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Moving CLEAN forward: Highlights of the official launch of CLEAN

Moving CLEAN forward: Highlights of the official launch of CLEAN

CLEAN successfully announced its presence to the outside world at the pre-Sankalp Forum event held on the 8th of April at India Habitat Centre in New Delhi. The event, organized as a dialogue between off-grid, clean energy practitioners in India and the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, was graced by Joint Secretary, MNRE, Shri Tarun Kapoor, senior scientists and directors at MNRE, Shri V.K Jain and Shri G. Prasad as well as MNRE scientist Shri Tarun Singh. The Joint Secretary along with Mr ManpreetAnand of USAID, Dr.Arunabha Ghosh of CEEW, Mr. KrishanDhawan of Shakti Sustainable Energy Foundation, Mr. Alay Barah of ICCo India and Mr Ashis Kumar Sahu of CLEAN launched two reports from the CLEAN Strategy Series that you can read here. The two anchor points for the dialogue were policy and financing issues for the off-grid biomass and biogas sector and for the off-grid solar sector. The dialogue on the state of the biomass sector saw a presentation by Mr. Santosh Singh of GIZ India outlining the broad challenges and possible mitigants that apply to this sector:
  1. Operational challenges including supply chain needs to be managed better.
  2. Biogas losing importance as a key source of energy in rural households.
  3. Working capital financing to be made easier.
This was followed by remarks from Shri V.K Jain, director of UNDP Support Programme Group at MNRE:
  1. The government has not lost sight of the off-grid sector and is taking steps to collate information and generate a database for the sector.
  2. Although MNRE is aware of the policy and regulatory issues in the sector, awareness at the state level (state governments, state nodal agencies) is very much required.
  3. There is a need to identify areas where standalone systems can be feasible.
  4. MNRE is also working to benchmark the quality of systems.
The panel discussion was then initiated by Ms. SvatiBhogle of Sustaintech who raised important points related to the clean cookstove segment like the recurring cost of processed fuels which factors into the consumer's decision, the lack of good cookstoves available at different price points and the less discussed gendered aspects of female labour and health. Mr. Manoj Sinha of Husk Power Systems representing the biogas sector spoke about the immense employment generation potential that biogas plants hold and discussed the need for solar-biomass hybrid systems as such systems are more efficient than solar systems with battery backup. Dr. A.V Mohan Rao of SRE Ltd, a waste to energy company spoke about the Compressed Biogas (CBG) project they are undertaking in a village called Warna in Kolhapur district, Maharashtra to supply clean transportation fuel. The moderator Dr S.N Srinivas of UNDP summarized the discussion points and opened the floor for comments and queries. The lack of improved cookstoves awareness among consumers as well as the possibility of exploring large scale hybrid solar-biomass plants were among the key issues raised. The panel on off-grid solar was moderated by Ms. Mani Khurana of World Bank and initiated by Mr. KartikWahi of Claro Energy who highlighted the lack of clarity on policy issues when it came to solar pumping solutions and stressed the need to substitute subsidies with robust financing mechanisms. Mr. Brian Shaad of Mera Gao Powerspoke about the logistical challenges they face while transporting equipment from Delhi to Uttar Pradesh and added to Mr Wahi's point about market distortion through subsidies undertaken by companies under their CSR initiatives. Ms. ShubhraMohanka of Gautam Solarraised significant issues like the impetus that can be given to Indian manufacturers of solar equipment under the Make in India program and the need to view off-grid players as a complementary part of the mainstream grid extension program of the government. The concerns raised by the panelists were ably addressed by Shri Tarun Kapoor of MNRE who stated that skilling and financing remain key issues for the administration and also raised the issue of developing effective communication strategies for the field level to bring about mindset changes in the consumer of off-grid products and services. He highlighted that the government has already cancelled subsidies for grid-connected players while retaining it for the off-grid sector for the next two years. The CEO of CLEAN, Mr. Ashis Kumar Sahu, brought the event to a close by stating that many of the points that were raised fell under the mandate of CLEAN to take up like facilitating skillbuilding or access to finance and expressed the hope that MNRE along with all the off-grid clean energy players in India will guide and support the work that CLEAN has set out to do.
CLEAN successfully announced its presence to the outside world at the pre-Sankalp Forum event held on the 8th of April at India Habitat Centre in New Delhi.
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