A conversation with Ratnesh Yadav from Husk Power Systems

I interviewed Mr Ratnesh Yadav, who is the Co-Founder of Husk Power Systems (HPS). HPS covers the entire gamut of energy production and it is the only company that both produces as well as supplies energy. Ratnesh was instrumental in the setup of the company’s first power plant and leads the 275+ and growing team across all the power plants. Here is an excerpt from the interview.

Akanksha Saluja: In your opinion what are the greatest challenges in delivering power to off-grid areas?

Ratnesh Yadav: The greatest challenges are; firstly, lack of generation capacity since there is a huge gap between the demand and supply of power. Secondly, lack of infrastructure to deliver power, that is, there is inefficient and limited grid connectivity. Thirdly, huge amount of funds are needed in power generation, this includes acquiring land for a power plant, setting up the plant, getting fuel like coal etc., and finally setting up grids to transfer that power. This leads to high T&D losses, upto 50% approximately. As a result every state electricity board runs in huge losses. For example, in states like Bihar, 80% of people are off the grid. The capacity of the grid in Bihar is 2000-2200 MW which meet the needs of only 20% of the entire population. The power scenario in India is therefore very grim. Demand for the existing thermal power plant is around 630 million tons but the total output is only 430 million tons. This huge gap poses great challenges.

A.S.: What cross-sectoral partnerships can you envision that would bring about innovative solutions so as to ensure that sustainable power connectivity is extended to all?

R.Y.: Govt. of India deregularised power generation and distribution in 2003, followed by states, upto a certain limit. Post that many small companies and entrepreneurs came up with different solutions to electrify off grid areas. Today, renewable energy has become a necessity rather than an option. Since conventional sources of power are increasingly becoming scarce and costly, and most importantly dangerous for the environment, renewable energy is the only way forward. I believe, the government should provide favourable environment, in terms of policy and finance options, so that this new industry can benefit everyone.

A.S.: What initiatives are you aware of that are geared in this direction?

R.Y.: Many models have developed lately, using different technologies like biomass gasification, solar PV, solar lanterns, solar thermal, wind turbines etc. For example, in states like Orissa and Bihar, where there is ample agricultural crops, energy could be produced through Biomass Gasification. We, at Husk Power Systems, install and operate small biomass gasifiers using agricultural waste as feedstock to generate electricity in Bihar. We buy locally available agricultural waste (rice husk, mustard stem, khar, corn cob etc.) from the villagers and hire local people to operate and manage those plants. Using their distribution network we also sell that electricity to the nearby villages on a pay-for-use basis . The electricity delivered is therefore much cheaper, healthier, and eco friendly than kerosene or diesel that villagers were using earlier.

*This is the first of a series of interviews with experts working in power-related issues. Stay tuned for more interviews in the coming months, leading up to Design Public 4.

**Ratnesh Yadav is the Co-Founder and Director of Husk Power Systems Pvt. Ltd. The company started operations with just one biomass gasification plant in Tamkuha village in west Champaran district of Bihar in 2007. Since then, he has expanded to operating 76 plants in 370 villages across five districts mostly in Bihar powering 25,000 households. He is soon expanding operations in Uganda and Tanzania. Ratnesh also runs an NGO, Samta Samriddhi Foundation which supports education of 250 kids in villages. He will speaking at the upcoming Pecha Kucha Night at the American Center.

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