With more than 1 billion inhabitants, 1.5 metric tons of CO2 emissions per capita (the equivalent to CO2 emissions from 168 gallons of gasoline), and 44% of whom lack access to electricity, India faces enormous energy, development, and environmental challenges. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the country’s 125,000 sprawling rural villages that either lack access to a power grid or are connected but experience unreliable and inconsistent electricity supply.
Across the country, inhabitants rely on kerosene to light homes and diesel generators to power businesses – depriving families and small business owners of valuable income and producing harmful CO2 emissions and health-damaging pollution. With dynamic innovation, financial support, and a copious local supply of rice husk, an upstart American company is making a significant impact on the lives and businesses of rural India.
A Local, Sustainable Solution to a National Problem
In 2008, Husk Power Systems registered as an electricity provider in the Indian state of Bihar, with a mission to produce renewable and affordable power to India’s villages, and other areas across the world, in a financially sustainable way. The company began constructing biomass-based power plants that relied heavily on rice husks as a fuel source. By pouring sack loads of rice husks – along with any other type of agricultural residue, including wood – into a specially designed gasifier, Husk Power successfully burned biomass to generate inexpensive electricity. For only $2.20 per month for a basic connection, Bihar residents have a cost-effective alternative to light homes and power businesses.
A Boon to Local Villages and Small Businesses
With more than 65 fully operational plants in Bihar that serve an average of 500 customers each, the company supplies roughly 32,000 households and 180,000 local inhabitants with enough electricity to power at least two lights and support mobile phone charging. This quality lighting allows children time to study, small business owners the ability to stay open after dark, and community members to keep in touch with each other by phone.
The plants also benefit the environment. By providing inhabitants with an inexpensive alternative to kerosene, the biomass plants reduce kerosene consumption by 6-7 liters per month, resulting in a CO2 emissions reduction of 8,100 tons per year, which is the equivalent of taking 1,441 cars off of the road for a year. Additional emissions reductions come from the decreased use of diesel generators.
For businesses, this new source of biomass energy improves operations by providing enhanced lighting and the ability to use electric fans. This has led to the creation of additional businesses in Bihar, including photocopying shops and mini cinemas. The plants’ use of rice husk provides an additional $3,000 USD in revenue per year for local rice mills, and the plants themselves offer employment opportunities for members of the rural community.
The company’s innovative rice husk plants demonstrate the benefits sustainable energy solutions provide to developing nations that lack adequate access to energy. These solutions enhance education, strengthen community ties, and enable local businesses to improve the lives of thousands.