Decentralised Energy Systems India Pvt. Ltd. (DESI Power)

DESI Power was started in 1996 for setting up of renewable energy based decentralized power plants to provide electrical power and energy services in rural  areas and create jobs in villages in India. The encouraging experience gained during the first decade from pilot plant and field testing projects led to the start of EmPower Partnership  Program in 100 villages in Araria district. This program was registered under CDM mechanism of UNFCCC but for several reasons not enough CERs were ever generated to warrant registering them.

Since its inception DESI Power has been promoting, building and operating decentralised power plants, mini-grids and energy services in villages as a part of its EmPower Partnership Projects.

November 2013: Recapitulation of the history, by H. N. Sharan

Conceptualisation, Adaptation and Application of a Decentralised Integrated Rural Development Model driven by Local Electricity Generation and Job Creation

* Gandhiji’s village self-reliance model.
* Experience of living in the Swiss democratic system based on village-level self-governance.
* Confidence in developing, adapting and applying technologies.

* Opportunity to actively participate in formulation of policies & strategies in the Indian energy sector at the top national level and take a lead in the implementation of national coal and RET technology development programs at their very beginning.

* Poor technical and financial performance of the national Rural Electrification Program based on centralised grid: lack of focus on productive applications of electricity in villages and lack of impact on poverty alleviation.  

* Problems of fossil fuels: rising costs; energy security; pollution; climate change.
* Frustration at the unchanging face of Indian villages.
* Support of Co-promoters and a large number of external organisations, villagers and other groups & individuals.

Key Elements of the Model:
* Key role of villagers in village projects.
* Use of local resources to generate electricity, energy services and jobs & regular income.
* Keeping a big part of the value addition within the village economy.
* Renewable energy resources and technologies as the driver of development.
* Research, development, design, adaptation and field testing of technologies, plants and equipment to make them suitable for local operation, maintenance and management by trained villagers. 
* Simultaneous investment in power generation and distribution as well as electricity-consuming and value-adding enterprises and businesses.
* Energy services for irrigation, lighting and clean cooking. 
* Village level optimisation of village projects using standardised modules to meet local conditions and needs. 
* Training and capacity building of villagers, with focus on women, to take responsibility for all levels of staffing and management.

Policy Framework Needed for Implementing this Model on a large scale

 * A national policy framework to utilise subsidies to directly finance productive and self-supporting rural economic development: the role of Panchayats as a district-level planning and implementation instrument for “bottom-up plus top-down”  policy making and governance.

* A national policy framework for a Decentralised Energy Sector for rural power, energy and enterprise-development. Implementation as basically private sector enterprises supported by national and state level laws and policies, incentives, and subsidies to create a level playing field vis-à-vis the centralised sector. 

* Climate Change: a win-win solution to reduce CO2 emissions through RET-based energy services for about 600 million Indians with corresponding large scale reduction of coal-based generation and universal diesel substitution. 

Implementation of the Program: Evolution, Adaptation and Learning 

Germination of the concept: villages / solar and biogas / limited applications (footnote 1).
Renewable energy technology development and assessment period. Solar thermal / solar PV / biogas (footnote 2).
Demonstration Project Proposal: Recommendations for UN Centre for Human Settlements (footnote 3). 
Selection of biomass gasification as top priority RET for rural development.
1992- 2006: 
Formation of DESI Power. First plant built in Orchha (and the second one in  Switzerland!).

Pilot Phase. Establishing Biomass Gasifier Technology. Biomass gasifiers and power plants: design, testing, pilot plants, manufacturing, costing, field experience. 

Experience of O&M of 9 power plants in different locations in India with dual fuel engines; village solutions re  organisation and management; micro-enterprises; energy and water services; training and capacity building; DESI Power management.

2004–2009: Focus on one location for improved management. Testing, trouble-shooting and O&M of gas engines. Establishment of micro-grids for pumping, lighting and businesses. Problem of funds for micro-enterprises to provide adequate loads needed for profitability. Problems of finding trained staff and managers.

Winning World Bank Development Market Place competition award. Start of EmPower Partnership Program.

2006: Setting up DESI MANTRA for training and capacity building of villagers, especially women, for all levels of staffing. 

2010  -  :  *Partnership with Rockefeller Foundation for launching “Smart Power for Environmentally-sound Economic Development (SPEED)” to promote rural projects with telecom towers as anchor loads. 

*Development of hybrid-power plants integrating biomass, biogas and PV. 

*Building EmPower partnership projects in new villages in Araria district and supporting new projects of other SPEED partners in other locations in India. 

 *Setting up DESI Gramudyog to organise micro-grids, energy plantations, biomass management, clean cooking, PV roof-top systems and PV tiny-grids  as village businesses. Testing of power supply to telecom towers and negotiations for PPAs. 

*Gradual improvement of profitability of power plants to reach the goal of large scale commercialisation. 

*Planning and development of new village projects.
*Implementation of Gramudyog projects. 
*New technology and project development partnerships.   
*Search for financing mechanisms and investors not only for power plants but for energy services and local enterprises. 

*Strengthening the role of DESI MANTRA Training Centre in Araria for intensified training and capacity building with regular refresher courses and mentoring. 

(1) An Integrated Energy System for Rural Applications by H. N. Sharan, presented at an International Conference in Varese, Italy, 1979. 

(2) Dasag Selected RET References
(3) Decentralised Rural Energy Supply  Systems (DRESS). Proposal for UNCHS. 1985

June 2015 - June 2017:

Tiny Grids for Very Basic Electricity Needs: The purpose of this project is to build 40 1.2 kW PV Tiny Grids (TGs) and in the course of the first year’s operation examine the social, environmental, technical, commercial and logistical feasibility of providing electricity from TGs for very basic electricity needs (lighting, mobile charging and irrigation water) in Araria District, Bihar, India. The results will be written up in the course of the second year of the project in a Business Plan for 1000 TGs. The project is funded by the Swiss government inter-ministerial support platform Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Promotion in International Cooperation - REPIC. The REPIC platform’s primary goal is to promote know-how and technology transfer of renewable energies and energy efficiency in developing and transition countries. The total project cost of this project is SFR 340852 of which REPIC is contributing SFR 146176.