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Letter

World’s first solar cooperative has transformed Gujarat’s Dhundi village - a solar initiative worthy of emulation all over the country

Dated, 15th April, 2018
Mysore

To
Sri. R K Singh, Union Minister of State for Power and NRE, Govt. of India, New Delhi
Dr. Jitendra Singh, Union Minister of State for Prime Minister's Office, Govt. of India, New Delhi

Cc:
Dr. Harsha Vardhan, Union Minister for EF&CC, Govt. of India, New Delhi
Sri. Arun Jaitely, Union Minister for Finance, Govt. of India, New Delhi
The Chairperson, Deputy Chairperson and Members, NITI Aayog, New Delhi
Dr. Arvind Subramanian, Chief Economic Adviser to Government of India, New Delhi
The Prime Minister, Govt. of India, New Delhi

Dear Sirs,

Greetings from Mysore.

May I draw your kind attention to a news article, as in the link below, on how a solar energy cooperative has transformed Gujarat’s Dhundi village? One wonders why such glaring and practical examples from our own backyard have not caught the attention of our ministers and NITI Aayog.
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Two years after it was launched, the world’s first solar cooperative has transformed Gujarat’s Dhundi village
http://www.thehindu.com/society/two-years-after-it-was-launched-the-worlds-first-solar-cooperative-has-transformed-gujarats-dhundi-village/article23528444.ece?homepage=true
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Please consider what the news article highlights.

"Chawda shows me around his field where 36 solar panels with a combined capacity of 10.8 kW are installed. The power generated can draw all the groundwater he needs, and he gets to sell the surplus. Everyday, Chawda sells up to 50 kWh of solar energy for approximately ₹7 per unit. Exactly two years after the launch of the world’s first solar irrigation cooperative here, the Dhundi Saur Urja Utpadak Sahakari Mandali or DSUUSM, nine famers, including Chawda, have become successful solar entrepreneurs: they harvest solar energy as they would a remunerative crop. They irrigate their fields using solar pumps, and they earn by selling surplus power to the Madhya Gujarat Vij Company Ltd., and by selling water to other farmers in the area."

"There are 21 million diesel and electric pumps in India that can be replaced by solar pumps. “If these are connected to the grid, it would increase farmer incomes, reduce the subsidy burden on electricity distribution companies, curb over-use of ground water, and reduce carbon footprints,” says Shah. That’s quite a sunny picture."

Instead of driving our banks to the brink of bankruptcy through thousands of crores of rupees loan to large size conventional power projects, most of which are known to have become uneconomical already, it is enormously more beneficial to our country (directly because of the financial implications and indirectly because of the environmental and social implications) to provide all possible support to our villagers/farmers to form such energy cooperative societies (to harness one or more of renewable energy sources such as solar, biomass, wind etc), even through adequate subsidies, if needed. Such one off subsidies (supplementing the financial investment from the locals) will be vastly more beneficial to the country instead of loans at 70 to 80% of the project cost ( which in most cases have turned out to be NPAs) to large commercially planned large size conventional technology power projects such as nuclear, or coal or dam based projects because of multiple cost implications to the larger society.

Carefully designed and implemented solar PV systems can also address the cooking and other energy needs of the rural India, which will soon take the form of an enormous problem, if not addressed urgently.

​Such carefully planned/operated energy cooperatives have already recorded replicable success in countries like, Germany where about 900 such cooperatives are reported to be functioning and are associated with considerable benefits to the locals.​ Keeping in objective view India's dismal failure in providing even the minimum lifeline of energy for the rural areas, even after 70 years of independence, the society should seriously consider the concept of such energy cooperatives, which will make the locals independent and even sustainable entrepreneurs, who can not only feed energy back to the grid but also help local communities in their water needs.
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Energy cooperatives in Germany – an example of successful alternative economies?
https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/13549839.2018.1436045?journalCode=cloe20

National Office for Energy Cooperatives
https://www.dgrv.de/en/services/energycooperatives.html
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Such energy cooperatives also have multiple benefits to the entire society in the form of: increased local employment opportunities, voltage profile improvement and hence the minimised energy losses in the national grid, eliminating the need for diverting forest and agricultural lands for power projects, minimising the government's budgetary support every year, reducing the urban migration, rural development etc.

In view of a large number of such examples from the length and breadth of the country on local energy demand/supply models, the people of this country will consider the political decision to continue to divert its meager resources to unnecessary and risky ventures such as conventional technology power projects, as unethical and as a part of corrupt practice.

It will be really unfortunate if the government proceeds in its business as usual practice of helping few individuals/corporates to make unethical profits at the expense of the larger society in preferring nuclear, coal and hydel power projects. Such a policy will be against all sane advices from a number of credible reports from around the world.

​On behalf of the concerned CSOs I urge the Union govt. to promote such energy cooperatives based on renewable energy sources suitable to local conditions in all parts of the country (both rural and urban areas)​ as the most important policy initiative as a critical part of Climate Change action plan.

Regards

Shankar Sharma
Power Policy Analyst
1026, 5th Main Road, E&F Block
Ramakrishna Nagara, Mysore, India - 570022
Phone: ++ 91 821 2462 333 / 94482 72503
shankar.sharma2005@gmail.com
shankar.sharma2005@hotmail.com

Apr 16, 2018