Generating power for rural India
Expanding renewable energy-based mini grids accelerated socioeconomic development in rural India.
Fueling the need
Traditional grids served much of India’s electricity generation, transmission and distribution requirements. These grids burned fossil fuels such as coal to produce electricity.
To create a more sustainable future, India envisioned a nationwide rollout of smart grids by 2027. Smart grids made it possible to ensure a stable, reliable, safe and affordable power supply using two-way communication and remote intelligent sensors to serve and engage customers. This was an ambitious rural electrification plan, given the local power sector’s challenges, where only 75 percent access power and nonpolluting cooking facilities and consumers experience up to 15 percent peak power shortage.
Lighting the way
The Rockefeller Foundation and its subsidiary, Smart Power India, established Smart Power for Rural Development (SPRD). This innovative, market-based program encouraged commercially viable models that can enhance energy access in rural India. Accenture supported the initiative throughout a two-and-a-half-year period to help them manage the first mini grid plants and accelerate opportunities for renewable energy (RE)-based mini grids.
Connecting the grid
During the first phase of the program, Accenture Development Partnerships (ADP) supported the Rockefeller Foundation in managing 81 early minigrid plants in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh and designed and implemented a web-based dashboard to allow real-time oversight on plant set up and operations. Additionally, Accenture helped with the design of a preliminary rural microenterprise strategy, as well as created the initial organization structure for Smart Power India.
The second phase of the program focused on helping Smart Power India find strategic partners—companies willing to set up and operate minigrids in rural India. Accenture locked in Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) with two energy service companies (ESCOs) that served 180 villages.
Accenture then analyzed the minigrid business model to help stakeholders evaluate the feasibility of the projects and subsequently, developed standard operating procedures to guide new players in mini grid operations.
Once the plants were operational, their commercial performance was analyzed to identify key drivers and improvement areas. This resulted in identifying revenue and operational efficiency interventions to increase unit-level operating margins from 30 percent to 60 percent over three years.
The SPRD program now supports seven partner ESCOs operating 106 RE-based minigrid plants and impacting approximately 40,142 lives across the Indian states of Bihar, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh.
An assessment of 1,000 household customers and 320 microenterprises across 39 SPRD sites show early indicators of the project’s social and economic impact. This includes creating new business opportunities, public facilities operating for longer hours, improved perception of safety and security, and increase in monthly revenues of the existing businesses.
Overall, the minigrid businesses helped establish a distributed electricity generation and distribution infrastructure.