broad knowledge of renewable energy technologies, especially, wind and hydropower, and is proficient in several economic techniques. He has a good understanding of project development processes in the UK and is able to help clients to navigate the technical, legal, environmental, planning and financial barriers that they are likely to face. Vijay has initiated and developed some of the most leading-edge joint venture partnerships in the UK to date.

Vijay has experience in all sectors, having worked for two charities before making a move into the private sector, giving a rounded approach to stakeholder engagement and project planning. Vijay is an adept project manager as has managed many small-to-medium, and several large (> £1m) projects over the past 5 years.

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