Women from rural India adopt clean energy-based technologies to enhance their livelihoods. From solar refrigerators to silk-reeling devices and biomass-based cold storage systems to milk chillers, decentralised renewable energy (DRE) is changing women’s lives and making them empowerment.
How can Decentralised Renewable Energy Help Rural Women?
Rural women were used to collecting wood and residue fuels for household chores. They often produce biomass fuels in their home gardens and protect lands by maximising the sustainable production of various forestry products. However, deforestation is generally due to market coercion to fulfil fuel demands in urban and industrial regions, agricultural clearing, and overgrazing. It directly affects the effort and time required for women to harvest biomass fuels. As well as a reliable electricity supply is one of the major barriers for rural micro-enterprises. Intermittent electricity supply has a negative effect on productivity and shows lower income generation by industries.
DRE-powered applications, solar dryers, solar mills, biomass-powered cold storage, solar charkha and loom, biomass pellet-making machines, and others are solutions for renewable energy which are making women empowered. It also raises their incomes, enhances livelihood and reduces CO2 emissions to have proven social, environmental and financial advantages.
1A report by CEEW, a research institute in New Delhi, suggested that India’s rural economy can benefit from a $50 billion market opportunity by employing renewable energy sources for their livelihood activities in rural areas, especially among women. Also, over 75% of all female workers in India are in agriculture and agri-allied industries such as food processing and livestock. 2Out of the 13,000 early adopters of clean-tech appliances, more than 80% are women. Distributed renewable energy (DRE)-powered technologies provide an additional advantage to women farmers by enhancing income options. They are also now free from several gender-assigned manual works that are harsh and laborious.3 India is predicted to witness 30 million women-owned MSMEs employing around 150 million people by 2030.
Decentralised renewable Energy Innovations to Boost Rural Incomes –
The first task of DRE in rural India was to provide basic electricity needs. However, the next frontier is to provide productive applications in the rural ecosystem. Solar pumps, solar dryers, solar-powered micro cold storage, and solar-powered sewing machines are already installed in rural areas.
Solar cold refrigerators – 4Small-scale industries operating in rural areas that face inconsistent or no electricity have an unmet need for cooling appliances. They require cold storage or machines to ensure the freshness of dairy, poultry, and meat products. Solar refrigerators offer a viable solution for this. Based on the demands, various capacity fridges can be used ranging from 100 litres to 240 litres. These fridges function on a relatively low wattage and consume power as low as 0.1KWh per day. Adding solar fridges in small-scale companies will enable them to maximise their sales and profits and significantly increase income.
5For instance, as a part of State’s Government initiative, approximately 4000 women across villages in Uttar Pradesh earn a livelihood by spinning yarn using solar charkhas. Furthermore, India has recently added over 10 GW of solar PV and significantly contributed to generating jobs.
What are the challenges that women face?
- Perception of high risk: DRE appliances’ high price and newness increase risk perception, mainly for women users who may have a lower risk appetite due to socio-economic aspects.
- Common opinion: Due to historical restrictions on women’s access to new info or technologies, people wanted to touch and see high-priced advanced DRE products before acknowledging their abilities and advantages.
- Restricted local network: Women struggle with established market linkages because of their limited mobility and networks outside their villages.
How can we scale the impact of DRE technology from thousands of women to millions of them –
The renewable energy market is already initiating jobs across rural India. However, 6policymakers, sectoral associations, and government support are crucial for rural women to understand the scope of employment this sector offers. Furthermore, providing training and feedback is essential to upskill the workforce and make them job-ready for an advanced renewable energy sector in the coming years. There is also a need to launch initiatives at a pan-India level to promote the concept of DRE in rural areas.