ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Solar Energy for Rural Electricity in India

A Misplaced Emphasis

The urban-rural divide in developing countries is reinforced by unequal distribution of resources and amenities. Energy as a resource and electricity as an amenity are no exceptions. In this context, this paper questions the relevance of promoting solar photovoltaic systems for lighting in rural areas. It asserts that the basic electricity needs of rural areas are no different from urban ones, and there is a willingness to pay for reliable supply of electricity. Studies show that solar PV's failure in villages is primarily due to glitches in maintenance, arising from lack of money, materials, and skilled humanpower. The answer would be to give these systems an urban focus, bringing in a more balanced use of solar energy for electrification.

I am grateful to an anonymous reviewer, Dilip R Ahuja, Sudhansu Kumar, Aditi Malhotra, Anasuya Gangopadhyay and V S Ramamurthy for their comments on earlier versions of the paper. I am also thankful to those who gave feedback to a presentation at the Fourth National Research Conference on Climate Change held at IIT Madras during 26-27 October 2013. I thank the South Asian Network for Development and Environment Economics as involvement in one of its projects motivated me to dwell on the subject of this paper.

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