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Rockefeller Foundation lambasts Washington Post over its misleading claims on solar power systems in India. Here is what happened

The Rockefeller Foundation informed that it has been working on mini solar grids in India since 2009.

On Thursday (August 3), the US-based Rockefeller Foundation lambasted The Washington Post for a misleading report on India and its solar power systems.

The leftist propaganda newspaper published a contentious article titled, ‘India joins rush to renewables, but sites rural solar systems fall off the grid’ on July 31, 2023.

Written by one Karishma Mehrotra, the article claimed that India has severely failed in its transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources such as solar power.

“India’s experience is a cautionary tale for a world that is racing into renewables, installing solar energy systems at a breakneck speed with scant planning for how to maintain them in the years to come,” the article read.

Screengrab of the article by The Washington Post

The Washington Post claimed that out of 4000 solar mini-grids installed in India, 3300 are owned by a subsidiary of the Rockefeller Foundation. It then went on to claim that only 5% of those grids, which are also financed by the Indian government, are in an operational condition.

“About 4,000 solar mini-grids have been installed in India, of which 3,300 are government financed and owned, according to information collected early this year by Smart Power India, a subsidiary of the Rockefeller Foundation, and provided to The Washington Post. Only 5 percent of the government grids are operational, the group found,” the paper alleged.

It then claimed that solar-powered villages in the Indian States of Bihar, Jharkhand and Odisha have failed miserably. “In Jharkhand, at least 90 percent of the state’s more than 200 mini-grids are defunct, according to a consultant for the renewable-energy authority, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to comment freely about the mini-grids,” the paper said.

The Washington Post had blamed the supposed failure of solar power systems on a lack of local technical expertise and funds for maintenance.

“Jharkhand, for example, holds onto 10 percent of the contract price after installation and releases the balance in annual installments to pay for maintenance. But this sum may not cover the cost of traveling to remote areas, so the technical crews often desert their contracts after installation,” the paper said.

“Moreover, the government, in trying to keep electricity affordable for its customers, often lacks the revenue needed to pay for upkeep. Private providers have a better record in maintaining the systems because their revenue models are stronger,” it concluded.

Response of Rockefeller Foundation

On Thursday (August 3), the Rockefeller Foundation slammed The Washington Post over its contentious piece and informed that the paper did not bother to respond to a letter sent to its Editor.

In a tweet, it said, “Two days ago, we submitted a letter to the editor about this article making clear it not only misses context but also the real facts. Unfortunately, the @washingtonpost has yet to print it or even respond.”

The American private foundation said that the 100% rural electrification achieved by the Modi government resulted in the redundancy of the first-generation solar systems.

“First, these first-generation solar systems were degraded because they were made redundant by an aggressive rural electrification effort launched in 2016 by the current government, that achieved almost 100% electrification,” it said.

The Rockefeller Foundation informed, “Second, the article incorrectly implies that mini-grid solutions have failed, without recognising that the improving electrification landscape & positive regulatory environment have actually paved the way for successful commercial mini-grid operators that complement the grid.”

It added, “Companies such as Husk Power System, OMC Power, Tata Power, and Hamara Grid, have raised over $150M of private capital, operating over 1,000 mini-grids that serve homes and entrepreneurs in rural India with reliable, productive-use clean energy.”

“Third, much was learned from the first generation of government funded mini-grids, like the need to be far more responsive to communities, and the importance of serving local businesses,” the Rockefeller Foundation said.

“Far from failing, India’s effort to provide electricity from both grid-based and distributed renewable energy is a success that should be replicated globally…Indeed it offers a model for public and private sector innovation that can put developing economies on a high energy, low carbon growth pathway,” it said.

The Rockefeller Foundation informed that it has been working on mini solar grids in India since 2009. “We’re proud to be a partner to those in India seeking to unlock opportunity for those often left behind without triggering climate catastrophe,” it concluded.

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Dibakar Dutta
Dibakar Duttahttps://dibakardutta.in/
Centre-Right. Political analyst. Assistant Editor @Opindia. Reach me at [email protected]

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