Institutional Innovation: Case study of sustenance of solar electrification projects in Rural India

Innovating institutions with technological innovations

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More than 200 million Indians are without electricity, and the majority lies in the rural areas, where the central grid fails to reach due to unreliable distribution and inconsistent terrain. The solutions that reach include majorly, decentralized energy resources via solar micro-grids, or solar home systems. New projects of energy sharing are coming up which allows a household to become a consumer, as well as a producer of energy in case of excess and sell it to make profit. But these projects fail within few years due to number of social, technical, cultural, political, and environmental dynamic factors playing role in the community. Thus, the research question is raised that “Given the dynamics of rural communities of India, how can socio-technical systems of solar electrification be sustained?" This project develops an institutional innovation framework that helps answer this question. The framework is conceptualized and operationalized to understand that how the institutions around these factors can be changed by the community and individual actions in such socio-technical innovations and infrastructure systems. The study follows empirical analysis and develops simulation model (agent based model) for the case study of rural solar electrification in India, which helps in developing the institutions. The case study and the framework together emphasizes the importance of the institutional innovation approach, where institutions need to be adapted and diffused within the community to make the sustenance of the project possible in various domains. The final results show that new type of projects, labelled as hybrid projects, would be most sustained. These would be sharing projects and would only use the existing micro grids, when there is higher demand. Also, it emphasizes on the need to look at institutions development, not just as a collective perspective which happens with interactions of actions, but also a perspective of majority or collection of actions. The policies generated at two levels of usage (prioritization of resource usage, constraints on resource usage, etc.), and for acceptance of innovations (co-operative shops, in-house manufacturing, etc.) prove to help the sustenance of these electrification systems further.