Inside Tata Power and Rockefeller Foundation’s Plan to Light Up 5 Million Households in India
By Deepali Khanna
Sixty in one day. That’s how many eye cataract surgeries Dr. Ajeeth Kumar performs in and around Parsa, a poor village two hours from the state capital of Bihar, India. He runs a modern ophthalmology practice with a slit lamp, tonometer and a range of equipment: a scene taken for granted by many whose lives are powered by the hum of fully electrified cities. But here in India’s poverty belt, the convenience, productivity and safety resulting from a reliable current of energy has only recently changed the game.
“I used to run this hospital with a diesel generator; we were always worried about the power going out,” said Dr. Kumar. “The last thing you want is a blackout in the middle of cataract surgery.”
Dr. Kumar’s patients have benefitted from 24/7 electricity from a solar mini-grid set up by Tara Urja in 2019. It’s one of 220 such grids in the Smart Power India (SPI) network, which for the last five years has been field-testing new technologies and business models that could take decentralized renewable energy from an off-grid alternative to a mainstream component for widespread rural electrification.
Photo courtesy of Jared Cherup.