Globally, cities represent economic growth, prosperity and new opportunities. Yet simultaneous to the rise of cities is urban sprawl and the exponential growth of the urban poor. Between 2001 and 2011, the number of slum dwellers in Bangalore rose from 23% to 40% of the total urban population (official data which is considered to underestimate reality). Across Bangalore alone, there remain more than 100 similar migrant slum communities that could utilize and benefit from the IEC intervention. Energy poverty and access to basic services is increasingly understood as one of the core feedback loops that reinforces income poverty, a significant problem in many global cities in the emerging world.
In 2013-14 Integrated Energy Centres served over 700 families in migrant slum communities.
The IEC model has matured over the past several years from ideation, pilots and into model solutions, undergoing impact and performance assessments, strong partnerships and adoption by other entities and individuals. An average IEC reaches a minimum of 60-100 families in slums that range from 150 to 200 households, and there remains considerable potential to scale the reach of IECs and the range of services offered. Because of the considerable market size for IECs, two local entrepreneurs have been successfully financed to invest, operate and expand their IECs and become leaders in their community.
Integrated Energy Centre intervention has strong processes for community identification and needs assessment, entrepreneur and operator training, installation and management support, and development of local financial linkages. Several basic services like lighting and mobile phone charging can be implemented with immediate impact and low transaction and installation costs. Additional services relating to health, water, education and livelihood generation require greater community engagement and awareness.
Our organization looks at scale with nuance, requiring responsibility and strategic clarity in expanding our work. We do not see scale as the only way to achieve impact, instead, we also work with NGOs, social enterprises and individuals to adopt our solutions through collaboration, replication or knowledge-sharing. We are in the process of developing support mechanisms for local IEC micro-entrepreneurs that would make additional energy services more financially sustainable in the long term. Although we are constantly trying out new methods, designs and services, we do not immediately impose goals for scale or growth. Instead, across our work we strive for a cohesive vision, medium-term implementation plans and enough potential for impact to commit resources for learning and development. We strive to establish and mature our projects into proven solutions, sharing our learning of successes and failures.
A version of this piece was first written for the SELCO Foundation Annual Report 2013-14.
It began with the maturing realization that policies affecting Energy Access transcend beyond the Ministries focused on Power or Renewable Energy. For tangible socio-economic benefits to flow, energy solutions need to be integrated into broader development plans in livelihoods, education, and health –among others-. Compartmentalizing development policies is counter-productive to the philosophy of creating holistic solutions and building the ecosystem for energy services.
With this in mind, in May 2013, the Policy group embarked on an exercise to identify the energy needs of various development-oriented ministries and determine ways in which decentralized renewable energy solutions could promote their growth agenda. Given the practitioner experience in bridging the energy gap in rural development, we chose to start with the National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM) of the Ministry of Rural Development. This mission that the Government of India launched in 2011 seeks to use grassroots level institutions to bring about improvements in livelihoods, including self-employment and skilled employment. The Mission has been critical in providing an impetus to the promotion of rural livelihoods through the formation of Self-Help Groups (SHGs) and credit linkages for them. However, ground realities suggest that energy access, an important part of livelihood improvement, is often assumed to be available and reliable.
Our work in Energizing Livelihoods is an effort to emphasize on integrating energy interventions into planning at an early stage. To begin, we identified a set of energy interventions suitable the value chain of specific livelihood categories. One of our interns, Natacha, put together a table summarizing these interventions, provided below:
In addition to looking at interventions with existing livelihoods, there has also been a focus on showing how energy access can be a livelihood in itself. The ecosystem essential for such decentralized, renewable, energy-based entrepreneurship has been outlined (depicted below), with different entities being responsible for aspects such as technology, finance and capacity building.
The approach was of interest to certain individuals within NRLM. To capitalize on this interest, the Policy Group supported the creation of a concept note to outline how SHGs created in each State could look at decentralized energy entrepreneurship as a livelihood possibility. The role of different entities and the possibilities for SHGs to be Operators, Entrepreneurs or Franchisees of existing entrepreneurs was explored through this note. The SHG as an Operator or Entrepreneur of the Integrated Energy Center provides immediate energy access facilities for Households in the area- including Lighting, Mobile charging, Television, and Refrigeration. The SHG could also use the Energy Center to meet the energy requirements for the specific livelihood of its own members (Eg: Sewing machines, Agarbatti making machines, Leaf plate stitching etc.).
The initial amount required to meet the Capital costs of the Energy Center to be run/owned by SHGs. It may be through one of the Partners (detailed below) and in the form of a Loan/ Grant/ Subsidized capital cost. Partners:
Technology and Knowledge partner: Practitioners in the sphere of decentralized energy access, undertaking installation, maintenance and training for SHGs
State Rural Livelihood Promotion Society: Programme partner or Ground partner connecting other entities to the Self Help Groups (SHGs)
MNRE/ SNA: Supporting and overseeing the technology partner’s work on the ground; facilitating access to subsidies and fiscal incentives that could accrue.
Local Bank: Particularly important in an Entrepreneurial model where SHG can access loan through this entity to set up the Energy Center.
Operators/ Entrepreneurs/ Franchisees
In this case, the Self Help Groups (SHGs) maintain the entire center on a day-to-day basis, using it for their own needs as well as meeting the energy needs of the community
The plan is to attempt to identify a 5-10 SHGs across a few states and begin pilot projects with them. This will include a needs assessment of the current livelihoods of SHG members, the energy needs of their communities and the energy interventions that would be relevant. The next step would be to connect with the local vocational training institute to support with training and capitalize on the existing credit linkage of the SHG to undertake this initiative. The final piece would be the support of existing energy solution enterprises to provide technology.
Independent of the NRLM or other Government programmes, versions of such a model have been tried and tested through local individuals/entrepreneurs in parts of Bihar, Karnataka and Meghalaya. We have received a positive response from the Rural Livelihood Promotion Society in Karnataka about taking this initiative forward with a few individuals or Joint Liability Groups through affiliated NGOs and Self Employment training institutes.
The real change lies in being able to showcase the learnings from 1-2 States and advocate using the National level mission for the model to be pursued by other State level rural livelihood promotion entities. This would go a long way in being able to promote grassroots level energy entrepreneurship while simultaneously opening up the possibility for energy to be seen as part of an integrated approach to Government planning.
The Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (JNNSM) was launched on the 11<sup>th</sup> January, 2010 by the Prime Minister. The principal target of the Mission under the brand name “Solar India” was deployment of 20 GW of Grid-connected and 2 GW of Off-grid capacity by 2022 aimed at reducing the cost of solar power generation in the country using the following measures:
Large scale deployment goals
Domestic production of critical raw materials, components and products, as a result to achieve grid tariff parity by 2022.
Phase I was seen to be a learning phase for the JNNSM both in the grid connected as well as the off-grid space, wherein various important steps taken to address the issues in the off-grid space, including routing of subsidies through alternate channel partners such as banks. Around 70,000 home lighting systems were financed by over 10 rural banking institutions. This experience needs to be evaluated and replicated in the 2nd phase of the JNNSM.
We continue to work with the National solar Mission in trying to effect a substantial change in the way off grid systems are being looked at in this space. The policy team will continue to work with the government to shape key off grid policy documents and improve existing versions based on ground level experience.
References and Circulars
Also articulated in the Financing Review report:
Concerned Circular: mentioned on Page 1 – Clause (b); with detailed size and model specifications elaborated on Page 4 – Annexure 1.
Expressed in the following report: on Page 5, Clause 3 wherein a SWOT Analysis identifies the inclusion of Cooperatives banks as a potential measure for ensuring easy credit access
Concerned NABARD Circular:
Concerned MNRE Circular:
Recommendations made through meetings with MNRE and NABARD as part of State Level Monitoring Committee for NSM off grid policy; Also articulated in report on “Financing Review of NSM: Has It Made Off-grid Solar Affordable?
Recommendation submitted through Renewable Energy Working Group (REWG)- as part of Comments on Draft Phase 2 guidelines for Off-grid decentralized energy component of the NSM
Concerned MNRE Circular:
SELCO’s detailed recommendations can be found in the following Report: “<em>Ecosystem Creation For Off-Grid Solar: Achieving Diffusion Across India” ;
We live in a time when any conversation on energy access invariable begins with gigawatts and megawatts and millions of people. Being on the field as a part of SELCO’s induction gave an insight into what a few watts mean for one poor rural household at a time. In Puttur, a 40 watt panel powers two LED lights has been helping women roll tobacco at night – a common occupation in the region. The additional income generated not only pays for the entire system and make it their asset, but also creates increased disposable income. In Manipal, a migrant worker community entrepreneur charges 25 batteries and rents it out every night for a small price to his neighbors to power their lights. Again, he makes enough to pay for the system and invest in more.
The immediate impacts of a decentralized energy intervention and financial linkage becomes clear with one visit to such communities. The opportunity costs of livelihood creation hardly gets captured in various plans for 2020, 2030 and so on that place their bet on high capital investments and grid extensions. Asset creation is a critical step towards poverty alleviation, and DRE interventions can facilitate that change today. Not five years from now.
Women go to the fields to work during the day, and find time to roll tobacco only at night when all other work is done. A solar light enables them to earn 800 to 1,000 rupees per week.
This house in Puttur was one of the beneficiaries of the Bhagyajyothi Scheme, through which the state government gives grid connection to power one light. The woman here was explaining how unreliable that power is, and how they rely more on the solar lights instead.
In this IEC (Integrated Energy Center), a solar panel charges small batteries in a community store in Manipal. Households who own a led light (purchased for a nominal amount) pay the entrepreneur to get their batteries charged during the day. His list of customers can be seen on the board.
A decade ago, one of the big challenges around solar technologies was to create awareness among people. Now, anyone can go to the closest town, get a cheap solar panel and install it themselves. Here is one such house in a migrant community near Belgaum.
Housing for Urban Migrants – Social and political challenges in implementing housing for the Urban Poor
Unelectrified underserved settlements across urban and peri-urban areas have little or no access to basic services that can improve living standards, productivity, and income generation. Urban Community Lab explores the role of energy access, water access and built environment in order to create sustainable communities by understanding and catalyzing community requirements through an interdisciplinary approach.
Wound up in a web of political and institutional complexities, slum rehabilitation as a topic is well discussed in academia as well as practice. While looking for a permanent solution, government driven rehabilitation projects look at longer timelines- predominantly driven by political and economic motives rather than welfare and equity. Thus, in a city like Bangalore, with a weak civil society, the communities continue to live under horrible conditions for long periods of time. The immediate needs of this bottom segment of the income group, which lie outside the market forces, is ignored. Design considerations, mainly – flexibility, incremental nature, mobility, community spaces and sanitation are dealt with in a very haphazard manner- mostly due to the land tenure insecurity and short term thinking. The H.U.M (Housing for Urban Migration) Project, under the built environment vertical in Urban Community Lab, aims to fill this gap and deals with immediate relief in these temporary slums.
Over the past three years, Urban Community Labs has been looking at providing cleaner energy solutions through off-grid RE technologies. But while the shift from kerosene to solar for lighting has been easier to facilitate, the households continue to use unsustainable and harmful fuel for cooking- exposing them to CO, CO2 and poisonous particulate matter- resulting in long term health issues. On further analysis, we realised that this exposure to poisonous gases is exaggerated due to the way the housing structures were designed itself. With no facilitation for natural light and ventilation, the structure ensures that the smoke does not escape. In addition, these dark cave like structures, ideally need a lighting intervention for day time as well.
By following a human centric design approach, user and designer expertise is combined to create a housing typology that can address the critical needs of the communities- ample lighting, ventilation to facilitate smoke extraction, safety from rodents, security at night and sufficient storage. Leveraging on the local know-how, accessibility to materials, the H.U.M project looks at creating a “Do It Yourself” housing solution for both existing and new households. Looking at it as a modular solution, simple material and technological innovations are incorporated into the existing typology to create a better temporary living space.
In the past 18 months, we have made six housing interventions in two communities in Bangalore, and the learnings have been tremendous, some of which have been discussed below:
New materials and technologies can be introduced but accessibility needs to be kept in mind. If the supply chain does not exist, it will not be taken up by the community.
Investment in physical infrastructure might be interpreted by the landlord (in case of private land ownership) in two ways:
Household’s increased capacity to pay, resulting in an increase in the rental amount
Communities getting comfortable and ‘settling down’, leading to eviction threats
Entry of an external organization, who might have more political bargaining power or might be facilitating the building up of social and physical capital in the community, often sends a warning signal to the landlord. Thus, resulting in him/her threatening for eviction.
Today blue tent homes have become a part and parcel of the city landscape. Their existence seems to have become a socially acceptable occurrence, one that we are unconsciously festering and pushing towards permanence. Their living conditions coupled with lack of opportunity has also lead to a cycle of poverty, giving rise to frustration and crime. The H.U.M project aims to provide these communities with immediate access to dignified living conditions.
Currently the built environment team is continuing to follow a modular approach, developing interventions that can be added to a structure in an incremental manner. Special focus is being paid to the ‘skin’ of the structure itself- looking at ways in which natural light, ventilation, weather proofing and thermal comfort can be combined together. Please contact email@example.com if you have any suggestions, or just want to contribute to our brain storming sessions.
The socio-economic exclusion of tribal’s from mainstream development, calls for a social intervention lab that actually pauses, looks and learns from communities. Born in 2013, Tribal Community Lab seeks to create an inclusive platform where various stakeholders will work towards the upliftment of the tribal communities. Find below few snapshots from ongoing work at TCL
Urja Gram kendra – Energy need Aspect
Remote areas of kalahandi face erratic power supply, the one or two hours per week that they get electricity is a precious time for them. SELCO has set up various URJA Gram Kendras (Integrated Energy Centers) in remote areas to providing solar lights at subsidised rates.
Solar Doctor – Training Aspect
Once the people have solar lights, where do they get these lights repaired? To address this problem and to create livelihood opportunities for more people, SELCO started training Solar doctors who repair solar devices. Solar doctors are assisted by solar saathis who supply spare parts.
Swasthya Swaraj – Health Aspect
The tribals of kalahandi face a lot of issues in the health space because of numerous reasons. One of the major one being the accessibility of health facilities. The team of swasthya swaraj work tirelessly to provide the basic health care needed in the remotest of areas.
Pottery – Livelihood Aspect
Kalahandi is a home to a lot of artisans and creative tribes. One such community is the potter community who make pot and clay products for a living. Pottery cannot be practiced by this community in the rainy season so they earn their living through agriculture.
Barter – Financial Aspect
Kalahandi being a place where most of the population are below the poverty line, the communities still practice some of the traditional practices like barter system to make ends meet.
The Policy Group within the Foundation is one of the teams charged with plugging the gaps in the ecosystem from a policy perspective based on inputs from the Foundation’s R&D Labs, practitioners and stakeholders in the sector. This includes facilitating the creation of more practitioner–friendly, field-driven policies that make better integration and implementation of decentralized sustainable energy solutions possible.
SELCO Foundation in collaboration with CSTEP and KERC is working on a “24X7 Power for All: Road Map for Karnataka”. The report attempts to detail the roadmap for achieving 24/7 power in Karnataka, in congruence with our ongoing work on energy access mapping.
In particular, SELCO Foundation’s contribution to the report is analysis of KPTCL’s SCADA data (Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition) to assess the current power scenario in Karnataka and give actionable recommendations on how Decentralized Renewable Energy (DRE) solutions can play a role in achieving the “Power for All” target. We draw from our extensive experience on the field and help bring in a practitioner’s’ perspective to the conversation. The focus of our analysis was on the multi-dimensional factors of energy access that are vital from a livelihood perspective. This includes a careful analysis of the parameters of access (electrification rate), adequacy (per capita consumption), affordability (cost of supply), availability (duration of supply), and reliability.
The figures below highlight two important findings from this study. In the first graph, an assessment of district-wise access of the number and percentage of households to electricity indicates that Karnataka doesn’t fare too badly in comparison to the districts of other states. The average percentage of households that have access to electricity over all the districts is approximately 89 percent. Few districts including Bijapur, Kodagu and Yadgir still lag behind around 80 percent.
The second graph highlights the disparity in the provision of three phase power supply in Karnataka. Three phase supply is an important input for sustaining livelihood activities such as small scale and traditional industries. The average power supply for three-phase power in a year was nearly 20 hours only in Bangalore Urban, Udupi and Uttara Kannada districts. On the other hand, out of the total 30 districts, almost 20 of them receive less than 15 hours of supply and most of them fall in the North Karnataka region.
The results and findings from this study help build a case for DRE Solutions in offsetting a portion of the demand for grid-connected power as well as increasing energy access in remote/unelectrified areas and areas with unreliable power supply. Some of the next steps following this study include:
Undertake further Taluk level analysis to help inform local planning processes and identify potential sites for implementation of DRE solutions Pilot DRE solutions in such areas, including livelihood applications for small and micro enterprises to highlight benefits of increased productivity and energy efficiency Promote and replicate Energy Access mapping framework across other states to assess overall power scenario
How efficiency, clean energy and appropriate financing lead to better livelihoods: Case study sewing machines
The need/problem: Sewing machines are fitted with motors to improve productivity. But productive hours are lost to power cuts. Solar powered sewing machines are an answer to this but inefficient motors escalate the cost of the solar panels leading to the myth that solar power is expensive.
Identifying existing technology: Small (less than half HP) energy efficient motors usually used in unorganised sector livelihood applications are hard to find. Energy efficiency of a motor or a pump not only depends not only on it’s quality but also it’s sizing for specific applications.
The solution: For areas where power cuts are not an issue, sewing machines can be retrofitted with appropriately sized motors to enhance efficiency and productivity. At the same time reducing electricity consumption and keeping electrical bills in check. In off-grid areas or those with frequent power-cuts, these sewing machines with efficient motors can be solar powered to make the tailor’s profession grid-independent. But technology is just one factor in the triad, the other two being financial and social components. This was found to be true in case of an entrepreneur from Kolar region of Karnataka with respect to financing.
The local banks were weary about giving solar loans citing reasons of poor service and maintenance by companies/service providers leading to device breakdown and non-repayment of loans. In order to build bankers’ confidence in renewables and service providers in that space two things were undertaken: First, sending out technicians to service other companies’ products and assuring people that they would re-visit the system once every six months. Second, meeting the regional manager/ relevant officials of the bank to impress upon them the relevance of the product and the need for financing for entrepreneurs.The effect of this in the Kolar case was that the Regional Manager directed the branch manager to disburse the loan at the earliest.
In the Kolar entrepreneur’s case an inefficient universal motor was replaced with a more an efficient DC motor (60 W) before solar powering the system. Solar panels of 60 Wp with 30 Ah battery were used to provide 8 hours of backup/day. The system was designed to run for 8 hours a day. Had the universal motor not been replaced with a DC one, solar panels of 100Wp would have to be used and the system would have doubled. Hence it was an important step to scout and implement a more efficient motor.
<b>Replicating the process/model:</b> The process of replacing an inefficient motor with an efficient one has applications in power looms, silk reeling, <em>Roti</em> making machines, sugar cane crushers, lathe machines and other livelihood activities. The concept of energy efficiency can be applied to many contexts such as lighting (replacing incandescent bulbs with energy efficient LED ones), solar refrigeration (replacing front opening fridges with top opening ones), water pumping (choosing appropriate pump in context of size and application).
Experiences of decentralized clean energy enterprises over the last decade have shown that the lack of a strong ecosystem for facilitating energy access is one of the main reasons for the relatively slower rate of dissemination of decentralized clean energy solutions. One of the key gaps in the ecosystem is linked to access to finance.
Drawing from the insights of enterprises in the sector and the experience of end users in accessing credit for renewable energy, certain factors usually identified as concerns are represented in the figure below. This includes concerns of grassroots entrepreneurs with no formal business training, as well as those with better educational qualifications and detailed business plans.
Figure 1: Challenges around financing for end users and entrepreneurs
In recent times, delays in the release of subsidy to banks for the solar home lighting systems under the National Solar Mission, resulted in hesitation amongst bankers to continue financing energy products and solutions. This has also affected financing for solar water pumps under the newest scheme.
In an attempt to address and re-instil confidence amongst bankers about the financial viability of lending for decentralized solar and other RE systems, SELCO Foundation and the Clean Energy Access Network (CLEAN) jointly organized two banker training workshops- the first one at the National level with Chairman, General managers and key representatives of various Nationalized and Regional Rural Banks with support from the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE); the second at a regional level, in Bangalore, for Lead District Managers, AGMs and District Development Managers at the state level, with the support of the State Level Bankers’ Committee (SLBC)- Karnataka and the NABARD Regional office.
Figure 2: Structure of Organized Banking Industry (stockshastra.moneyworks4me)
Each of the workshops began with an overview of the technologies and business models of energy enterprises and were followed by more in-depth discussions around challenges such as Perception of Non Performing Assets (NPAs), reducing the risk of lending for bankers, as well as opportunities around the new types of products and solutions to be financed, highlighting the case of micro entrepreneurs keen to adopt DRE technologies, need for targets and monitoring.
The learnings from the meetings highlight the additional aspects that we, as a sector, need to pay attention to while working with the Institutional financing sector.
Cost comparisons and Business case:
While the intent to lend for socially relevant projects is high among Bankers from Regional Rural banks, the interest in ensuring financially viability and a strong business case that assures repayment is higher. To address this, it is essential to provide monetary comparisons between the current scenario and the alternate energy solution.
For example, Demonstrating that a basic solar home energy system with 2 lights and a mobile charging unit can, in fact, be economically viable, in comparison to kerosene which is the current alternative for completely un-electrified or unreliably electrified areas. This would include a simple cost comparison of the current monthly expenditure on kerosene for lighting alone (5-7 liters costing approximately Rs. 230) and mobile phone charging (Rs. 50-Rs. 75) to the Monthly installment on a bank loan for a basic solar energy system at 13.5% interest per annum over a 5 year period. The installment would work out to approximately Rs. 270 per month. This clearly demonstrates that even without a subsidy of any sort, households would be able to pay the loan installments by simply substituting the expenditure on kerosene and mobile charging. Dissemination of similar comparisons for solar water pumps, other household appliances or the business of micro energy entrepreneurs would be essential in convincing bankers of the financial viability.
Tools that facilitate repayment:
By equipping bankers with tools to facilitate repayment and reduce the risk of Non Performing Assets, the energy access sector can address banker hesitation to continue lending for energy solutions. For example:
A checklist of criteria for products and service providers for bankers to use while financing (that builds on the current MNRE- NABARD list to include criteria that assess capacity to service).Improving collections or repayments with hardware that can remotely cut off power in cases of non-payment, or facilitating partnerships with community mobilization agencies that can function as banking correspondents and undertake collections from remote communities.
Engaging with bilateral agencies and government funding sources to create a ‘Bank guarantee fund’ that can be extended as lump sums to banks to act as collateral for higher risk customers for energy access solutions.
Targets and Monitoring:
The motivation for ensuring advances to certain sectors and monitoring progress is often driven by the existence of targets. Creating targets under the RBI’s priority sector lending for RE and the NABARD linked- National Solar Mission at a State and further at district and bank levels can ensure that Energy Financing becomes a part of the loan product portfolio that is monitored at quarterly meetings of the State Level Bankers Committee and the Lead District Managers. These targets can be informed based on the potential demand identified by energy enterprises operating in each district. Through the analysis of targets and achievements over a 1-1.5 year period, the Energy Access sector would be in a better position to determine whether there are improvements in financing through banks or whether additional efforts need to be undertaken.
The policy group has been working closely with banks to increase their willingness in lending towards decentralized renewable energy for home lighting and livelihood interventions. There have also been efforts fromReserve Bank of India by including Renewable Energy(RE) under its Priority Sector lending(PSL) norms
Fillip provided by MNRE through its subsidies, which were routed through banks making them familiar with the technology, its payback and demand, Schemes of the government to promote micro-entrepreneurship such as Micro Units Development and Refinance Scheme, Credit Guarantee Trust for Micro and Small Enterprise Scheme, etc.
Despite the augmentation of a supportive infrastructure, bank lending towards RE is yet to be systematically recorded and neither are there mandates for lending under the PSL. The policy group has submitted tentative targets for RE lending of the State Level Banker’s Committee chaired by Syndicate Bank and NABARD, which were in-turn shared with all Lead District Managers and District Development Managers in the state of Karnataka. Efforts are now being made to institutionalize the process of setting targets and developing monitoring mechanisms.
SELCO Foundation has experimented with banks, mechanisms to bring ‘un-banked’ customer segments into mainstream financing. The mechanisms captured in Figure 4 were piloted with bankers to encourage bank lending and end-user participation.