Bengaluru, May 17, 2017 – CSR spending in India is on the rise. Over the last two years, Indian companies have invested over Rs. 15,000 crore in CSR activities, as increasing number of companies are consciously taking part in improving their investment in the social sector to meet the mandated 2 per cent of profit spend encouraged by The Companies Act, 2013. Much of the spending was directed into the spaces of education, healthcare, environmental sustainability, skills development and sanitation - some of India's most prioritised areas of improvement.
CSR activities enabling sustainable energy solutions in power-starved areas are some of the most impactful growth enablers for communities. The upcoming shift towards renewable energy can be a major boon for rural electrification, which not only reduces communities' dependency on the grid, but also ensures that they remain self-sustainable in the long-term. However, a focus on impact is shedding light on some of the major issues faced by these projects - cost-cutting, insufficient design and implementation expertise of teams, lack of end-user involvement, shortcomings in on-the-ground value creation and effectiveness of solutions, along with longevity and sustainability of projects.
Mukundan 'Mux' Narasimhan, Managing Director and CEO, PlaySolar Systems Private Ltd, highlights these roadblocks as a cause for concern, not only for the community, but also for the future of the renewable energy industry.
"The current CSR funded rural projects are flooded with solutions pestered with low quality, low reliability, inherent energy variations and poor maintenance issues. There is a significant loss of trust and faith of communities in enabling sustainable energy technologies as an answer to their problems. Robust solutions, which build the trust of the community while adding tangible value to the end-users' livelihood, are necessary to enable the scale of impact that is the need of the hour in India right now," says Mux.
PlaySolar is actively driving clean energy adoption in various sectors with their easily implementable and economically feasible solutions. Their solutions are customised based on the requirements, be it for rural environments, the agricultural sector, or even for domestic and commercial spaces. Every PlaySolar solution is integrated with their unique cloud based asset monitoring system CloudSolTM, which compliments equipment performance, and improves the overall impact that the solutions have on the community, by implementing real time data acquisition, analytics, and rule based alerts and actions.
"Our One Touch Play solutions are simple, smart, flexible, and yet affordable and reliable solutions, with remote monitoring controls and active demand management. Our design philosophy of maintaining overall system quality by focusing on product, material, construction and OEM quality has helped us achieve this," says Mux.
Recently, the company worked with Energicity, which through its subsidiary Black Star Energy, builds, owns, and operates solar mini-grids to provide electricity to villages not connected to the grid in Ghana.
"We have just completed electrifying our 7th village by setting up mini-grids, and PlaySolar has been instrumental in helping us, by providing material supply, as well as technical support. They have helped us bring down our costs to provide electricity at an affordable rate to our customers," says Joe Philip, VP Engineering and Operations, Energicity. The installed mini-grids ranged from anywhere between 3 kW to 25 kW.
Another such project involved PlaySolar collaborating with Mlinda Foundation , an organisation working in the field of solar electrification in rural areas, to empower women, in the village of Pasanga, in Jharkhand's Gumla District, by encouraging them to set up small-scale rice hulling enterprises. Women now buy paddy from local farmers at market rates, and hull it using electric rice huller machines, powered by the newly installed mini-grid. They then sell the freshly hulled rice at market rates, which is twice the rate of paddy, and the rice husk, which forms an additional stream of income.
Energy solutions, like solar, can be integrated with and various CSR activities in the rural sector; the possibilities are endless. Apart from homes, and small-scale industries, solar solutions can be used to compliment the energy requirements of schools and hospitals, which can in turn become models to be emulated elsewhere. CSR activities are powerful game-changers for disadvantaged communities. Their focus on giving back must not be on meeting mandated financial requirements for the activities, but on enabling long term sustainability and impact.