About 300 million – or one in every four – Indians lack access to electricity. Mrida Renergy is creating a rural ecosystem of solar micro grids and environment friendly, energy efficient LED bulbs to provide energy access to this off grid population.
Effectively used, renewable energy for rural electrification has the potential to transform life itself. Using energy access as a tool, Mrida fosters education, health and livelihood programs leading to social upliftment, economic growth, and sustainable rural development.
Better illumination for extended periods provides an opportunity for education and for livelihoods/income generation. Women-folk for instance, can now work during the evenings and nights, set up Self Help Groups, and engage in activities such as candle making, pulse grinding and basket weaving among others.
It is intended to develop a network of Village Level Entrepreneurs (VLEs) through which Mrida will sell the micro grids and provide last mile energy access in remote rural areas. The VLE and Mrida will together encourage, motivate and facilitate income generation activities so that end users are in a position to fully utilize the energy access, enhance their income levels, and move into self sustaining Virtuous Circles.
Mrida also works with individuals, groups and Corporates on innovative funding options for energy access and sustainable development – Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives, crowd funding, and so on.
Over 1.2 billion people globally, including 550 million in Africa and 300 million in India alone, lack access to electricity (International Energy Agency, 2012), and depend on kerosene for their lighting requirements.
Kerosene not only provides poor illumination, but is highly toxic, hazardous, and environment unfriendly. It is not an economic source of energy either, being too expensive at market rates, or requiring Government subsidies for the rural poor. DC Solar Microgrids represent an economic and a sustainable alternative.
The Mrida 240 Watt DC Microgrid can provide 2 energy efficient LED bulbs and a mobile charging point for upto 30 rural households. These grids can be set up within two to three days in the remotest of rural areas, and have the potential to virtually transform lives overnight.
Once set up, the Microgrids are operated by Village Level Entrepreneurs or Village Development Committees who are trained to maintain the grids, and who also take the responsibility of collecting a monthly rental from each household. In turn, villagers are guided and motivated to use the energy access for education, livelihoods and income generation, with income levels that can easily exceed the amount paid for energy access in the first place. In the process, potential exists not only for social upliftment, but wealth creation as well.
The E-Hub is an innovative package of Education, Entertainment and E-Commerce for rural India. It is a learning centre for children during the day and an entertainment centre for the village in the evening. It also provides villagers with facilities such as photo printing, internet access, online Government documentation, e-ticketing, and so on. It can be used as a tool to impart socially relevant inputs, disseminate knowledge on technology and agriculture, and facilitate skill development. All in all, an effective tool for all round village development, operated by a local Village Level Entrepreneur (VLE), carefully selected and trained for the purpose.
The Mrida E-Hub is typically a 600 Watt Solar Powered setup loaded with multimedia technologies comprising a tablet–cum-HD Projector, a Laptop Computer with an Internet connection, and a color Printer. The package includes Educational Software, a collection of documentaries covering socially relevant issues, and educative films on subjects such as agricultural best practices. The E-Hub can also be expanded as per requirement, to function as a Computer Training Institute.
Once successfully installed, experts from Mrida train the Village Level Entrepreneur on maintenance and efficient running of the E-Hub, in a manner that makes it a livelihood option and an income generator for the VLE, while also providing services that can potentially uplift the rest of the village.
Energy poverty is a serious challenge afflicting 1.2 billion people across the globe. Mrida seeks not only to address the issue of energy access, but to facilitate use of the energy access as a means to an end – namely livelihood generation and income enhancement, leading to sustainable development.
With access to a clean and healthy source of light over extended hours through LED bulbs powered by solar microgrids, inhabitants of unelectrified villages now get the time during evenings and nights to take up new jobs and enhance incomes through activities such as studying, basket weaving, candle/incense stick making, stitching, pulse grinding and so on. Household incomes can be augmented, and Self Help Groups can be formed to improve the prosperity of individuals as well as of entire villages.
On its part, Mrida not only sets up the micro grids and provides energy access, but also facilitates the above activities by providing guidance, training and market linkages for the output from the villages.
Apart from energy access related interventions, and in keeping with its development objective, Mrida Renergy & Development also undertakes holistic rural development initiatives in the form of CSR interventions for Corporate groups and entities. In such cases, the Mrida team supports and facilitates activities such as cultivation, solar irrigation, entrepreneurship and skill development among others. Individuals and groups are provided with training, logistics and supply chain inputs, institutional support and market linkages leading to the development of new businesses and sustainable livelihoods.
Solar LED street lights represent a clean and environment friendly solution, providing high quality, efficient lighting in remote villages lacking access to grid connected community lighting. Where evenings otherwise bring restrictions of stepping out in the dark, solar LED street lights can enhance the quality of rural lives. Besides increasing the level of safety on roads and streets, villagers are provided with opportunities to continue economic and other routine tasks post dusk, apart from engaging in outdoor social activities.
Street lights are installed at strategic locations identified through a survey conducted with the help of the villagers. Solar panels harness the power of the sun to charge batteries during the day, which in turn discharge during the night to power LED Luminaires that light up rural streets. The lights are programmed to switch on at dusk and switch off at dawn. Mrida trains villagers on basic maintenance, upkeep and security of the Street Lights, as part of an established, documented Standard Operating Procedure (SOP).
Rural India faces an acute problem of inadequate transport infrastructure, particularly in remote villages. Besides adversely impacting economic and other activities, this leads to lower enrollment in schools, and a progressive increase in the number of dropouts. Access to better transport facilities can lead to improvement in economic and educational activities, and also provide more effective access to local health facilities.
An electric rickshaw can serve as an environment friendly option to transport people between villages, to work/study locations, and also to points where regular transport is available. Mrida provides such Clean Technology based transportation solutions – electric rickshaws powered by electric motors and batteries, which serve as a practical, environment friendly alternative to fossil fuel based solutions.
The model revolves around identifying a Village Level Entrepreneur (VLE) chosen based on certain pre-defined criteria. The VLE is required to make an initial Down Payment and fixed Equated Monthly Installments for a specified period. Mrida helps identify the VLE, trains him on how to run the rickshaw as a viable business activity, and supports the activity till such time as it becomes self sustaining. The entire activity provides a livelihood opportunity for the VLE and a much needed solution for the village. It can be funded in several ways such as through local Banks, a CSR initiative, or crowd funding.
55% of India’s population, primarily in urban slums and rural areas, has no access to toilets. Only 32% of rural households have their own toilets, and a large part of the populace practices open defecation as a result. There are more households with a mobile phone than with a toilet; in fact, the percentage of rural households having access to televisions and telephones exceeds that of households with access to toilet facilities.
Women in particular, are acutely affected by the hazards of lack of proper sanitation. For instance, majority of girls drop out of school because of lack of toilets, with only 22% managing to complete even class 10. Women have to venture out into the open fields in the dark to answer the call of nature; among other safety concerns, this also raises the risk of assault and harassment.
While not a part of its core business activities, Mrida also seeks to address the issues of health, hygiene and sanitation as part of its efforts for social upliftment and holistic rural development. Individual as well as ‘Pay-as-you-go’ community toilets have been introduced in some villages in collaboration with sanitation experts. Sanitation related training sessions are organized in villages, supported by screening of documentary films at the Mrida E-Hubs to create awareness on health and sanitation issues. The objective is to inculcate among villagers – men, women and children – over a period of time, the habit as well as the awareness of the need for maintaining Cleanliness and Hygiene as a routine part of daily life.