SUSTAINABLE RURAL ELECTRIFICATION: The Fascinating Stories of Dhenkanal District in Odisha and Kongwang Village in Meghalaya

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In the process of finding solutions for sustainable rural electrification, The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) along with a group of research partners, led by De Montfort University, the UK, implemented the ‘Off-grid Access Systems for South Asia’ (OASYS South Asia) project, where a systematic analysis was conducted to develop an off-grid delivery model framework and implement it through demonstration projects in un-electrified villages across different corners of India. These projects include mini-grids, microgrids, and picogrids, providing either AC or DC power to households and shops/ micro-enterprises. One such project is discussed here; where it is employed in the five un-electrified villages lying within the Kandhara Reserve Forest of Dhenkanal district in Odisha, India.

Globally, there are more than 1.3 billion people who do not have access to electricity. Although conventional grid connection has been the predominant mode of electrification, it has however, not been able to successfully reach numerous remotely located regions both in India and in many countries across the globe. In India, many households in grid connected areas do not take connection from the grid mainly due to unaffordability and unreliability of the central grid.

The situation is same for the five villages lying within the Kandhara Reserve Forest of Dhenkanal district in Odisha. These villages, namely the Rajanga village (and its hamlet), Kanaka village, Chadoi village, and Baguli village, were un-electrified as they did not have access to grid.

Steps Taken to Address the Problem

To overcome the problem of access to electricity, OASYS project came into existence. OASYS is an EPSRC/DfID funded collaborative research project focussing on decentralized off-grid electricity generation in developing countries. Owing to the distance between the different villages in the cluster, for each of the five sites, their own power plant was designed.

  • The three larger villages, namely Rajanga, Kanaka, and Chadoi have received AC microgrid (6, 5 and 2.5 kWp) and connected 34, 39, and 32 households as well as public buildings.
  • The other two sites, Baguli village and Rajanga hamlet, were provided with DC micro-grids (400 kWp with 14 and 13 connections, respectively).
  • Each household across all the five villages has been provided with same electricity supply configuration and illumination of two 3 W LEDs and a mobile charging point to ensure equity in service delivery.

The Process

  • The villages being remote and located inside a forest, private developers were not willing to make investment risks in an area that is economically poor and scattered in terms of population and had unpredictable load growth.
  • In this project, a subsidy driven model was used with collaboration of different funding agencies. The project cost was mainly borne by OASYS project and partially supported by the Rural Electrification Corporation (REC), a Government of India enterprise.
  • The community also contributed in kind by way of land for the community hall cum power plant and labour and a token connection cost, which was vital for the project outcome.
  • TERI acted as the main implementing agency for the project, overseeing RE Case Study and coordinating all the activities of all other agencies involved. Using the one-time connection charges (500 per household), a maintenance fund was created to cover rectifications beyond warranty period, especially those caused by natural factors or force majeure and other maintenance needs as per the project requirements.
  • The key stakeholders involved in this regard for the project are Village Energy Committee (VEC) members, Village operators, self-help groups (SHGs), community, and local partner NGO.
  • Each of the stakeholders was given detailed training to run the model on sustained basis. There were other capacity building programmes conducted to spread awareness on the use of energy and agricultural practices and few other general workshops and exposure visits, such as:

» Training of operators: Each power plant is serviced by a village operator who is selected from the community by the VEC and is paid a monthly honorarium. These operators are trained on the operation and minor maintenance (O&M) of the grids and the livelihood appliances.

» Training of SHGs: Four SHGs with membership from all the five villages were identified as potential users and operating groups for the livelihood generating equipment. Capacity building sessions were organized with these SHGs to create awareness on energy issues and generate interest in the proposed livelihood generating opportunities.

» Refresher technical orientation programme for VEC members: The objective of the training was to understand, from the local stakeholders, the type of faults that have occurred since the project commissioning and how they can address these in case it re-occurs.

» Community training programme: In an effort to keep the communities involved in the project and spread awareness on energy use, a series of training and capacity building programmes were conducted during the initial pre-construction phase of the project. Such trainings and programmes covered topics related to training on livelihood activities, O&M of the machines, marketing of local produce, etc.


  • Cluster-based approach for decentralization: In this project, clustering has been seen in terms of institutional clustering wherein the VEC, a single institutional entity was established having representatives from all the villages to operate and manage multiple power plants installed in each village.
  • Choosing both AC and DC systems: During baseline survey, it was found that the number of households in the Rajanga hamlet and Chadoi was limited to 14 and also, these two sites are not very close to the other larger sites where AC power plants were planned. Hence, a DC microgrid was designed to cater to lighting and mobile phone charging demand at these sites instead of extending the AC grid from the larger sites to these smaller sites, which would have been an expensive proposition.
  • Provision for demand growth: The design value per household is taken as 30 W whereas the actual requirement is around 10 W. This has been done to address future increase in demand which may result from enhanced income due to the livelihood generation activities being promoted in the sites.
  • Distribution network and water pumping facility: While, the distribution network in the villages of Baguli, Rajanga hamlet and Chadoi caters to only household and productive loads (if present), the villages of Rajanga and Kanaka also have provided connection facility for water pumping, located at some distance from the households.


After the implementation of theses off-grid plants, the people of these villages have received lots of benefits in their lives such as:

  • Looking at the livelihood appliances installed at the community centre of Rajanga, IRADA (a local partner NGO), also put up six sewing machines in the community centre at Kanaka in order to promote livelihood opportunities.
  • Short-term employment opportunities were created for the community to be involved in the activity of civil construction to set up the power plant infrastructure which helped villagers earn incremental income during the construction phase.
  • Due to the commissioning of this project, the region has become lively. The condition of roads has now improved and connects these villages to other nearby areas.
  • The children are able to study at night which has improved their grades in school.
  • Owing to the connectivity development in the area, people have started coming from other towns and the capital city to buy the organic vegetables grown in these areas, thus, enhancing more income earning opportunities for the villagers.
  • All the households attributed solar lights to the ease in carrying out chores and providing women with more free time. Women utilized this free time for doing household chores and other creative activities, such as stitching and spending time with family.

Source: cases/44-empowering-the-poor-anoasys-story-from-dhenkanal-districtodisha-india.html#affordability