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Use of Renewable Energy in Agriculture can be Cost-effective, Says This Expert About 300 million people have no access to electricity and are largely dependent on coal to meet their energy needs

By Baishali Mukherjee

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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As "Make in India' becomes a buzz word, the clean energy sector — synonymous to "renewable energy' i.e. wind, solar, hydro, and geothermal — is gearing up for exploring entrepreneurial opportunities, which lie mostly in the solar and wind segment.

"Made in India opportunities for entrepreneurs in the clean energy sector are numerous," said Subhag Jain, CEO of Kaho India Private Limited, a "Made for India' lithium ion battery-based solar lighting system provider.

In an exclusive interview with Entrepreneur India, Jain enumerated on how government support and ample solar resources have increased solar adoption, what are the entrepreneurial opportunities and challenges in the field and the importance of public and private partnership for the sector.

Clean Energy Provides Entrepreneurial Opportunities to Rural Youth

Pradhan Mantri Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojana, providing free power to all households, is a great entrepreneurial opportunity for the youth of rural India. Launching products like solar television and solar internet will be game changers as they will help students learn new things and will enhance the education system while making the country green.

"Rural youth also have the potential to bring positive changes in the mainstay of the rural economy, i.e. agriculture. Adopting a renewable route to agri-power makes great economic sense, as a significant part of the subsidy to farmers can then be drastically reduced," explained Jain, who is the country's largest contractor for Rural Electrification Corporation (REC) for solar off-grid stand alone systems.

Renewable Electricity Most Suitable for Decentralized Generation and Consumption

India faces both environmental and developmental crisis and the country suffers from chronic energy poverty. Officially, about 300 million people have no access to electricity and are largely dependent on coal to meet their energy needs. Renewable energy is decentralized—sunlight falls everywhere and wind blows over every corner of the earth. This makes renewable electricity most suitable for decentralized generation and consumption.

"The initiative to make country clean through solar and wind power will continue to have a strong growth in coming years. We are witness to the birth of new era in solar television, solar internet and green building – things soon to be operational in almost every household," enthused Jain, whose project targets electrifying 7,000 households in the Naxal affected areas of Chhattisgarh.

Utilization of Clean Energy will Increase in India

According to Jain India is world's fourth largest energy consumer with a large part of the demand being met by importing fossil fuels. "With millions of job and access to high-quality training programmmes supporting the domestic solar and wind manufacturing market, the pace of clean energy utilization in India should be very high, and it is not long before India becomes the world leader in energy sector," he predicted.

Challenges are Daunting

Fact remains that regardless of the variety of innovations, clean energy entrepreneurs face unique challenges beyond the traditional startup lifecycle.

Jain cited "green fatigue', where innovations have failed to be adopted on large commercial scale, premature scaling leading to significant failures owing to lack of education in marketplace and technical due diligence among early investors and lack of funding as the major challenges in the domain.

"These have kept investors perhaps running scared from start-ups in the space. There has been a significant decline in first-time funding in clean energy technology companies, but with government support and partnership the future now looks bright," he enthused.

Pivate-public Partnership to Play Significant Role in Meeting Targets

India has announced plans to have 100 GW solar powers and 60 GW wind energy capacity operational by March-end 2022. The Indian government plans to implement large-scale and small-scale solar and wind energy projects throughout the country through competitive auctions. Private sector companies have also played an important role in expanding India's wind energy capacity.

Jain maintained that the continued participation of public and private sector companies will be essential for achieving the seemingly impossible capacity addition targets set by the Indian government. "Aggressive participation by private companies shall set a strong foundation for the low-carbon growth of India's economy," he asserted.

Clean Energy Sector to See Unprecedented Growth

In India, electricity has not yet reached 45 million rural households. Cost of electricity from solar photovoltaic (PV) is currently a quarter of what it was in 2009 and is set to fall by another 66% by 2040.

According to Jain, India is in a fortuitous position to tap solar energy, with the country receiving 300 days of sunshine. "A major thrust has been put to develop a favourable environment for the growth of the solar sector in the country. The clean energy sector should grow so that electricity can be provided in rural households," illustrated Jain.

Baishali Mukherjee

Former Freelancer

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