- Clean energy-based livelihood technologies, such as solar refrigerators, biomass-based cold storage, and distributed renewable energy (DRE)-powered machinery, are transforming the lives of rural women in India.
- These technologies, such as solar refrigerators, biomass-based cold storage, and DRE-powered machinery, provide an additional advantage to women farmers and micro-entrepreneurs by increasing income opportunities through mechanisation. However, in order to increase the impact of these technologies, key steps must be taken to reach and empower rural women.
GS-1/ GS-2: Government Policies and Interventions for Development in various sectors and Issues arising out of their Design and Implementation; Role of Women and Women’s Organization
How can the adoption of distributed renewable energy (DRE) technologies aid in the transformation of rural livelihoods in India, with a focus on women’s empowerment, and what steps can be taken to increase their impact from thousands to millions of women?
Renewable Energy Disseminated
- Decentralized and localised energy systems that generate electricity from renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, biomass, or hydropower are referred to as DRE.
- These systems are typically small-scale and designed to provide power to remote and rural areas that are not connected to the main grid or where grid power is unreliable or inadequate.
- DRE systems can be standalone or interconnected, and energy storage technologies are frequently used to ensure a stable and reliable power supply.
- DRE technologies have the potential to transform rural livelihoods and reduce energy poverty while mitigating the environmental impacts of traditional fossil-fuel-based energy systems.
Distributed Renewable Energy Policy Framework Draft
- The Union Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) released a draught policy framework for distributed renewable energy livelihood applications in February 2022.
- The goal of this framework is to create an enabling market ecosystem that will ensure widespread adoption of DRE for long-term livelihood creation in the country.
Women as early adopters of clean-tech livelihood
- CEEW Study Findings: o According to a recent Council on Energy, Environment, and Water (CEEW) study, more than 80% of the 13,000 early adopters of clean-tech livelihood appliances are women.
- Benefits of DRE-powered technologies for Women: o It provides an additional advantage to women farmers and micro-entrepreneurs by increasing income opportunities through mechanisation; o It also frees women from several laborious gender-assigned manual tasks.
- Future Prospects for Women-owned MSMEs:
- By 2030, India is expected to have 30 million women-owned micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) employing approximately 150 million people.
- DRE Livelihood Technology Potential: o DRE livelihood technologies — a $50 billion market opportunity in India alone — have the potential to transform rural livelihoods, with women at the forefront of this transition.
Leveraging Early Adopters
- DRE appliances are perceived as high-risk purchases, particularly by female users who have a lower risk appetite due to socioeconomic factors.
- To overcome this challenge, technology providers must rely on early adopters to share their experiences with potential customers, transforming into demo champions/sales agents who market these products based on first-hand product experience and local credibility.
- People want to touch and see a high-tech, high-ticket-size product before believing in its ability and promised benefits, especially women, who have historically had limited access to new information.
- At an event in Hamirpur, Uttar Pradesh, more than 200 women booked seven appliances on the spot, including solar sewing machines and multi-purpose food processors.
Backward and forward market linkage is encouraged
- Because many rural products have a larger market potential, finding and connecting producers to consumption hubs in urban areas is equally important for generating higher incomes.
- Due to limited mobility and networks outside of their villages, women frequently struggle with established market linkages.
- Collecting women or developing business models that allow them to sell to an intermediary can ensure a consistent revenue stream.
- Reshamsutra, a solar silk-reeling machine manufacturer, is collaborating with local procurement organisations to establish silk cocoon banks and equipment training for female reelers in Chhattisgarh.
Allow for policy convergence
- Because no private sector entity has the kind of reach and scale that government institutions do, leveraging their reach is critical to exponentially scaling up.
- Several Ministries are working to promote women’s livelihoods, ranging from state rural livelihood missions, horticulture and agriculture departments, the Ministry of Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises, and the Ministry of Textiles.
- They should embrace clean energy solutions to advance their respective programmes and outcomes.
- A village of policymakers, investors, financiers, technology promoters, and other ecosystem enablers is required to scale the impact of clean energy solutions on women’s livelihoods.
- We can truly unlock the potential of rural women and clean technologies at the same time by leveraging the experience of early women adopters, organising hyperlocal events and demos, enabling easy financing to purchase products, supporting backward and forward market linkages, and enabling policy convergence.
- In rural India, clean technology is the next big thing, and empowering women through these technologies will transform their lives.