India is pursuing national electrification at a breakneck pace, but in order for last-mile connectivity to become a reality for all Indians, better coordination is needed between grid operators and private mini-grid ESCOs, according to a new report.
The report, “Beyond Off-Grid: Integrating Mini-grids with India’s Evolving Electricity System”, puts forward four suggestions to support the move toward what it called “an integrated multi-scale electricity system”.
- Partnerships between mini-grid operators and large technology providers to reduce interconnection costs would be valuable and signal confidence to policy-makers/regulators on the quality of mini-grid infrastructure.
- Mini-grid ESCOs need to continue to innovate their business models and engage policy-makers and regulators to get greater alignment on the economics of reliable, decentralized energy.
- Greater support should be given to interconnection pilots currently happening in India. This experimentation can inform implementation guidelines and build confidence among DISCOMs and regulators on the feasibility of operationalizing mini-grid interconnections.
- Establish national guidelines for intentional islanding of interconnected mini-grids. Much of grid unreliability in rural India is from unpredictable load shedding. Interconnected mini-grids provide greater stability in rural areas with intentional islanding. Current guidelines and policies do not address this in India, while international standards for intentional islanding do exist and simply need to be customized for local conditions.
“Together, these four recommendations will substantially accelerate the integration of mini-grids and the legacy grid in a way that is beneficial to both the public sector and private players in the electricity sector, and most of all, to the millions of customers whose aspirations to reliable energy remain to be fulfilled,” the report said.
The report identified 5 interconnection models between mini-grids and the grid. India’s government has targeted 10,000 mini-grids in 5 years. The country’s largest mini-grid initiative, Smart Power India, recently surpassed its 100th power plant.