Decentralized Clean Energy Technologies Hold Potential to Transform Livelihoods in India's Agriculture and Textile Sectors

A recent study has revealed that the adoption of decentralized renewable energy (DRE) technologies in India's agriculture and textile sectors could have a significant impact on the livelihoods of approximately 37 million people. These DRE technologies encompass various solutions, such as solar-powered textile manufacturing units, biomass-based cold solar storages, and micro solar pumps

The study, released by Union Minister for New and Renewable Energy RK Singh, emphasizes that DRE has a market potential of Rs 4 lakh crore in rural and peri-urban communities in India. However, the practical deployment of these technologies has been limited, mainly due to a lack of evidence regarding their commercial viability. To address this, the researchers conducted an on-the-ground analysis to assess the usage and potential of DRE technologies. Currently, India has identified 12 mature DRE technologies, including higher capacity irrigation pumps, micro pumps, silk reeling machines, dryers, charkhas, horticulture processors, refrigerators/deep freezers, cold storages, vertical fodder growing units, grain milling machines, looms, and bulk milk chillers. Together, these technologies have the capacity to positively impact 37 million livelihoods. The study identified a total of 547,380 installations of these technologies, estimated to impact the lives of 566,827 people.

Among the DRE technologies, solar-powered solutions such as high-capacity irrigation pumps, micro irrigation pumps, solar-powered vertical fodder growing units, and solar dryers exhibit the greatest potential for deployment. Solar pumps, in particular, have shown maturity due to government subsidies. The adoption likelihood of these technologies is influenced by their ability to generate income and provide livelihood opportunities. For instance, solar-powered silk-reeling machines and micro solar pumps are more likely to be adopted as they offer greater income generation compared to solar-powered bulk milk chillers or solar-powered cold storage solutions. The study also found that the duration of asset utilization plays a crucial role in user preferences. Solar pumps, which are generally more economically viable than diesel pumps, may be preferred even if the diesel pump is used for only 20 days a year, despite higher running costs.

In terms of future adoption of solar-powered technologies, Uttar Pradesh leads the way, followed by West Bengal, Bihar, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, and Karnataka, according to the researchers' findings. Another report, released by the Minister of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE), highlighted specific state-wise examples of technology usage. For instance, solar silk reeling and spinning machines with 15 watts capacity are commonly used by silk reelers and weavers in Chhattisgarh and Odisha. Small solar refrigerators with capacities ranging from 65 to 155 watts are primarily deployed in departmental stores in Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Karnataka.

The first phase of the study involved surveying 767 end-users across 19 Indian states who had access to and used these technologies for at least six months. This was done to gauge the impact of these technologies on communities with limited access to energy. The researchers are now planning the second phase of the analysis. It is worth noting that about 91 percent of the users received these technologies at subsidized costs from the government, often without being aware of the subsidies. A significant majority of respondents (71 percent) reported an increase in income by 35 percent. Furthermore, many users were able to afford these machines independently and witnessed improved productivity and income, enabling them to support their families financially.

One common barrier faced by users was the lack of direct contact with manufacturers to address technology defects, as these technologies were provided through philanthropic efforts and government subsidies. To overcome this, the authors suggest introducing loans with longer repayment periods and lower interest rates, as the users now have the financial capacity to repay loans.

In conclusion, the study highlights the immense potential of decentralized clean energy technologies in transforming livelihoods in India's agriculture and textile sectors. With a market potential of Rs 4 lakh crore, these technologies can significantly impact the lives of millions of people. Solar-powered solutions, in particular, have emerged as mature and promising options, driven by government subsidies.

The study underscores the positive impact of DRE technologies on income generation, productivity, and confidence among end-users. It reveals that the adoption of these technologies has enabled users to increase their income by 35 percent on average, with some users experiencing a doubling of productivity. Moreover, the enhanced ability to pay back loans has empowered users to independently afford the purchase of these machines. However, challenges remain, including the limited availability of evidence regarding the commercial viability of DRE solutions and the lack of direct contact with manufacturers for addressing technology defects. To address these barriers, the study suggests offering longer-term loans with reduced interest rates to support the adoption of these technologies and facilitate their maintenance. With Uttar Pradesh leading the way in terms of future adoption, followed by several other states, there is a growing recognition of the potential benefits of decentralized clean energy technologies. By leveraging these technologies, India can enhance rural and peri-urban communities' access to reliable and sustainable energy sources, thereby positively impacting livelihoods in the agriculture and textile sectors.

The study's findings provide valuable insights for policymakers, researchers, and stakeholders involved in promoting clean energy adoption and sustainable livelihoods. By fostering an enabling environment and implementing supportive policies, India can accelerate the deployment of DRE technologies and unlock their full potential in transforming the lives of millions while contributing to a greener and more sustainable future.

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