Imperial College London

Solar Photovoltaics for off-grid electricity access in rural India


Solar photovoltaics workshop at IISC Bangalore

Report from a joint Grantham Institute & Divecha Centre workshop held at IISC Bangalore


By Alvin Chan, PhD student, Grantham Institute for Climate Change and Physics Department, Imperial College London

A multi-disciplinary team of academics from the Grantham Institute for Climate Change and the wider Imperial College London community travelled to Bangalore, India to host a joint-workshop with the Divecha Centre for Climate Change, IISC Bangalore on 14 January 2013.

Titled “Potential of solar photovoltaic technologies for rural electrification and carbon emissions mitigation in India”, the financial, technical and emissions issues associated with implementing solar photovoltaics (PV) in rural communities were explored.

Professor Jenny Nelson, Imperial College London

Attendees included representatives from academic, non-governmental organisations, businesses and the public sector.  Introductions were given by Dr. Sheela Ramasesha and Professor Jenny Nelson, who gave overviews of the activities at their respective institutions and the motivation behind the workshop.

In the morning session, Alvin Chan presented the modelling framework developed at Imperial College London, combining cost, performance and life cycle emissions analysis for four different photovoltaic systems used in a rural electrification scenario, exploring the competitiveness of photovoltaics with grid extension and the carbon abatement cost.  The audience was enthusiastic in offering additional suggestions for analysis and elaborated on their practical experiences in implementing PV in a rural setting – in particular the cost of finance, reliability of components, regulatory and logistical hurdles were discussed. 

Solar photovoltaics workshop, IISC Bangalore

These themes were reinforced in the afternoon presentations. Dr. Balachandra Patil (Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore) emphasised the need to consider the energy needs beyond domestic use – income generation activities are seen as essential in any rural electrification scenario.  Different practical methods of implementing PV - such as individual devices, a mini-grid or solar kiosk - were highlighted by Dr Debajit Palit from The Energy and Resources Institute, as well as challenges associated with maintenance and reliability of the systems.

An introduction to the science behind Organic PV devices, given by Dr. Satish Patil, discussed the chemistry involved in making these devices, the latest breakthroughs and their potential for low-cost, low-emissions energy production.

Solar photovoltaics workshop, IISC Bangalore

An overview of the impact of relevant policies by Surabhi Rajagopal (SELCO Foundation) emphasised the importance of engagement with Regional Rural Banks to offer appropriate financing for rural PV, attributing the low uptake to a lack of awareness and problematic collections in the past.  Innovations such as offering a bank guarantee and offering to act as a facilitator between the customer and banks were discussed.


Emma Critchley

Emma Critchley
The Grantham Institute for Climate Change

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Climate-change, Energy
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