Energy efficiency and clean energy powered small livelihoods

Lack of opportunities prevents the rural as well as urban poor from shaping their own livelihoods. Two primary barriers being- access to value-based technology and reliable energy.

Many rural livelihoods are energy intensive and quite often are not viable if the required energy is unavailable for the required period of time each day. Thus, grid power scarcity forces entrepreneurs to use dirty sources of energy like diesel generators and kerosene powered motors. Such measures resorted to as last available options result in excessive expenditures on energy bills, thus reducing profitability as well as have a detrimental effect on health and environment. Alternatively, other entrepreneurs are unable to afford these energy supplies and end up working when power is available, often at odd hours in the middle of the night or early morning. By bringing in energy efficiency and backing the systems with renewable energy sources we have been able to reduce capital investment and lifetime energy expenditures.

Solar Sewing Machine: Tailoring is one of the most important livelihoods in India. Traditional tailors who generally serve local customers in small cities and villages use manual sewing machine. To achieve higher productivity some of them modified there machine by retrofitting motor with it. Mostly a universal motor of 1/10HP or 1/12HP is used for this purpose. It was noticed that when a 1/12HP universal motor consumed around 100 Watt to run a tailoring machine at nearly 1000 spm (stitches per minute) speed, the same results could be achieved by a 60W PMDC motor consuming only 75 Watts. By introducing more efficient PMDC motor the energy consumption was brought down by 25%. This reduced the capital cost by 5%.

Solar Powered Industry Garment Sewing Machine

Mr. Venkatesh with a clean energy (solar) powered sewing machine

Heavy duty industrial sewing machines are commonly used for large scale sewing purposes. This type of machine has a clutch attached to the motor. When the pedal is pressed the clutch gets engaged and the machine starts stitching. After the pedal is released the clutch gets detached but the motor still rotates at no load, consuming at around 100W. This clutch motor was replaced by a Variable Frequency Drive (VFD) controlled 1/3HP induction motor. The VFD eliminates the idle running of the motor and saves more than 50% of the energy consumption. It also significantly reduces the cost of system (more than 40%)

Additional benefit was that it suppresses the high starting current of motor. It helps to avoid the need of over sized inverter just to withstand the high starting current. At the same time the inversion efficiency increases due to improved percentage loading.

Same analogy of renewable energy and efficient appliances can be applied for the livelihood of Roti rolling

In this case one ½ hp five year old oversized motor is replaced with a 150W PMDC motor and powered by solar. The speed increases by two times. To ensure the reliability in operation- grid charging option has also been provided which work as a backup for solar system. After replacing the motor the costs come down more than 70%.

Roti rolling

Roti-rolling machine along with the entrepreneur

The link between basic livelihood generation in the micro enterprises sector in rural areas and energy efficiency has not been looked into as an important aspect. Entrepreneurs like small tailors and those engaged in Roti/Papad rolling have been left out of this exercise. This gap demands an appropriate intervention. Renewable energy along with energy conservation measures can play a vital role in improving small and informal livelihoods by enabling energy access and making the whole process viable.

 

Area of Intervention Energy Conservation Potential Saving in Capital Investment Other Impact
Straight Stitch Sewing Machine 25% 5% · Increased Productivity

· Reduced work fatigue

Industrial Sewing Machine 50% 40% · Increased Productivity
Roti Roller Machine 70% 70% · Increased Productivity
  • Both energy efficiency and conservation practices have been put under one scenario and renewable energy use in another scenario. A third (+3) scenario assessed the grid electricity saving by combining the two previous scenarios to reap the maximum benefit.
  • Energy conservation or reduction of commercial energy purchased from outside could be achieved by practice of energy efficiency and/or application of renewable energy systems.

The link between basic livelihood generation in the micro enterprises sector in rural areas and energy efficiency has not been looked into as an important aspect. Entrepreneurs like small tailors and Roti/Papad rolling machine have been left out of this exercise. It is critical to identify this gap and make an effort to understand the issue and conceive appropriate interventions. The above examples clearly demonstrate that renewable energy along with energy conservation measures can play a vital role to improve the sustainability of micro enterprises.