Investment rises in mini-grids as India races to meet energy goal

Rising investment in mini-grids in India signals growing business interest in the sector, despite a lack of clear government policy, as the country races to meet its goal of providing energy for all in just two years, analysts said.

Husk Power Systems, which operates mini-grids in India and Tanzania, on Monday said it had raised $20 million from an arm of Royal Dutch Shell, Swedish state-owned investor Swedfund International and French utility Engie’s impact investment fund.

The investment is the largest in a mini-grid company in India, according to Husk, which builds and operates small-scale power plant and distribution networks that combine biomass gasification from rice husks, solar power and batteries to deliver energy in rural areas.

“About two-thirds of the population that is in rural India are off-grid or get weak grid power. They spend a lot of money on poor energy sources like kerosene, diesel and even candles,” said Manoj Sinha, chief executive of Husk Power Systems.

Growing investments in mini-grids are evidence they are the “most capital-efficient way to help reach national electrification goals while driving inclusive and sustainable development”, he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Husk offers its customers a “pay-as-you-go” energy service, using mobile phones and a smart metering system.

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