New Delhi: What is perhaps the world’s biggest programme for distribution of heavily subsidised solar lamps to students will shortly be extended to the entire Northeast region.
A total of 25 lakh luminaires will be distributed across different states in continuation of the pan-India Solar Study Lamp Scheme. Moreover, the states of Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim and Tripura will be brought under the scheme. Already over 11 lakh lamps have been tentatively set aside for them.
So far, nearly 60 lakh lamps, as against the targeted 70 lakh, were distributed after the programme was first rolled out early last year in the states of Assam, Bihar, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh. The shortfall was owing to the scheme not being implemented in the state of Odisha as the necessary paperwork was delayed.
The government controlled, Energy Efficiency Services Ltd (EESL) – credited with India’s ongoing LED lighting revolution under central government’s Unnat Jyoti by Affordable LEDs for All (UJALA) – is currently involved in finalising the suppliers for the lamp developed by the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)-Bombay.
“EESL role would be to complete the procurement process. Once bidders are announced, implementation of the project will be taken care of by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) through state-level agencies,” chief general manager, EESL, SP Garnaik told EastMojo here.
The exercise is expected to be completed by August. In the first phase, EESL had also taken care of the distribution aspect.
A letter of intent will be given to shortlisted bidders towards the end of the tendering process. Thereafter, MoUs will be inked between EESL, state nodal agencies (SNA) and selected vendors. A vendor is required to agree to the stipulated terms and conditions for the issuance of the necessary purchase order by concerned SNAs.
Earlier, the lamp that costs around Rs 400 to manufacture was made available to students at a special price of Rs 100 against the production of valid ids such as Aadhar card. Although the product will continue to be heavily subsidised, this time it is the state governments that will be responsible for pricing and distribution.
A hit with students
With 35 crore Indians in the 10 to 24 age group, the country has one of the largest youth populations, globally. Erratic supply of electricity often affects the education of those living in especially very remote areas. The programme thus seeks to provide a clean alternative source of lighting that is independent of electric supply.
Garnaik said that the students’ response to the product was very encouraging.
“The students are excited to use a product that’s not only simple to handle but also works well. At the same time, we feel that more awareness needs to be created among the target group to help expand its demand,” he said.
The product, comprising of a sleekly designed lamp and a photovoltaic module to convert sunlight into electricity, can provide up to five hours of lighting on a single charge. Interestingly, the lamp had found a variety of other uses in rural India. Since the battery can last for up to five hours on a single charge, it is used in kitchens in evenings or during late-night community gatherings.
In case of a failure, the distribution centre can be approached for a replacement. An internal assessment by IIT-B puts the number of defective pieces at less than 1%. Moreover, as all parts used in the lamp are made locally, it is often praised as one of the large-scale success stories of the government’s Make in India programme.
According to the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) data for 2015-16, the household grid connectivity in the Northeastern states had markedly improved during the course of the present decade. For instance, a mere 37% of households in Assam had an electricity connection at the time of the last population census in 2011. That had since jumped to 78.2%. However, a sizeable portion that is off the grid remains dependent on kerosene as the primary source of lighting. The scheme’s successful implementation will, therefore, also help in reducing carbon footprint by helping curtail kerosene usage.
Additionally, in the past few years, India has been trying to significantly trim its dependence on hydrocarbons to meet its energy requirements. Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s (BNEF) New Energy Outlook 2018 report has projected the country as superseding China as the world’s largest producer of renewable energy by 2050.