The ability to use energy in a convenient, flexible and scalable form, whether for cooking or transport or electricity has eluded hundreds of millions. The questions first addressed are: what does the consumer want and what does the service provider need. What is shown through fieldwork is that if indeed engineering design and innovation meet these requirements, the consumer willingness to pay becomes much higher than expected. Using data mini-grids deployed in two countries with hundreds of consumers the tradeoffs between cost, reliability, generation and storage sizing are discussed. The deployments provide an understanding of consumer behavior and electricity demand and business models for deploying energy solutions and energy efficiency. Some technological challenges remain and will be illustrated. I will also touch upon a study we are doing in the Indian context, looking 50 years ahead to examine what an electricity system that is 80% renewable looks like? The study looks at the specific climatic context and the geography of India to develop some conceptual ideas and then computations to demonstrate the vital role of understanding future diurnal and seasonal load profiles and the role of storage. Finally, the talk will address the potential role of lean information systems in rural settings for service delivery. Drawing from an example in Nigeria, we will demonstrate the ability to carry out nimble planning, budgetary allocation and evaluation using such tools.
Vijay Modi is Professor of Mechanical Engineering in the School of Engineering and Applied Science at Columbia University. He is also a member of the Earth Institute faculty. He received his B.Tech from IIT Bombay and Ph.D. from Cornell University in 1984. Prof. Modi’s areas of expertise are energy resources and conversion technologies. His particular thematic and geographic areas of focus are energy access and the nexus of food/water/energy in developing countries. His laboratory, the Sustainable Engineering Lab (SEL), has been responsible for technologies such as “Shared Solar”, tools.