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MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development

global challenges, engineering solutions

Studying at Cambridge

Jaspreet Singh

Decentralised Solar Power in Communities and businesses in South Asia: Aspirational Technologies Management framework for Rural India under Micro-Grids
In 2012, over 303 million Indian, which were largely the rural population, lacked electrification (data released by International Energy Agency in 2014). Decentralised solar micro-grids where plausible, hold great importance as a system that provides ‘Electricity beyond lighting’ within such areas. It offers a larger platform to enable socioeconomic growth within a region.
Photovoltaic micro-grid plants with periodic battery replacements and maintenance can ideally last for 25 years. This makes estimating a future total load of the community important. Studies indicate that more than 20% of the overall commissioned decentralised power projects are not operational. One of the causes leading to operational failures was the mismanagement of “aspirational technologies” technologies installed by the community outside the initial delivered system). It is therefore critical that aspirational technologies and plant operations are managed efficiently to help achieve a sustainable outcome for the operating companies and communities.
With the aim to build a framework to help organisations manage aspirational technology within micro-grids, fieldwork was conducted in India and case studies were assessed for a number of projects and programmes through an extensive literature review. This has been supplemented with semi-structured and unstructured interviews of multiple stakeholders. The framework brings forward key focus points that should be considered for managing the sustainable growth and operations of aspirational technologies within micro-grids.
The results and discussions and framework incorporated complex and interdependent challenges. The framework brings forward possible management and stakeholder discussions incorporable in micro-grid management. Additionally, fieldwork feedback amalgamates people’s perception of growth with perceived life changes once a micro-grid is installed and brings forward the importance of aspirational technologies and the added value it brings to a micro-grid system.
The study aims to enhance the confidence of developers to manage aspirational technologies as a key instrument for managing micro-grids. The discussions should help maintain the longevity of projects while safeguarding community growth. This may result in attracting potential investors and funds for financial assistance, which can provide an economic boon and enhance the social development in rural India.