India: â€œAccess to power is a privilege, not a rightâ€
Government in India invested $14bn for their flagship smart cities programme, but entrepreneurs in the country thinks that theyâ€™ve missed some low-hanging fruit.
Indian American theoretical physicist, Ashok Das said that the city-dwellers tend to take electricity for granted, but for the roughly 200 million Indians living off-grid, access to power is a privilege, not a right.
Mr Das also stated that changing consumer behaviour in a big city is a major problem. â€œIt will take decades to build smart cities, but I can get thousands of smart villages done in that time,â€ he says.
In the northern state of Bihar, he visits a family in a non-electrified village near his home town and this triggered his resolve to do something.
“I remember asking my niece, ‘what can I bring you?’ and she said, ‘Uncle, I have everything, just bring me light,'” he says.
India’s green energy sector has a tendency to “sell and run” – high-end equipment is installed, but a lack of maintenance support for remote villages means systems often fall into disrepair, he adds.
Because of this, Mr Das decided to make a smart grid technology that allows the villages entire electrical infrastructure remotely monitored.
Last January, Chhotkei became India’s first smart village powered by the Smart NanoGrid technology developed by his company SunMoksha.
This solar energy became India’s first smart village powered by the Smart NanoGrid technology developed by his company SunMoksha.
The infrastructure is powered by 30KW solar plant and meters and sensors to collect data on energy usage and system health.
Currently, the main focus is the power management, but the system is sensor-agnostic and Mr Das says it could also make villages truly smart by monitoring things like water consumption or environmental factors for agriculture.
The main village is so remote that it relies on a satellite data connection, which is too expensive for general internet use.
But the communications network the system puts in place provides a backbone for future e-governance, telemedicine and tele-education applications, he says.
Lastly, Das concluded “The smart grid acts as a catalyst in the village and then all these other things become possible. The potential is huge.”