Varied interests in the energy and power sector viz., CDM, carbon rating, Monitoring & Evaluation, Energy Management, Rural Development; Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy related matters; Demand Side Management (DSM), Energy Audits, Distributed Power Generation (Biomass, Wind,Solar and Small Hydro), Participatory Management.

Saturday, June 27, 2009


Traded power prices soar as rains falter

Promit Mukherjee / DNA
Thursday, June 25, 2009 3:57 IST
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Mumbai: Delayed monsoon and a surge in demand for power has led to power prices on the Indian Energy Exchange (IEX), India's first power trading platform, soaring to record levels.

Jayant Deo, managing director and chief executive officer, IEX, said, "Because of severe heat wave in Delhi, Orissa and Bihar, the demand for power has soared up to 53,000 mw in the northern parts of the country."

This increased demand has resulted in an increase in activity in the day-ahead market and a shoot-up in prices.

Private power generation and state distribution companies that have excess power are swarming the energy exchange to garner a share of the pie.

Deo said the number of traders touched 66 on Wednesday, which is a very high number.

"There have been times when IEX had witnessed prices as low as 13 paise and an average of Re 1 during rainy seasons, but currently power is being traded at a high of above Rs 10," he said.

The main reason attributed to this is a delayed monsoon in the northern part and a fall in the water level due to which hydro power plants of National Hydro Power Corporation are not able to supply optimum power.

The main reason attributed to this is a delayed monsoon in the northern part and a fall in the water level due to which hydro power plants of National Hydro Power Corporation are not able to supply optimum power.

Though NHPC could not be contacted for comment, it was known that most of the company's plants in the north are running under capacity.

Deo said the demand is still much more than the supply. "Out of the total demand of 2200 mw in the day-ahead market, 900 mw was available on Wednesday," he said.

IEX, which is completing one year of operation on June 27, 2009, is the first energy exchange of India. It is promoted by Financial Technologies (India) Ltd. State-owned Power Trading Corporation is the other promoter of IEX.

IEX is a platform for trading electricity where generators, distribution licencees and other power producers can bid and purchase units of electricity at the national level.

Gopinath S
Chief Executive
nRG Consulting Services, Bangalore
+91 99161 29728

Thursday, June 11, 2009


Indian sugar mills generate as much ‘green’ energy as windmills, and at half the cost

June 5, 2009  
  • Sugar mills produce 2,000 megawatt of biomass-based energy through cogeneration, says a new report. Cogeneration means the production of two forms of energy, electricity and heat
  • Sugar mills are making a profit selling power to the grid. They can produce 5,100 mw of power – 69 per cent of the country's total cogeneration capacity
  • Such alternatives to fossil fuel energy are critical for India's energy and climate security
  • But lack of policy and pricing issues threaten the sustainability of this green power

New Delhi, June 5, 2009: As the 2009 World Environment Day draws to a close, there's heartening news from unexpected quarters: Indian sugar mills seem to be doing their bit to ease the energy crisis in the country. What's more, they are doing it by generating biomass-based 'green' energy from bagasse, a waste product that comes from sugarcane cultivation.

Sugar mills in the five major sugarcane growing states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh are contributing 2,000 megawatt (mw) of power to the national electricity grid. This is enough to meet the energy needs of a business centre the size of Gurgaon (in Haryana), says a latest report in Down To Earth, a fortnightly magazine that Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) helps publish.

However, says the study, India has no policy framework in place to strengthen this green energy source. Sunita Narain, director, CSE, points out: "This energy source is an important win-win solution, as it brings value-addition and additional funds to agricultural resources, which in turn will give better payments to farmers and improve productivity. The question is what can be done to increase this energy source for the future."
This is called cogeneration

The process by which sugar mills are generating this power is called cogeneration – it essentially implies the production of two forms of energy, electricity and heat.

Explaining what led CSE to the study, Narain said: "We need to find alternatives to fossil fuel-based power for energy and climate security. Therefore, it is important to understand what a country like India is already doing to adopt renewable energy sources and what more can be done. We researched efforts in the country to move towards modern biomass-based energy using cogeneration technologies – and were amazed to find that cogeneration just by sugar mills was generating such an immense amount of energy!"

Today, out of the 650-odd sugar mills in India, 107 have cogeneration plants. Cogeneration has managed to bail out sugar mills reeling from the falling prices of sugar, informs the Down To Earth report. The Dhampur Sugar Mills in Uttar Pradesh, which has the largest cogeneration capacity in the country, made Rs 42 crore from its cogeneration unit in 2007-08, compared to Rs 11 crore from its sugar units. It sold about 177 million units of power to the state. The third largest sugar maker in India, Triveni, based in Deoband, Uttar Pradesh, is selling 16-17 mw of power to the state.

The International Energy Agency says that the sugar sector has a potential to produce 5,100 mw of power through cogeneration, which is 69 per cent of the total cogeneration capacity. If the resources and technology are improved, cogeneration can produce almost 10,000 mw or 40 per cent of the country's 2008 power deficit.

How it works and what it offers

Bagasse, a residue of crushed sugarcane, is burnt in a boiler to superheat water and produce high pressure steam. The steam is sent to a turbo generator, where it rotates the generator blades producing electric current. 

The report points out that bagasse generates nearly the same amount of power as the wind energy sector. Wind produces almost 2,000 mw -- most of which remains unutilised most of the time.

Bagasse-based cogeneration plants also earn carbon credits as the carbon dioxide absorbed by sugarcane plants while growing up is more than the carbon dioxide produced in burning bagasse. The cogeneration plant of Triveni earned about 186,000 certified emission reductions worth over Rs 3 crore between March 2004 and December 2007.

Needed: A stronger policy for green power

India had launched its biomass power (bagasse-based cogeneration) policy in 1990. As the shortage of power grew in many sugarcane states, the policy was revised in 2006 to provide capital subsidy (Rs 15 lakh per mw) and tax rebates (including 80 per cent depreciation in the first year for selected equipment). The 2003 Amendment to the Electricity Act also provided the necessary framework for promoting renewable energy sources – asking states to fix a minimum limit for energy utilities to buy green energy.

However, the country still has a long way to go. In the absence of a strong policy framework, feed-in tariffs (the premium cost of green power) differ from state to state and are based on scarcity (not policy). While in some states like Tamil Nadu, the tariff is as high as Rs 7 per unit, others like Uttar Pradesh pay only Rs 3 per unit. Low feed-in tariffs have begun to hurt cogeneration, says the study.

Narain says: "The policy must incentivise the generation of power, not capital investment." The capital cost of biomass energy is roughly Rs 4-5 crore per mw, which is half the cost of installing wind energy. But unlike wind, the raw material – bagasse or other agricultural residues – has competing uses and value. Narain says this price must be paid, as it helps local farmers to improve their returns and encourages production of biomass.

Narain also recommends making the renewable purchase obligation (RPO) mandatory, so that it becomes a tool to push for preferential markets for green energy. "To do this", she points out, "the policy must allow for inter-state sale so that green power-deficit states can purchase from others. In addition, we should consider how biomass-based energy can be used to feed local grids for local and decentralized distribution. Local energy supply should be given preferential tariffs so that villages that do not have power, get it."


For more details, please contact:

Gopinath S
Chief Executive
nRG Consulting Services, Bangalore
+91 99161 29728

Saturday, June 06, 2009


India, where the renewable energy business potentialities grow aplenty

6.5.09 Ramanathan Menon, Editor and Publisher, Sun Power

Many reasons make India a great investment destination for new and renewable energy firms from all over the world, especially the size of its market, its speeding growth, its future potential and its political and economic stability.
India will be the second world economy, after China, to receive more Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the coming years, according to the World Investment Prospects Survey for 2007-2009, released by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) on Nov. 1, 2007.
According to Development Counsellors International (DCI), a U.S. marketing company, India is the second-best country after China for business investment. DCI cites India's labor, including its supply, skills level and cost, as the main reason for this positive perception.
India's National Solar Mission
The Government of India has come out with a "National Solar Mission" along the lines of its Atomic Commission as part of the National Action Plan on Climate Change, to significantly increase the share of solar energy in the total energy mix. It also recognizes the need to expand the scope of other renewable and non-fossil options such as nuclear energy, wind energy and biomass.
The solar mission has a limited target of adding 1,000 MW of concentrated solar power (CSP) in the next 10 years. Yet many consider even the 1,000 MW target to be too ambitious. That's simply because in the past 60 years practically nothing has been done to build capacity -- either in collaborative research or in creating the manpower.
Another aspect of the solar mission would be to launch a major R&D program, which could also draw upon international cooperation, to enable the creation of more affordable and convenient solar power systems and to promote innovations that enable the storage of solar power for sustained, long-term use.
The mission is expected to come up with suggestions to ensure optimum utilization of solar energy, which has vast potential in the country, to bridge the energy shortage through proper applications.
India's Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, has also shown keen interest in developing India's capacity to tap the power of the sun in order to increase sustainable sources of energy.
"The sun occupies center stage, as it should, being literally the original source of all energy. We will pool all our scientific, technical and managerial talents with financial sources to develop solar energy as a source of abundant energy to power our economy and to transform the lives of our people," he said.
Solar energy is gaining importance from every corner and scientists across the country foresee in it a solution to the energy crisis. Many of them have recommended that the immediate solution to India's energy problem lies in tapping of solar energy. Scientists believe that the government should concentrate on tapping the conventional sources of energy like wind and solar to meet the country's immediate energy requirements.
India receives clear sunshine for a major part of the year in most areas. However, only about 1, 748 MW of its power is produced from solar energy. This could be enhanced substantially. Solar energy, with an appropriate technology, would be one of the most replenishing, pollution-free and inexhaustible sources of energy.
Apart from the fact that India has the highest potential in the world to harness sun power, the country also has the potential to be the least-cost producer and assembler of solar cells. The Indian industry is now focusing more on R&D in areas such as raising the percentage of solar energy falling on the panels that is turned into electricity and bringing down the cost of production of its raw materials to make it affordable.
Most urban and industrial centers in India are facing electricity shortages of over 15 percent. Taking a cue from London, Tokyo, New York and Adelaide, the government of India has taken the initiative to develop 60 cities as "solar cities".
Through the use of solar energy, a minimum 10-percent reduction in total demand of conventional energy could be achieved after five years in each of these cities by efficiency and renewable energy measures. If these plans materialize, India will become a role model for solar cities worldwide.
It is believed that the proposed national solar mission would play a significant role to meet the energy needs in India in the years to come. Some progress has already been made in this area, and the new initiative would strengthen it further.
India, a manufacturers' hub
In March 2007 the Indian government announced a semiconductor policy under its Special Incentive Package Scheme (SIPS). According to this policy, the government or its agencies will provide 20 percent of the capital expenditure during the first 10 years for semiconductor industries, including manufacturing activities related to solar PV technology located in Special Economic Zones (SEZ), and 25 percent for industries not located in an SEZ. However, non-SEZ units would be exempt from countervailing duty (CVD) -- an additional customs duty equal to the excise duty charged on similar domestic products.
The policy has attracted a tremendous response, so far receiving nine proposals pertaining to solar PV-related manufacturing worth US$18 billion.
Inspired by the semiconductor policy, the Andhra Pradesh state government has set up FabCity in the capital, Hyderabad, at an estimated cost of US$3.18 billion. Spread over 1,200 acres (486 hectares), FabCity will house semiconductor manufacturing companies working to meet the needs of the electronic hardware sector and fabrication units for solar PV.
A company called FabCity SPV (India) Private Limited has been set up to implement the project. The Andhra Pradesh Industrial Infrastructure Corporation (APIIC), the government's industrial development agency, will have an 89-percent stake in this company. SemIndia Inc. will participate in the development of FabCity as an anchor industry with an 11-percent stake. To date, FabCity has seen nearly a dozen investments from the solar PV industry worth more than $7 billion and, according to APIIC, another 40 applicants have submitted proposals.
FabCity is the largest investment ever made in India in the technology sector. It marks the first step towards India becoming a $33.6-billion semiconductor market employing some 3.6 million people by the year 2015, as projected by consultants Frost & Sullivan.
Another southern Indian city, Bangalore -- the "Silicon Valley of India" -- will also witness intense activity in solar PV manufacturing, following a recent announcement on semiconductor policy by the government of the state, Karnataka. The state is examining the various semiconductor policies announced so far and wants to draft a policy which overcomes the ambiguities in some other state policies.
Along with government-backed developments, a number of individual companies are also making efforts to develop PV capacities in India. Reliance Industries leads the field with the highest volume of investment, although a company spokesman explained its plans are still being finalized. Reliance has, however, submitted an application for a 5 MW grid-connected solar PV project in West Bengal.
India's Moser Baer Photovoltaic Ltd (MBPVL), which manufactures 80 MW of crystalline cells, 50 MW of thin-film modules and 10 MW of concentrator modules, hopes to produce more than 600 MW of thin-film single modules and 500 MW of crystalline and concentrator modules by 2010. MBPVL plans to invest US$4 million in a PV and nanotechnology factory in Tamil Nadu.
The US-based Signet Solar has signed a memorandum of understanding with the government of Tamil Nadu to manufacture 300 MW of thin-film PV modules in a project worth an estimated $500 million. The plant will be located in the Sriperumbudur SEZ. It will initially export most of its production, but will serve the Indian market as domestic demand picks up. The first shipments from the plant are expected in 2010. Signet Solar plans to build three plants (1 GW) in India over the next 10 years at multiple locations.
Solar Semiconductor has an order book of $1.5 billion to $2 billion to be delivered in the next two to three years. It has orders to supply PV modules to leading players in the global solar market including Q-Cells AG, IBC Solar and ersol Solar Energy of Germany and Motech Industries of Taiwan. Solar Semiconductor's supply contract with Q-Cells is worth $170 million, for example. The company already has two operating facilities with an installed capacity of 60-70 MW on the outskirts of Hyderabad.
Mola Solaire Produktions GmbH, a manufacturer of multi-crystalline and mono-crystalline solar wafers, has signed a five-year contract to supply 125 MW of multi-crystalline solar wafers to XL Telecom & Energy Ltd between 2008 and 2013.
Sharp, the global leader in solar PV technology, recently made a foray into solar energy in India with its Sharp Business Systems India Ltd. subsidiary. According to a company spokesman, it will focus its activities on supplying large-scale grid-connected systems and targets 8 MW installed by 2010.
Centrotherm Photovoltaics AG of Germany plans to set up a 5,000-ton capacity (expandable to 10,000 tons) polysilicon processing factory at Haldia in the state of West Bengal in eastern India at an investment of US$8 billion. This is a joint venture with SREI Infrastructure Finance Ltd, Environ Energy Deck Services and US-based Perseus. The factory is likely to be the first such plant in India and the state government has already allotted a quarter of the land needed for the 790-acre (320 hectare) project. The factory will produce both electronic and solar grade silicon and will be equipped with a 100 MW captive power plant. SREI and Environ Energy together will have a 50-percent stake in the project, while Centrotherm is likely to pick up a 15-percent stake in the venture. In addition, the IBM Thomas J Watson Research Centre (the headquarters for IBM Research in the country) has also expressed a desire to participate in solar energy and silicon research in West Bengal.
It is not just foreign interests that are exploring the possibility of expanding solar PV capacities in India. Tata BP Solar, a joint venture between the giant Tata Group of India and BP Solar of the UK (and one of the oldest semiconductor manufacturers in India) is in the advanced stages of a $100-million investment in a 128 MW solar cell manufacturing plant close to its existing facility near Bangalore, which will eventually be scaled up to 180 MW. Tata BP Solar recently announced that it has signed an agreement with Calyon Bank (Credit Agricole CIB) and BNP Paribas to raise $78 million to fund further development. Tata BP Solar currently has a module manufacturing capacity of 85 MW.
Other national initiatives
To keep pace with the global trend of exercising feed-in-tariff solar power, the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy has produced a set of initiatives aimed at bolstering solar generation. Solar PV projects up to a maximum capacity of 50 MW are to be supported by financial incentives of a maximum of US$0.24/kWh for PV projects and US$0.20/kWh for solar thermal power projects for a period of 10 years. With investors rushing to set up solar power projects and adding up to 2,500 MW of capacity, the Ministry has asked the Planning Commission and the Indian Cabinet to expand the 11th Plan solar power program beyond 50 MW.
The solar energy industry in India has undoubtedly gained momentum and should be able to keep pace with the government's aim of achieving 10 percent of the country's total electricity requirements by 2012. India already possesses a balanced eco-system for the PV industry, a high-tech manufacturing base and skilled labor sufficient to make it a booming industry. Annual PV production has already reached over 300 MW, with about 85 percent being exported.
India receives solar energy equivalent to over five trillion MWh a year, far more than its total energy consumption, and should therefore benefit from economies of scale that are unavailable to smaller countries. However, it is necessary to address the availability and management of a strong infrastructure and the need to consider a long-term solar energy policy (20 to 25 years).
Rajesh Bhat, director and country manager for Sun Technics, says: "The government of India should consider feed-in-tariff schemes in excess of 1,000 MW per year against the present 50 MW, since the need of the hour is to support PV programs which are cost-prohibitive in comparison to other renewable technologies. This would further encourage local companies to consider investing in solar PV projects and can help in their economics. India currently has to depend largely on imports of raw materials and the rising currency rates make manufacturing a burden." With government support for PV growing, ample solar resources and both the labor and the market potential to exploit these resources, India is set to become a major force in the future PV world.
India's estimated energy requirement is about 130,000 MW of electricity per annum. Its current peak demand exceeds the available supply by a shocking 14 percent. In addition, at least 40 percent of the country's electricity supply is lost in transmission due to theft. Use of solar energy could help to check this loss and indirectly also contribute to the energy basket in a significant way.
The prospects of 100,000 jobs
The budding solar industry in India, somewhat pegged back by the poor economic climate, wants the National Solar Mission to be operative. The National Action Plan for Climate Change, experts say, is excellent as a program but the government needs to fix "quantitative goals". That would help de-carbonize the power sector to an extent, generate domestic demand, and propel the industry, while creating jobs.
The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) says that about 100,000 jobs can be created by the solar PV industry in India by 2020 -- the industry says the number could be even higher. However, that can only happen when India's installed power generation capacity for PV grows beyond the current 100 megawatt peak (MWp); grid-connected solar PV generation is now at 2.12 MWp.
The social benefit aside, there is a strong case for promoting the solar industry. Coal reserves may not last beyond 40 years and India's energy deficit situation implies the country may not sustain its current pace of growth, growing forward.
India's grid-connected power generation capacity will need to scale from 147GW currently to 460GW by 2030 while the country's primary energy demand is expected to grow from 400 million tons of oil equivalent to well over 1,200 million by 2030. India's power supply-demand gap has averaged between 8 and 10 per cent over the last decade where electricity access exists.
"About 51 percent of our households don't have electricity. They are not asking for grid electricity. They are simply asking for light; may be for watching television. Solar is the best way to do that," CEO of Tata BP Solar K. Subramanya says. His firm has electrified more than 30,000 homes.
"The major issue is cost per watt. You can bring that down through scale. The other imperative is the process technology manufacturers' use. The third is materials and panel sizes. You may bring the cost down by doing some clever things on the systems side," says Dr. Madhusudan Atre, president of chip and solar equipment maker Applied Materials India.
Indian technology breakthrough
While solar energy is renewable and eco-friendly, it is also an expensive affair. Now, that's all going to change. In a first-of-its-kind technology in the solar energy industry in India, the University of Pune's department of physics has developed a nano-crystalline silicon solar cell which promises to be at least five times less expensive than the current cost. The department is carrying out the project in collaboration with an Italian university and is funded by the Department of Science and Technology (DST).
Currently, a thin film is used in the solar silicon cell, and the project aims at replacing the film with nano-crystalline material which will reduce the cost to less than $1 from the present $5 to $6. As part of the joint collaboration, the fabrication work will be done in the department's laboratory while the testing will be carried out at the University of Camerino (UoC), Italy.
Titled "Synthesis and characterization of hydrogenated nano-crystalline silicon for solar cell fabrication", the project has been selected in the framework of the Indo-Italian program of scientific and technological cooperation for 2008-2010 by the DST. This is also a first-of-its-kind effort in India, while the U.S. is in the process of developing similar system for generation of solar energy.

Gopinath S
Chief Executive
nRG Consulting Services, Bangalore
+91 99161 29728

Friday, June 05, 2009


Project launched for green, affordable lighting in rural India

New Delhi |Thursday, 2009 12:35:09 PM IST

To make life easier for millions of rural households who use the polluting kerosene lamps in their homes, a Britain-based NGO has partnered with a global power company to supply brighter, safer and more affordable solar lamps in India.

The Shell Foundation has teamed up with D.light Design, a lighting and power company, to deliver affordable and high quality lighting solutions to rural households living without adequate electricity in India, the partners said in a joint statement Wednesday.

The project is being initially rolled out in Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh, the statement said.

The funding from Shell will be used as risk capital for jumpstarting micro financing partnerships, and for testing market education activities through grassroots and market education campaigns.

The solar lanterns designed and manufactured by D.light are available in two variants priced between Rs.800 and Rs.1,600.

The Nova Series consists of all-purpose portable lamps that are up to 10 times brighter than kerosene lanterns and provide up to 32 hours of lighting, it said.

The Solata is an ultra-light and high quality task lamp that provides up to four hours of bright light. All D.light lamps use the world's most efficient LEDs, are up to 50 percent more efficient than fluorescent lights and can be easily charged with individual solar panels, says D.light CEO Sam Goldman.

Communities in rural India who have no access to reliable and affordable power sources are forced to rely on kerosene lanterns and diesel generators. Both are expensive and contribute to air pollution.

It has been our mission to provide clean, safe and affordable lighting to rural homes that do not have any access to a stable light source. Our partnership with Shell Foundation will enable us to effectively promote our products amongst the rural poor and connect them with consumer financing, Goldman said.

We aim to provide clean source of light to 10 million rural homes in India by the end of 2010, he added.

The problem is further heightened in rural communities, where grid coverage is sporadic and often doesn't exist at all.

Shell Foundation analyst Simon Desjardins said: Renewable energy technologies represent the best option for poor consumers in most rural markets in India primarily because of their lower cost and usage flexibility relative to government grid extension schemes, kerosene lanterns, or diesel generator sets.

They also leave a markedly smaller carbon footprint compared to those options, and when taken to scale will help Shell Foundation achieve its goal of seeing global development challenges tackled through enterprise-based approaches. We are excited to help D.light implement new mechanisms to provide access to clean energy in a commercially viable way for some of India's poorest consumers.

Gopinath S
Chief Executive
nRG Consulting Services, Bangalore
+91 99161 29728

Wednesday, June 03, 2009


India's Electrifying Women


WASHINGTON, Jun 1 ( - In India, teams of "barefoot solar engineers" are bringing electricity to rural villages. The project -- part of a larger campaign to help Indian villagers be self-sufficient -- trains women to build and maintain solar energy units.

What's the Story?

The solar power initiative is run by the Barefoot College in Tilonia, a village in Rajasthan, India. Founded by Indian activist Bunker Roy in 1972, the college helps Indian villagers become self-sufficient and puts special emphasis on developing women's skills.

"Many have been inspired by women in nearby villages who left for Tilonia with hope and returned grasping the power of light," reports Sathya Saran in an article for Ms. Magazine. "Most of the women are unlettered, extremely poor and often widowed or abandoned. But their eyes blaze with newfound confidence."

Rural women from India, Afghanistan, Ghana, and Syria are trained at the college and then dispatched to train other village women -- who in turn pass on their knowledge -- to construct and run solar energy units.

Writes Saran: "these 'Sunshine Warriors' comprise a force for change that the college sends out to transform lives around the world." (See the full article from Ms. Magazine below.)

Overcoming the Energy-Poverty Trap

Roughly 40 percent of the world's population -- living predominantly in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa -- do not have modern fuels for cooking and heating.

Of these 2.6 billion people, 1.6 billion "have no access to electricity, three-quarters of them living in rural areas," notes Share the World's Resources, a group advocating for sustainable economic practices that alleviate poverty.

In India, 220,000 villages lack electricity.

However, says openDemocracy's Alejandro Litovsky, hundreds of projects from Guatemala to India to Uganda "demonstrate the potential of energy innovations to overcome energy poverty -- a mix of wind, solar, small hydro, biomass power, or technology such as LED lighting."

These initiatives can enable the poor to set up small income-generating businesses and achieve autonomy and independence in energy generation.

"Off-grid projects are increasingly seen in areas where publicly regulated electricity grids have found it unviable to reach," continues Litovsky.

Moreover, he says, new sources of energy "can deliver real change on the ground, enabling citizens to access refrigerated medicines, light schoolrooms, power water pumps, and use mobile telecommunications -- but only if they are tailored to local needs and delivered in sustainable ways."

Poverty in Rural India

India's status as an emerging global superpower rests on narrow economic data drawn from its booming middle class of 50 million people, less than 5 percent of the population. Beneath this veneer, hundreds of millions of people face a daily struggle for essentials.

While varying interpretations of India's poverty figures have been made by the government and anti-poverty institutions like the World Bank, it is clear that vast numbers of households survive close to the poverty line.

Many development organizations like the Barefoot College have focused on empowering women to help these rural villages.

Additionally, "in the remotest corners of the country, women leaders have started questioning corruption, inefficiency, and lack of basic necessities in their villages," writes OneWorld South Asia's Manasi Singh. 

Women in India

The voices of women in India are not always heard or respected, however. "Various social conditions have hindered and undermined the roles of women, denying them voices and opportunity to participate in public life," continues Singh.

Zahira Bano, a woman who ran for public office in India and lost, endured pressure and threats from conservative clerics when she became the first woman to contest election results "in a region heavily influenced by religion and tradition," says Singh.

"Maulvis [religious leaders] do not allow us to come to the fore and participate in the political process as they consider it blasphemy," Bano told Singh. "But nowhere the religion debars women. Take the case of Iran, Iraq -- where women have entered parliament."

A constitutional amendment passed in 1993 mandated that 33.3 percent of the seats in India's local governing bodies be reserved for women. Now, more than 1 million women from diverse backgrounds are serving as elected representatives.

There are, however, still cultural pressures working against women. One manifestation of this is a high incidence of ultrasound gender diagnoses, many of which are followed by an abortion if the fetus is a girl.

The gender ratio in India is 927 girls for every 1,000 boys under the age of 6. This is the most imbalanced gender ratio in the world, and it's declining further.

Gopinath S
Chief Executive
nRG Consulting Services, Bangalore
+91 99161 29728