Nagaland is one of the seven sister states of northeast India. The region is rich in biodiversity and natural resources. There are many villages in Nagaland that have access to small rivers and streams. These rivers have enough hydro power potential to meet the electricity demand of the entire state.
Since 2007, NEPeD’s mission has been to educate and empower people to help maintain biodiversity and vital ecosystem services, while simultaneously ensuring equitable access to adequate clean energy supply.
NEPeD manufacturers and installs pico hydro systems called Hydrogers, a term coined by NEPeD, joining the words hydro and generator. It refers to the type of pico hydro system developed by NEPeD.
Clean and green energy through NEPeD’s efforts, however small, could contribute to the mitigation of global climate change concerns in the Eastern Himalayan region as it de-couples the dependence on traditional fossil fuels.
The most interesting aspect about Hydroger Systems is that they are not imported from elsewhere but are indigenously manufactured in Nagaland itself. NEPeD established the Centre of Excellence for Renewable Energy Studies (CERES) to manufacture hydro technology locally, making it available easily in the region. NEPeD, in collaboration with the Nagaland Tool Room and Training Centre (NTTC), Dimapur, ventured into the indigenization of the Hydroger system. The first funding towards mass production of Hydroger was supported by National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) under Rural Innovation Fund (RIF).
The Hydroger model manufactured in CERES has been successfully tested and certified at the Alternate Hydro Energy Centre (AHEC) at Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Roorkee. CERES is the only known centre to solely focus on mass production of Hydroger technology. CERES is also the hub of knowledge dissemination. Many trainings were provided to small hydro engineers, technicians and practitioners in the region. NEPeD is also supporting a private entrepreneur under its entrepreneurship development programme for research and development of the Electronic Load Controller (ELC).
To maintain the Hydroger Project’s sustainability and continuity of efforts in the long run, it is key to have a cadre of skilled rural engineers on-site. NEPeD has trained more than 50 engineers to oversee and manage the sites’ operation. NEPeD has also prepared them to help up-scale the Hydroger installation in the future. They will provide hands-on support, ranging from site selection, maintenance, to installation of higher capacity modules. Employing rural engineers and technicians will not only help to generate income but also to grow the rural economy.
There are many dimensions to the Hydroger Project. Not only does it help to address basic electricity needs of people living in the villages, but it also has impacts on the environment, social and economic sectors. Most of the NEPeD’s Hydroger installations are owned and managed by the communities. Communities with Hydroger systems undergo capacity building and conservation of environmental ideas is deeply ingrained as part of this training. Each project site is also capacitated and facilitated to evolve their own revenue model.
Hydroger being a clean and alternative source of renewable energy has made an impact through energy delivery. NEPeD while introducing and promoting this technology, has also encouraged the villagers to maintain the upland catchment areas to ensure a sustainable supply of water.
Setting up of Hydroger projects have been done following a model that is holistic and integrated. It is designed to be easily replicated. The common sectoral impacts as registered by the existing Hydroger Project sites are as listed below.
- Community ownership
- Revitalized social dynamics-greater community bonding and interaction
- Health sanitation related impacts
- Empowerment and involvement of women in the decision-making process
- Source of revenue generation for the community
- Employment of individuals
- Increased man hours industries such as handicrafts
- Generation of clean sustainable energy
- Decreased dependence on fossil fuels
- Spreading/ creating awareness on environmental fronts
- Community commitments to conserve and protect catchment areas and biodiversity
The benefits have also been appraised by the neighbouring States that want to replicate this model. The low cost, light weight, accessible operation and versatile utility of the Hydroger systems have allowed widespread adoption. Besides Nagaland, the Hydroger is used in Meghalaya, Sikkim, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh, Maharashtra and Jammu & Kashmir. NEPeD has has installed over 50 units across northeast India, mostly in Nagaland. Another 50+ units will be installed in partnership with the Meghalaya Basin Development Authority, where NEPeD will also train technicians in each village to install, manage, and troubleshoot. There has also been an interest to develop Hydrogers commercially.
The Hydroger project has successfully evolved into a model for a sustainable and community-owned electricity generation in rural areas. It is improving their quality of life, improving their livelihoods, creating unprecedented awareness, community participation, and most importantly developing governance at a decentralized level.
The initiative is based on the realization that the availability of energy is vital for sustainable development and poverty reduction efforts. Energy affects various aspects of development - social, economic, and environmental - including livelihoods, access to water, agricultural productivity, health, population levels, education, and gender-related issues. NEPED also seeks to further develop state level capacity to manage the environment and natural resources; integrate environmental and energy dimensions into poverty reduction strategies and state level development frameworks; and strengthen the role of communities and of women in promoting sustainable development.
At the same time, NEPED understands that sustainable energy security initiatives have multiple dimensions. By focusing on micro/mini hydropower as a reliable renewable source for providing energy security in a difficult terrain where grid connectivity is available erratically, NEPED also intends to create replicable models for watersheds in Nagaland, other North-eastern states, and the Himalayan sub-region.
1. Transition from pico to micro hydro
Over the years, the energy demand of rural communities has increased. They require reliable, uninterrupted, and sufficient energy supply. They require higher capacity than the current 3kW Hydrogers produce. Although some villages have access to the central grid, electricity from the Hydroger is more cost effective then the central grid. Therefore communities have been demanding Hydrogers of higher capacity. Farmers have expressed the need for energy to add value to their agricultural processing. NEPeD will strive to leverage the resources for installing higher capacity hydro power systems and hopes to achieve its objective to integrate the environmental and energy dimensions into rural economic development strategies. NEPeD’s aim to transition from pico to micro hydro systems is a natural progression given the large energy demand-supply gap in Nagaland.
2. Access to subsidy and credit
For NEPeD and also for many other small hydro practitioners in North East India, the only source of funding is the Ministry under Government of India (GOI). However, most of the funding from the Ministry must go through its state-level nodal agencies. It is not easy for other departments or practitioners to access funding from the Ministry. To address this challenge, special consideration or arrangement of funding processes for other departments and practitioners will accelerate prospects of small hydro systems. Private practitioners and implementers have to be encouraged, especially in Nagaland, to pick up the pace for development of small hydro in the state. Credit facilities from banks and other financial institutions could be another option for the communities to get resources for setting up small hydro systems of capacity as per their total energy requirement and also meeting the energy requirement for productive use.