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Roadmap of Solar Energy for Universal Energy Access


The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) and the International Solar Alliance jointly revealed the ‘Roadmap of Solar Energy for Universal Energy Access’ report during India’s G20 presidency in 2023. The report highlights the significant contribution of solar energy in achieving electricity access and delivering socio-economic advantages on a global scale. It centers on achieving Universal Energy Access by 2030 and emphasizes the importance of solar mini grids as sustainable energy solutions. The unveiling took place during the 4th G20 Energy Transition Working Group in Goa.


GS III: Indian Economy

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Key Highlights of the Report on Solar Energy for Universal Energy Access
  2. Solar Mini-grids: Empowering Communities with Sustainable Electricity
  3. Challenges in Deploying Solar Energy for Universal Energy Access

Key Highlights of the Report on Solar Energy for Universal Energy Access

  • Emphasis on Solar Energy: The roadmap identifies solar energy as a crucial solution to achieve Universal Energy Access by 2030, addressing electricity needs globally.
  • Electrification Targets: Approximately 59% of the unelectrified population (396 million people) can be served through solar-based mini-grids, while 30% (203 million people) through grid extensions, and the remaining 11% (77 million people) through Decentralized Renewable Energy solutions.
  • Investment Requirements: To accomplish the electrification goals, a total investment of around USD 192 billion is required, distributed among solar-based mini-grids, decentralized renewable energy solutions, and grid extensions.
  • Viability Gap Funding: Approximately 50% (USD 48.5 billion) of the investment needs viability gap funding to support the deployment of mini-grids.
  • Addressing Challenges: The roadmap stresses the importance of tackling challenges related to policies, regulations, and financial risks to ensure successful and sustainable scaling up of solar energy solutions.
  • Skill Development and Awareness: Technical and financial expertise, skill development, and awareness creation are essential in energy access-deficit regions to drive effective electrification initiatives.
  • Advocating for Investments: The report calls for increased investments, ecosystem development, and optimal resource utilization to accelerate progress towards universal energy access.
  • Solar PV-based Cooking Solutions: Integration of solar PV-based cooking solutions with electrification initiatives is emphasized to enhance energy access in remote and underdeveloped areas.

Solar Mini-grids: Empowering Communities with Sustainable Electricity

  • Solar mini-grids are small-scale electricity generation and distribution systems utilizing solar photovoltaic (PV) technology, storing electricity in batteries.
  • They are designed to provide reliable and affordable electricity to communities lacking access to the main power grid or experiencing frequent power outages.
Addressing Energy Access Challenges:
  • Approximately 9% of the global population lacks access to electricity, with Sub-Saharan Africa and rural areas facing the greatest impact.
  • Solar mini-grids present a vital solution to bridge this gap and offer sustainable energy to underserved communities.
  • They can also power clean cooking solutions, benefiting the over 1.9 billion people without access to clean cooking.
Advantages of Solar Mini-grids:
  • Solar energy, coupled with energy storage, provides reliable electricity even during disasters or outages.
  • Being clean and renewable, solar energy helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions and combat climate change.
  • The scalability of solar mini-grids allows adjustment based on community energy demand, offering flexibility.
Affordability and Economic Viability:
  • Solar energy is a cost-effective alternative to expensive diesel generators in remote regions with high fuel transportation costs.
  • It offers a sustainable and economically viable solution to reduce electricity expenses.
  • Support through Feed-in Tariffs and tariff restructuring encourages the deployment of decentralized solar.
  • Anticipated battery cost reduction through large-scale procurement further drives solar mini-grid development.

Challenges in Deploying Solar Energy for Universal Energy Access

  • Lack of Supportive Policies and Regulations: The absence of enabling policies and regulations hinders the widespread deployment of solar energy for universal energy access, creating barriers for implementation.
  • Equipment Manufacturing and Execution Challenges: Challenges in equipment manufacturing, on-ground execution, and maintenance need to be addressed to ensure sustained affordability and efficiency of solar energy systems.
  • Dust Accumulation on Solar Panels: Dust accumulation on solar panels can reduce their output by up to 30% in a month, necessitating regular cleaning. However, current water-based cleaning methods consume large amounts of water, and waterless methods are labor-intensive and can cause scratching.
  • High Financial Risks in Underdeveloped Regions: High financial risks in underdeveloped regions increase project costs for developers, making it challenging to bridge the gap between consumer affordability and supplier viability.
  • Need for Technical and Financial Expertise: There is a need for more technical and financial expertise to effectively implement and maintain solar mini-grids, ensuring their long-term success and sustainability.

-Source: Indian Express

December 2023