On-Grid and Off-Grid – Saurabh Mehta

by | Jan 28, 2014

I was trained to be an electrical engineer and learnt how to effectively and efficiently meet the growing power requirement of people through electricity grids. Upon joining the fellowship program I was introduced to a completely different world.  This world comprised of 30% of country’s population and had almost no access to the grid.

In a way it seemed that all my engineering lessons were of no use. But the fellowship helped me develop deeper engagement with community and curiosity. This helped me understand the complexity of energy access issues prevailing in India. It helped me in connecting the dots and by utilizing my technical skills and the on-ground learning I could analyse other similar projects. I took chances to convert the liability of government to electrify rural communities into a market opportunity. I then formulated new initiatives based on market principles. Since then I’ve been involved in designing and implementing solution to create affordable, reliable and sustainable access to energy to the off-grid population.

Soon after the fellowship I started a commercial solar micro grid initiative in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh to meet basic power requirements of the village in a financially sustainable manner. The idea attracted financial investment from a real-estate company as part of a solar PV firm in India. Renewable Energy always excited me but it was a lot more satisfying to light a bulb than to have install solar panels on an already electrified building in Delhi to reduce their electricity bills.

The fellowship didn’t just change what I used to do, but has also changed the way I think about life, work and people. It’s been two hundred years since Edison invented the first light bulb which hasn’t reached 1.6 billion people of the world. It’s been 1.8 million years since half of the humanity hasn’t changed their cooking fuel (which leads to a death every 16 second). Besides, these are not the only problem in the development space.

If you are passionate about driving a change and have the determination to do it, get in! And you’ll find a reason for not leaving the sector. Join the India Fellows program and find out what drives you.

Saurabh Mehta is a 2010 ICICI Fellow and went on to work in the area of clean energy in rural Bihar and Nepal after his fellowship. He currently also is preparing to launch ‘tree friendly’ pencils. You can know more about his fellowship experience here …

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