Jessica is an Environmental Economist based in Mumbai. She currently works on Circular Economy and Environmental Management. Apart from pondering about energy and environment, Jessica likes traveling, writing and running.

Lack of energy infrastructure places severe restrictions on activities, skill development, and economic growth. Not only does it impact the economy at large, but also it hampers the individual quality of life, social progress, and public health.

Yet another Earth Hour has passed by. Millions around the world joined the global event and switched off their lights for a sustainable future. I am guessing many of you who are reading this article might have also joined the Earth Hour! What crossed my mind while being unplugged for an hour, was the lives of millions in India who are living without electricity. They are not switching off lights out of choice but simply because they do not have access to a basic amenity or cannot afford it.

When you are reading this article on your mobile phone, IPad or laptop, it might not cross your mind how life would be without uninterrupted power supply and the internet. It’s the same for me or any other city dweller in India. Most people may not even have heard of the term ‘Energy Poverty.’ Energy poverty is real, and it is draining rural India of many opportunities. It affects freedom, limits employment opportunities and constrains the development of an individual in our highly competitive society.

International Energy Agency defines Energy Poverty as ‘a lack of access to modern energy services. These services are defined as household access to electricity and clean cooking facilities (e.g. fuels and stoves that do not cause air pollution in houses)’. India has the highest number of citizens living in energy poverty in absolute terms. In India, energy poverty is not a latent issue. It is very much amidst us, especially in rural India. About 240 million people in the country do not have access to adequate electricity supply. The national statistics, however, shows that 99 percent of the Indian villages are electrified. There lies a caveat though, in the criterion for village electrification. According to the definition of an electrified village, ‘the number of households electrified should be at least 10% of the total number of households in the village.’ The deadline for 100 percent electrification is 2019. As per the 10% benchmark, we are almost there. Nonetheless, we still have a long way to go in ensuring uninterrupted power to all citizens so that quality of life is not compromised.

Some solutions in this regard for the last mile connectivity can be designed in the lines of decentralized power grids and renewable integration. Better access to electricity and safe cooking options can make lives easy and enhance productivity considerably. Solutions for countries like India can be customized by making use of the local resources. Regions which are naturally endowed with abundant renewable energy resources must be equipped to tap this potential. The private and the public sector can act together with the communities for building an energy secure nation. Let us hope that the national missions don’t face hurdles, and rural India achieves energy security soon.

“Energy is a linchpin of economic prosperity, with energy security, reliability, and affordability key preconditions for sustainable growth.” Fatih Birol

Image Source: Cleantechnica

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