Excerpts of the speech by Mr Scott Furssedonn-Wood, British Deputy High Commissioner to Eastern India, at the ‘National Seminar on Renewable Energy for Rural Development’ Organised by Ashden India Renewable Energy Collective

british deputy hc24th June 2014 – Hotel Hyatt Regency, Kolkata

Hon’ble Minister Mr Manish Gupta, Dignitaries on the dais, Ladies and Gentlemen


I would like to thank Ashden India Renewable Energy Collective for convening this important and timely conference.

I am delighted to be part of this.

Improving rural India’s access to clean energy translates into life-changing opportunities for those who need them the most. In today’s conference you are addressing this extremely pertinent theme and providing the springboard for collective and effective action.

Powering up rural India with renewable energy will mean ushering in a new era of economic and social development. There are challenges. But there is no denying the fact that it will create jobs that lay the foundation for sustainable prosperity; it will transform lives of poor women and girls in more ways than one; it will empower rural population and improve their livelihoods. It assumes great significance in our endeavour to address harmful impacts of climate change and poverty reduction.


Recognising the immense importance and urgency of tackling climate change and enhancing rural livelihood, the UK Government is working across India with the National and State Governments, NGOs, social entrepreneurs, businesses and institutions, supporting initiatives to help the rural population leapfrog to cleaner energy systems.

  • On Off-grid Renewable Energy, we are supporting initiatives to scale up off-grid energy services provision to those without energy access.

Ø  We are contributing up to £8.8 million to TERI over 5 years, with an aim to reach out to 100,000 households with improved cook stoves and also create Energy Entrepreneurs serving an estimated 400,000 households adopting solar lighting systems. As a result, a total of 500,000 poor women will benefit from lower health risks from indoor air pollution and reduced drudgery, and 2.5m people, will benefit from new or sustained access to modern, clean energy either for cooking or lighting needs.

  • We have been working with the Indian Ministry of New and Renewable Energy on developing a scheme to improve the incentives for off-grid energy services businesses – moving from an entirely capital based subsidy system towards a performance based one with a view to tackle the challenges being faced by the entrepreneurs. The States will have a central role to play in implementation of this scheme and we would very much like the West Bengal Government to pilot this with MNRE.

  • We’ve been supporting businesses and business models – £2.5mn Equity investment in OMC Power through our returnable capital programmes. And we are keen to support more businesses through this route.

  • One of our top priorities is empowering poor women and girls with the help of renewable energy. And towards that end, as part of UN’s Sustainable Energy 4 All initiative, we have committed £4.5 million every year over the period 2014 – 2019 to advance knowledge and awareness regarding the impact of energy access—or the lack thereof—on women and girls across the world, including in India.

  • This year we have also supported a new category in the Ashden Awards Energy Access, Women and Girls – targeting the transformative role clean energy can play in providing opportunities and benefits for women. The winner of this award this year has been an Indian organisation – Greenway Grameen, who sells clean and affordable cook-stoves.

  • We are supporting use of renewable energy in rural infrastructure e.g. in health centres in Bihar and cold storages in Madhya Pradesh.

  • There’s a very interesting project that I would like to share with you. Under UKFCO’s Prosperity Fund, we are working with the Climate Parliament to implement a project which aims at mobilising legislators’ actions towards development of a long term comprehensive renewable energy policy in Odisha, Karnataka and Maharashtra. This project has yielded a strong network of legislators in Odisha who are keen to take positive steps towards the development of renewable energy in the remote and tribal areas of the state and their individual constituencies.

  • On the research side, things are getting interesting as well.

  • Under a programme called Bridging the Urban and Rural Divide (BURD), jointly supported by Research Councils UK and Indian Government’s Department of Science and Technology (DST), researchers from the UK and India are working on a project that aims to address the dependence of rural communities on fossil fuels by developing innovative and sustainable biomass-fuelled hybrid energy systems at a scale suitable for community use.  The new technologies developed during the project will be piloted at villages in Karnataka and Assam.

  • The project which I would like to mention now is one which may warm the hearts of Tagore-lovers in this room. Funded with £1.4 million, experts from Exeter, Nottingham and Leeds universities in the UK are working with researchers from Visva Bharati University, IIT Bombay and IIT Madras to develop a new renewable energy system which combines solar power and bio-energy to bring electricity to homes in a remote tribal hamlet in Tagore’s Shantiniketan.  The integrated system will be installed at Uttar Sehalai Tribal village, not too far from here, which has 80 homes and a population of around 400 people. The prototype system will be the first of its kind ever to be installed in India.

  • And last, but not the least, is our work on solar. Solar is a genuinely exciting energy of the future, it is coming of age and we want to see a lot, lot more. On the urban side also, we are working on rooftop solar policies in Uttarakhand, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Delhi.

    Before I conclude, I would like to take this opportunity to make a significant announcement. Today, I am delighted to launch our work with the Department of Power and Kolkata Municipal Corporation on developing Grid-connected rooftop solar guidelines for Kolkata. Over the next few months, we will be working with West Bengal Government and supporting Ashden India Renewable Energy Collective to help develop an affordable rooftop solar scheme through which Kolkattans will be able to reduce their power bills and greenhouse gas emission of the city. Under this initiative, there will be a major emphasis on capacity building programmes for key stakeholders to implement such schemes in the State.


The point that I wanted to make while listing out these broad range of our initiatives on renewable energy is that working together on this issue is critical.

Gathered here today are experts, policymakers and businesses who have been, in the past and are now a part of this collective effort to bring about green energy revolution in India. I would like to take this opportunity to leave you with a few questions:

  • How do you think policies can encourage the growth of young social entrepreneurs who can introduce new energy models to bring light and power to rural India?

  • How do you think Governments can foster generation of new ideas and innovative renewable energy technologies to reach out to rural India with quality power?

  • What are the new approaches that can be adopted by parliamentarians and legislators to strengthen local communities in their constituencies through renewable energy while addressing environmental, economic and social concerns?

I hope these will stimulate debate and discussions during the course of the day and bring forth new ideas and solutions to help energise rural India with renewables.

I wish you all a successful and productive conference. Thank you.