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New Delhi: The Centre is likely to extend the scope of its ‘Off-grid Solar PV Applications’ programme to encourage small businesses in semi-urban and rural areas to go solar.

According to two people aware of the development, the ministry of new and renewable energy is looking at expand the ambit of the programme to include solar looms, solar dryers and solar ‘charkha’ (spinning wheel) .

Under the programme, the Centre provides financial support to help set up solar powered street lights, study lamps and water pumps among others.

“The expansion of the scheme is in line with the government’s plans to promote decentralized renewable energy livelihood applications," said one of the people cited above, adding that 30% of the benchmark cost would be borne by the Centre.

The other person said a proposal has been sent to the union ministry of finance for expanding the scheme, and an approval is expected soon.

Queries sent to the ministries of new and renewable energy and finance remained unanswered at press time.

‘Off-grid’ refers to using solar power from sources other than the power grid. The scheme is aimed at providing solar PV-based applications in areas where grid power is either not available or is unreliable. Applications such as home lighting, street lighting, power plants, water pumps, lanterns and study lamps are covered under the programme.

Under the National Solar Mission, a target of 2000 MWp was kept for off-grid solar PV applications. Under phase-I of the mission from 2010-13, a target of 200 MWp was kept against which 253 MWp was sanctioned. Under the phase-II from 2013–17, a target of 500 MWp was kept against which 713 MWp has been sanctioned. Under phase-III, a target of 118 MW has been kept.

The Centre also provides support for installing solar pumps under PM KUSUM scheme and solar home lights are installed under ‘Saubhagya’ scheme of the ministry of power.

The inclusion of more products under the off-grid solar programme follows the announcement of the framework for promoting decentralised renewable energy (DRE) livelihood applications last year. According to the framework, DRE-powered livelihood solutions have the potential to reduce and eventually eliminate the reliance of livelihood on diesel, particularly in rural settings, and can supplement power supply from the grid.

The framework stresses the scaling up the currently available DRE livelihood applications and support development of such new applications. The Centre has also raised the budget for off-grid solar to 361.50 crore for the next fiscal (FY24), from 61.50 crore from FY23.

The focus on these livelihood applications has also gained significance in the backdrop of the government’s target of net zero carbon emission by 2070.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Rituraj Baruah
Rituraj Baruah is a senior correspondent at Mint, reporting on housing, urban affairs, small businesses and energy. He has reported on diverse sectors over the last six years including, commodities and stocks market, insolvency and real estate. He has previous stints at Cogencis Information Services, Indo-Asian News Service (IANS) and Inc42.
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Updated: 21 Mar 2023, 11:57 PM IST
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