The Rockefeller Foundation

Rural India to Get Solar Too

(3BL Media/Justmeans) - Last week I wrote about India’s ambitious plans for solar development. The country seems ready to mobilize its growing industrial prowess to show the world that it can accomplish the leap to clean energy without sacrificing its dynamic economic growth rate. The new government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced ambitious goals for massive centralized solar plants that could, if completed, catapult India to the forefront of the solar horse race.

Considering India’s very large rural population, many of which are still without reliable power, this raises the question that has been emerging as renewables continue their broad development across the globe. Will the renewable revolution take place in a centralized manner, as plug-in substitutes for the coal and natural gas plants of today, or will they usher in a total new paradigm of decentralized generation that will leapfrog today’s distribution infrastructure, much as the cell phone revolution has done in the communications sphere across Asia and Africa?

The answer is clearly some of each, at least in the near term. But as things shake out over time, which paradigm will dominate?

Aside from India, Japan also seems to be following a large scale centralized solar development plan, in their case, as a replacement for the nuclear path that they had intended to follow up until the Fukushima disaster. Three quarters of their new solar installations, comprising some 10 gigawatts, has been in the form of large scale projects.

But, that is only one part of the solar story. In India, for example, there is another path being blazed by, among others, the Rockefeller Foundation, CSE India, and the Chhattisgarh Renewable Energy Development Agency. The Rockefeller Foundation has committed $75 million to its Smart Power for India initiative. The initiative will focus on promoting sustainable business models for renewable power generation with an eye towards spurring economic development among India’s poor, underserved rural population.

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