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Friday, September 23, 2005

Power to the people

The debate on how the empower rural populations is as convoluted as a plate of pasta. On one hand it is clear that to expand the grid to cover the current unserved population is a slow and expensive process for many reasons including the cost of putting up the network as well as the environment damage of virtually all forms of power generation. The solution from this perspective is to concentrate populations (in a urban setting) and provide infrastructure that is paid for by the population. On the other hand the congestion in cities clearly indicates that urban migration has to be slowed if not reversed for many more reasons. Clearly decentralized power production at the community and household level is one bright ray of hope that can address both the issues above and provide urgently required resources to the unserved rural population. The challenges are manifold starting with rural affordability and government will. All governments exist for control and the thinking from Neheruvian days has been on centralized control of all vital resources. For India to break out of this a new thrust in decentralized power generation and management using Solar, Wind and biomass is required. Lets hope that need will force the political class to pass legislation in this direction given the limited hydro power capacity available and the problems India is already facing in coal fired generation.

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