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Lighting up rural India

Atlanta-based corporate giant GE Energy is living up to its flagship company's mantra of being 'the world's most admired company', writes Meeta Chaitanya.

india Updated: Mar 28, 2006 16:18 IST
ATLANTA DIARY | Meeta Chaitanya
ATLANTA DIARY | Meeta Chaitanya

Atlanta-based corporate giant GE Energy ( is living up to its flagship company's mantra of being 'the world's most admired company'.

In its most recent initiative towards being a responsible, generous and multi-faceted entity General Electric Co has started in India, a rural electrification programme rooted in the use of renewable energy resources. GE Energy that is head quartered in Atlanta, Georgia is likely to install various power generation technologies for the program.

GE Energy is a $16.5 billion (2005) global leader in power generation and energy delivery technology. It has expertise in all sectors of the energy industry including natural gas and nuclear energy; renewable energy and alternative fuels. So far, GE's primary thrust in India had been on gas turbines and gas engines.

Stepping up on an early 2006 memorandum, GE along with US agency for International Development (USAID) plans to provide expansive access to better, affordable energy services to nearly 56 per cent of the rural Indian populace. Reportedly, USAID will contribute $600,000 to the program, while GE will pump in up to $2.7 million in direct and indirect funding. GE officially launched the rural electrification programme in New Delhi last week.

The company's 'ecomagination' portfolio of products consists of technologies that make use of waste gas as also high-efficiency gas turbines and systems that would be deployed in India. Reportedly, the engines for these pilot projects operate on advanced emissions features that further ensure cleaner combustion of biomass.

Homing in on India is more than just the effective choice, offering as it does sadly, a gaping need for such an endeavour. But positively, an agriculture-intensive rural India seems to be the right canvass for effective deployment of various reusable, renewable energy sources such as biogas or waste gas technologies as also specialty fuel projects as crop residue, municipal solid waste, landfill, coal mine methane and industrial waste.

Another advantage; programmes based on use of renewable energy go a long way not just in keeping the environmental equilibrium in place but also in reducing considerably the beneficiaries' dependence on other fuel suppliers.

For now, Karnataka and Maharashtra have been selected for implementation projects. Work is expected to commence mid-year. GE's global research centre in Bangalore has been instrumental in developing a hybrid model that will combine conventional and customized solutions for the electrification program using local fuel materials.

Almost as if to re-affirm the expansion of ties and the ongoing climate of co-operation between India and the US after President Bush's recent visit to New Delhi, GE has in fact gone a step ahead and aligned itself with Indian government initiatives such as Power to All by 2012 and Rural Business Hub. These projects will act complimentarily to achieve maximum rural electrification.

Given the geo-climactic conditions present in most of India, endeavours as these over a period of time should enable making local communities independent and self-contained for their fuel needs. Once that is achieved it is only a matter of time before they achieve integrated economic self-reliance.

The ecomagination drive can in fact be a pointer for indigenous industries to come forward and invest in environmentally viable and eco-friendly energy solutions such as the use of solar and wind power on mass scale. India has an abundance of both, and while hydropower projects have successfully been established in the country; optimal harnessing of solar and wind energy is yet to be explored fully. The pre-eminent rural base of our country is a perfect set-up and even a catalyst for reusable energy generation, utilization and independence.

From Atlanta to Bangalore to villages in Maharashtra, what clicks is an idea. Energy solution is no different. So while this may not be the pivotal eureka moment it surely is 'imagination at work'.

First Published: Mar 07, 2006 19:10 IST