NGOs like Light up the World can be more agile than any governmental organization and work quickly to solve very pointed problems in a wide variety of fields. They can be useful in the effort to bring electricity to rural India as they can focus wholly on that goal regardless of profitability or likelihood of success. Because governmental organizations must obsess over successful outcomes in order to avoid being viewed as boondoggles and thus having their funding cut, they are focused on proven technologies, proven methods and lower-hanging fruit. This is why the RGGVY and REC are focused on bringing power to rural India the same way power has been brought to most other parts of the world. It is also why USAID is focused nearly entirely on increasing efficiency in the current electrical system in India. These large institutions follow the safest route, while NGOs may push to use unproven technologies and methods to solve a problem they find so important that they will take great risks in order to reap great rewards.
In the case of rural electrification in India, the problem is too great to be solved by NGOs that rely on donations to function and exist. The Indian government has clearly demonstrated its dedication to solving this issue and they fully recognize the energy security threat as well as humanitarian issue that a lack of rural electrification presents. Because of this recognition, the Indian government has brought significant resources to bear on the issue, however they are doing so in an overly conventional and non-holistic way. Through the RGGVY and the REC, the central government has decided to solve its rural electrification problem by simply adding power lines and generation with the hopes that the sheer amount of money and resources utilized will solve the issue. In doing so they ignore the importance of the Naxalite threat in Jharkhand, the ecological fragility and remoteness of Assam, the corruption and population shifts in Bihar, the low population density in Orissa and the extreme weather of Uttar Pradesh.
While a standard solution with enough force and resources behind it may bring electricity to all of rural India, holistically crafted and specifically pointed solutions designed with care to the needs and resources available in each of the five states in question can be as successful as a more conventional plan. Not only can it be as successful, but it can be done more efficiently through avoiding building unnecessary infrastructure, and done more sustainably by using lower carbon and more renewable resources.
No matter how rural India becomes electrified, the situation in India will improve as more people have more access to electricity. It will diffuse the migration bomb that has caused a population explosion in urban centers. That will in turn increase health security by preventing the explosion of population density in poor conditions which as they are, are breeding grounds for diseases. Health conditions will also improve as rural Indians stop burning fossil fuels indoors for lighting which causes a variety of lung and eye issues. Rural electrification will reduce the poverty gap between urban and rural areas by encouraging more development which will lead to an increase in social stability. And finally, this will also sap some of the power from the Naxalite rebels as recruitment will be more difficult in areas where people have hope for economic advancement and a sense of indebtedness to the national government for giving them that chance.
There are a variety of ways India's rural population can receive access to electricity and the Indian government, NGOs and foreign aid will all play some role in solving this problem. However, the Indian government's role is paramount in crafting and implementing this solution. They have committed themselves to a conventional solution, although a less conventional one may be more effective, but as long as they commit to a solution and rural electrification increases the nation will still reap the benefits of a stronger energy security situation.
I hope you have enjoyed the last several posts on rural electrification of India. I will take a short, one or two post break before I do my next posting series. The next series will be an in depth look on the oil and caviar industries of the Caspian Sea