• Non-ICIMOD publication


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Rural microgrids - 'Tragedy of commons' or 'community collective action'

  • Hippu Salk Kristle Nathan
  • Soumya Deep Das
  • Anantha Padmanabhan Ps
  • Summary

Providing universal electricity access is India?s national priority and part of its global commitment to sustainable development. India has an increasing urban-rural gap in electricity consumption. Microgrids can evolve as a viable solution, especially for last-mile connectivity in rural areas. Through a field survey, this paper evaluates the functioning and governance of solar microgrid projects in eight villages of Komna Block in the eastern province of India. These projects were hailed for their holistic implementation with a significant portion of the budget invested in governance aspects. However, the field survey showed that most of these projects were dysfunctional and had suffered from the ?tragedy of commons?, where people over-exploit a common resource leading to its collapse. One of the projects, which was functional, reflected ?community collective action?, where people cooperate to manage the system. An analysis of these projects revealed that, for the sustainability of microgrids, it is imperative to acknowledge energy aspirations of rural households, to develop the capacity of the local youth for microgrid maintenance, to have a governance based on the common-pool resource theory, and to have complementarity with the main grid. The study also examined the inconsistencies in the definition of microgrids and proposed a forward-looking definition for the global south.