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A Kaziranga University Centre of Excellence

Vision: Achieving energy self-sufficiency and energy surplus status for North-East with renewable energy solution.

Background: Currently North East (NE) states have among the lowest per capita electricity consumption rates in the country: more than 50% of the households in NE still do not have access to electricity. In fact, the per capita electricity consumption in the region, about 258 kilowatt hour (kWh) is quite low against the national average of 779 kWh. However, the advent of Renewable Energy (RE) and new technologies as well as recent initiatives bring new hope. Renewable energy is a remedy to multiple problems – it can augment existing power capacity, encourage local manufacturing, control emission levels, as well as support waste management. In the larger context, renewable energy provides low-carbon development pathways to meet the sustainable development goals.

With its considerable RE potential, NE can play a critical and enabling role in India’s goal of becoming a renewable superpower. Local expertise and innovations are going to be critical to realize the RE dream of North East. The academic organizations in NE can become hubs of research and education in RE to create concerted, comprehensive and sustained efforts to realize a 100% RE North-East to make it a role model for the country and the world.  KU-REAL is an effort in that direction.

Challenges: Multiple challenges are involved in realizing a 100% RE dream. These challenges range from building capacity to forming the proper regulatory environment to technical expertise and technology innovation. We outline a few of the major challenges

  1. Environmental Impacts: NE is a bio-diversity hotspot and proper techno-socio-economic impact assessments are important for implementation of RE projects
  2. Resilient Renewable Energy Ecosystem: Successful RE use depends on the availability of a complete and efficient ecosystem comprising of roads, infrastructure, telecommunication and services, which enough resilience to cope up with the variability of renewable energy sources. 
  3. Cost Effectiveness: Difficult terrain, extreme weather and dispersed demand all combine to make the cost of transmission in the NE higher compared to other parts of the country.
  4. Service and Skill: lack of qualified manpower is a challenge in development of an efficient and resilient RE ecosystem in NE
  5. Storage Facilities: Efficient storage to store/supply energy on demand is a critical requirement. This is a technology challenge worldwide, and sustained R&D efforts are required.
  6. Policy Challenges: Formulation of evidence-based policy advocacy for effective regulatory environments and private sector participation also play a crucial role.

Broad Objectives: REAL will adopt a multi-pronged approach to realize its vision with the following broad objectives:

  1. Promotion of Renewable Energy in the North-East
  2. To facilitate and develop RE Ecosystem through training
  3. To generate entrepreneurship and self-employment opportunities through distributed RE
  4. To facilitate technology adaptation for RE for low-carbon development
  5. To design and conduct academic programmes cenred around RE
  6. To create a platform for innovation in RE through collaborations among various stakeholders

Approach: REAL will adopt, invent and innovate various components to create end-to-end RE solutions for different applications. Some of the key areas are outlined below:

Hybrid RE: One of the challenges of RE is its intermittent nature. While proper storage can address this problem to some extent, another solution is to develop proper hybrid, such as solar, wind and biogas so that they together can provide a more steady and sustained power.

Waste-to-­energy (WTE): WTE technologies can play a critical role in achieving safe and integrated solid waste management in an environmentally sound and economically feasible manner.

Domestic RE Units: A major revolution in RE can come through availability of affordable, reliable and user friendly RE installations for domestic use (2-5 KW capacity).

Outcome and Impact: Systematic use of RE can not only dramatically improve the energy situation but can also bring about positive socio-economic transformation. REAL will contribute to and accelerate this transformative process; some of the specific outcomes envisaged are:

Skill Development: A RE network would require a large manpower with skilled and semi-skilled workers. REAL will create a network to ensure availability of proper skill.

MSME-employment ecosystem: As the network for domestic RE installation will be distributed, it will necessitate Small and Medium Enterprises at different locations, thus creating local employment.

Green agriculture: RE can trigger and sustain greener agriculture by enabling installations like solar irrigation systems in remote and open-field areas. For example, irrigation systems that can operate with solar power in remote areas can lead to enhancement of farmers’ income.

There will be other spill-over industries and benefits like road and infrastructure.

Mode of Establishment and Operation: REAL has been conceptualized as a living lab at Kaziraanga University in collaboration with CSIR-NISTADS.  REAL is meant to be a self-sustained facility through various funding, with seed funding of 20 lakhs from KU, along with an annual fund that will vary. REAL will be supervised by a National Advisory Council.

The REAL Team: REAL has been initiated with the following members; additional members will join progressively

  1. Dr Ashwini Sharma, Coordinator, Kahziranga university
  2. Madhulika Bhati, Coordinator, CSIR-NISTADS                                          Web

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