Governments, NGOs and green groups, despite their best intentions, often fail to listen to the wishes of those they are trying to help, particularly when it comes to energy.
A recent example came from a rural Indian village in the state of Kerala who have rejected offers of solar panels, instead asking for connections to the national grid.
Last June, the India’s state of Kerala announced that it was first fully electrified Indian state. An amazing achievement until reports emerged that rural communities continue to live without modern energy access, despite being situated just 60 km from the major port city of Kochi.
To solve this problem, the state government originally gave the villagers solar panels- in the hope this would be enough to meet their energy needs. However, the villagers were not impressed, pointing out that the canopy would be too dense to let in sufficient light to generate electricity.
Previous trials saw 75 families receive solar panels that broke soon after. For these villages, solar panels are a”waste of time” and completely unsuited to their circumstances.
India has made leaps and bounds in the energy sector, following a concerted effort to provide 24/7 power by 2022. Since 2000, the Indian government has brought energy access to half a billion people- the most impressive electrification campaign in history. The vast majority through grid connection using fossil fuels.
Yet, despite all its successes, 239 million still live with little or no access to reliable energy. This small community is just one of thousands across
India who rely kerosene, charcoal and cow dung for their energy needs.
Solar has its place in providing rudimentary energy access, like mobile phone charging, but more often it can only provide a couple hours of electricity a day. Greater access to the grid will make sure that people are able to grow their businesses, power their hospitals, and allow their children to study in the light.