India has over 35.6 crore children within the ages bracket of 10 to 24 for whom infrastructure to enable their access to education is essential. While the government is aggressively working to achieve its comprehensive pan-India rural electrification mandate, it is critical to find clean, alternative grid-independent lighting for an estimated 8.12 crore students are likely to use kerosene for their lighting needs. Kerosene not only contribute to household costs and cause high levels of indoor pollution, but considering their per unit cost of lighting, are highly inefficient for the brightness and range of light they provide.
Solar study lamps, another application of solar energy, India’s strongest renewable energy pathway, provides an ideal solution for this goal of ensuring India’s students have access to lighting in the evening hours for their studies.
EESL’s role in India’s solar lamp intervention
Towards this goal, we are scaling up the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE)’s Solar Study Lamp Scheme. We are distributing solar lamps to school-going children in Assam, Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, and Odisha, states with household grid connectivity of less than 50 percent (2011 Census). Solar lamps provide a viable solution to households who are traditionally dependent on kerosene lamps as their primary source of lighting.
Solar lamps: Localising solar energy
We are procuring and distributing lamp kits in the intervention blocks to ensure their delivery to India’s rural underserved children, as quickly as possible. The solar study lamp distributed consists of a photovoltaic module which converts sunlight into electricity, charging the battery which powers the LED luminaire for 4-5 hours of daily lighting. The programme is designed for active involvement on local communities in the entire implementation process, which included assembly, distribution and repair and maintenance of solar study lamps, by transfer of skills and knowledge of technology. Towards this goal, the programme is working to empower local communities in handling solar photovoltaic (PV) technology through partnerships with State Level Rural Livelihood Mission (SRLM) and NGOs. Assembly-distribution centres and after-sales service centres have been established in the target states to provide free repair service for a year in the intervention blocks, thereby ensuring that the solar study lamps have long-term viability.
A solar lamp ecosystem
The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) has appointed IIT-Bombay, India’s highest ranked global university, for R&D, overall execution, coordination, strategizing, and implementation. IIT Bombay will also work towards instituting over 2000 service centres involving local trained youth to ensure comprehensive maintenance of the lamps for 5 years. Women Cluster Level Federations, formed under State Rural Livelihood Mission (SRLM) and/or NGOs working in the intervention states, will also be roped in for conducting activities in these states.
With solar access from India’s 300 days of sunshine as their only input, and a network of service centres in the intervention states to support their maintenance, solar study lamps offer an attractive and scalable solution to India’s underserved communities. India has successfully completed its goal of distributing 10 lakh solar study lamps, and the government is currently implementing its new project to distribute 70 lakh solar study lamps. Till date, EESL has distributed over 61.01 lakh Solar Study Lamps under this scheme in the states of Uttar Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Odisha and Jharkhand.