Over 1.6 billion people have no access to electricity and more than 2 billion people rely on wood and dung for fuel consumption. (U. Fritsche, F.Matthes, World Summit papers of H. Böll Foundation No 22, 2003) As agreed on the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg 2002, the United Nations Plan of Implementation states that “…access to energy facilitates the eradication of poverty”. It continues, “the access to reliable, affordable, economically viable, socially acceptable and environmentally sound energy services and resources” should be improved “through various means, [including] enhanced rural electrification and decentralised energy systems, increased use of renewables, …”
Energy supply – a poverty-related basic needs service
Access to electricity constitutes the basis for a minimum standard of living. It is fundamental to social and economic development and plays a vital role in improving equal gender opportunities. It also enables the deprived to improve their quality of life. Basic electricity supply for household and handicraft is thus a key component of poverty-oriented basic needs services.
Particularly in remote mountainous areas (such as the Himalayas Region) people often live under extreme conditions. The harsh climate in high-altitudes, limited available natural resources and the remote location of most villages make life challenging.
The subsistence agriculture is primarily aimed at surviving the long winter periods. The highly limited existing income sources hinder the poor population’s access to basic services such as electricity supply, and restrict adequate participation in “normal” economic life.
Due to the remoteness of most villages, the majority of settlements are not connected to a central power grid. The lack of economic opportunities leads to large scale migration.
Conventional local and governmental energy supply concepts often fail to reach the population in remote areas. BORDA seeks to bridge this deficiency by
The aim of BORDA energy supply projects is to provide access to electricity for all households within a project village (e.g. for evening lighting). This changes the investment cost-benefit analysis for local SMEs. The willingness of the target group to actively participate in the project realisation is essential for the sustainability of these measures and is a precondition for project implementation.
Even though the people developed strategies for survival, the long and cold winters are always extremely challenging. Energy for heating and light is scarce.
Limitations of centralized energy supply systems
Local and state governments in developing countries show little effort in supplying remote rural areas with electricity. This is mainly due to the difficulty in connecting these areas with a centralized power grid. Therefore, centrally operated and government-run systems are often limited to the larger urban areas.
Conventional diesel generators represent a problematic solution for rural electricity supply:
Efforts to provide an electricity supply to remote mountainous villages using diesel generators face numerous challenges, as the necessary supply chain activities in these locations incurs costs and risks that are too high for most users to bear.
A Viable Alternative
As centralized power supply systems often fail to reach the remote areas and diesel generators have a number of (previously discussed) shortcomings, decentralized energy supply with Micro Hydro Turbines MHT (capacity 1kW to 20 kW) represent an attractive option for electrification in mountainous areas.
Successes in India, Vietnam and P.R. China
In 1988 BORDA started the dissemination of poverty-oriented, decentralized energy supply systems in remote areas of Ladakh, (Jammu & Kashmir, India) and is now also active in Vietnam and P.R. China.
Continuous improvements of technical components and the development of an appropriate and demand based service provider concept make the Micro Hydro Power Concept (MHPC) a sustainable decentralized energy supply system. BORDA’s engagement in disseminating this concept is based on surveys and feasibility studies.
Capacity building and training for partner organisations
‘Good Practices’ are first introduced by pilot or demonstration projects. Training requirements, user demands and regional considerations must be paramount. Results are then integrated as options into the further dissemination
Characteristics of Micro Hydro Turbines:
BORDA has developed a range of technical options that adapt the technology to user demands and topographic conditions:
For the socio-economic development BORDA provides various options of machines to improve production and therefore increase income of small-scale home industries: carpentry machines, electric saws, wood lathes, spinning machines and flour grinding mills.
The Micro Hydro Turbine is a device for electricity generation that is powered by the water forces of mountain rivers and streams. The water is usually taken from a lateral irrigation channel nearby. Only a fraction of the water is required for power generation, thereby not impairing irrigation systems.
The turbine itself is installed in a small power house. The energy which drives the turbine originates from a strong water flow in a penstock pipe. The turbine is connected to a generator and operated via a control board. A small power grid connects the generator with the users. Components for MHT-units are produced in Vietnam, China and India.
Informing key stakeholders
Early information to key stakeholders is vital to ensure continuous support for the program on a macro-level.
Users/communities are informed and choose technical options and service models.
Project planning includes technical and socio-economic feasibility studies, construction design and legal aspects.
BORDA experts facilitate training programs for qualified staff of partner organizations to strengthen capacities of the local service provider.
To ensure high quality standards, major tasks are carried out by qualified experts. User participation in construction work reduces costs and generates ownership identification among beneficiaries. User committees are trained by experts for sustainable O&M.
Internal and external evaluations ensure the quality of the service provider system and help improve performance.
With the distribution of financial investment across stakeholders, cost efficiency is increased; furthermore, O&M can be financed by user fees.
The international BORDA network facilitates further dissemination (knowledge transfer, trainings, conferences, cooperation between experts from partner organisations).
Effective, efficient and sustainable basic needs service solution for decentralized energy supply
Improvement of livelihoods for marginalized people
Additional income generated by fostering small-scale home industries, e.g. agro processing, spinning and carpentry
O&M is covered by fees, managed by user committees and guaranteed by trained local operators
Capacity-building in technical, social and management competence e.g. training programs for handicraft production, facilitation of community workshops
Reinforcement of self-determination of user communities
Decrease of rural migration
Eco-friendly through utilization of renewable energy
Impacts are gender neutral as male and female benefit equally