Understanding data to increase clean energy access in rural districts in India

This is a guest post written by Srey Bairiganjan and Pamli Deka from New Ventures India (NVI). In anticipation of New Ventures India’s Report on Energy Access in India, this post presents the method NVI used to analyse and understand the data.  As making data usable and actionable often presents more of a challenge then compiling it, it is interesting to read how NVI go through this process to allow energy access companies to use data effectively.

Girish Lad, who heads VLE India, a leading Village Level Entrepreurs (VLE) network working across 7 states of India, highlights that “Availability of data in order to understand regions is critical for our operations”. Girish further adds “Good data helps us create market segments in regions where we have to sell a particular product type”. However for VLE India and various similar groups working on rural clean energy access, identifying reliable data is difficult. So far, clean energy access companies use the data made available by the census and National Sample Survey Organization.

In order to create tangible benefits and increase clean energy access across rural markets, companies and networks working across rural areas need to understand the socio-economic dynamics of the markets. This can be possible if they have access to solid data on the electrification situation on the ground. From our research and analysis of the socio-economic and un-electrification data, the most ideal regions for clean energy products are the ones with less coverage of the traditional grid-based electricity and that have seen an increase in asset base over a period of time.

In the existing scenario, we do not need to create multiple data sources. Rather we have to understand and distill the available data better so that clean energy access companies can use this data effectively.

Understanding Data: How can existing data be analyzed better?

The census data on lighting tabulated every decade is one of the most credible sources lighting data in India. New Ventures analyzed census data from 2001 to 2011 in order to understand the current situation of lighting across various regions in India. This analysis helps us in understanding the possibility of increasing the access of clean energy products (in particular renewable energy alternatives) in various states. The data also highlights the number of households in every district that currently lack access to electricity.  The census data from 2001 to 2011 was analyzed in two stages.

Stage 1: Un-Electrification Analysis

The data analyzed helps in understanding the districts – across each of the states – where grid coverage has expanded most over the last ten years. This data is provided in the “District-wise Number of Households by Source of Lighting[1]” data sets for 2001 to 2011. In our analysis, we have calculated the percentage of growth in electrified households across each of the districts after analyzing the number of households with access to electricity and without access to electricity. This data set also helps us in understanding:

  • Districts in which solar coverage has expanded the most over the last ten years.
  • Districts which have seen a negative rate of electrification over the last ten years.

Stage 2: Economic Well-Being Analysis

In addition to the lighting data, New Ventures used the census data on “District-wise Number of Households Availing Banking Services and Number of Households Having Each of Specified Asset Viz. Television, Scooter/Motor Cycle/Moped and Car/Jeep/Van in each state” to understand the correlation of growth rates in incomes with un-electrification data. The objective was to find which districts have higher growth rates but still have high extent of un-electrification. The banking, TV and Vehicle data is used as the proxy indicator to show the increase in income and thus purchasing power across all the districts of the states we profiled.

When the two different layers of data are overlayed, we identify the districts where the electrification rate has been low, but which have seen an increase in income over the past 10 years. These are the ideal districts for clean energy access companies to focus on in order to maintain profitability.

Moving Forward: How can this analysis be used?

This analysis can be used by upcoming clean energy access companies to identify districts where they should focus on for their key operations. For existing companies such as Greenlight Planet and others, this data is a means of validating that their operations are in the most relevant districts. Shimul Chaudhuri, the data analyst at Greenlight Planet mentions that the analysis, “Has a remarkable correlation with the ground situation. The top 4 districts in Odisha where we have had the largest impact are also the districts which according to your analysis have the most un-electrification.”

Various telecom tower groups such as Bharti Infratel and others can use this data to map regions that have telecom towers but have less access to electricity. With the availability of mobile across each of the districts, such analysis can also help identify regions of highest importance for telecom tower companies.

What is Next?

New Ventures India is releasing this analysis for public shortly. The current analysis has been done for over 14 states across India including Bihar, Odisha, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Assam, Madhya Pradesh and others. You can read more about the various projects that New Ventures India is doing and keep track on the data analysis project here.

Photo: Courtesy of authors.

[1] Census of India Website

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