India’s solar power plan helps women

- Reuters, KAMLAPUR (India)

Feb 13, 2018-In her village of Komalia, the fog swirls so thick at 7 am that Akansha Singh can see no more than 15 metres ahead. But the 20-year-old is already cycling to her workplace, nine kilometers away.

Halfway there she stops for two hours at a computer training centre, where she’s learning internet skills. Then she’s off again, and by 10 am reaches the small garment plant where she stitches women’s clothing.

Solar energy powers most of her day—the computer training centre and the 25-woman garment factory run on solar mini-grid electricity—and clean power has given her personal choice as well, she said.

If the mini-grid system had not been put in place, Singh—a recent college graduate without funds to pursue training as a teacher, the only job open to women in her village—would have had no alternative but to marry, she said.

In fact, “I would already be married off,” she said.

Today, however, she earns 4,500 rupees a month working on solar-powered sewing machines. She uses part of that to pay 300 rupees a month for her computer education class. Like her, most of the women at the factory earn between 2,500 and 4,500 rupees a month, which has helped their families eat better, get children to school and pay for healthcare, they said.

“With a month’s earning alone we can buy new bicycles for ourselves and our school-going children,” Bandana Devi, a mother of four, said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced a $2.5 billion plan to electrify every Indian household by 2019—a huge task in a country where close to 240 million people still have no access to power.

Solar power—including the use of small local grids- is likely to be a big part of the push, with 60 percent of new connections expected to be to renewable power, according to a report by the International Energy Agency.

Published: 13-02-2018 08:04

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