Column: How Can Shell Bring More Solar Power to India?

Nearly 168 million people in India lack access to electricity. And, for millions more connected to the grid, the reliability and affordability of electricity remains patchy.

That’s why I’m pleased to announce that Shell has secured a nearly 20% stake in the Bangalore-based solar firm Orb Energy.

Orb Energy provides solar energy systems specifically aimed at small and medium enterprises (SMEs)—such as local factories, hospitals, and educational centres.

SMEs are an important contributor to the Indian economy. They are collectively powerful; India has more than 50 million SMEs employing about 117 million people and constituting 40% of its workforce. Yet many remain underserved by India's solar industry.

Orb Energy provides not only a fully installed rooftop solar system with after-sales support, but, crucially, allows their customers to spread their investment over 3 to 4 years.

This means Orb’s customers—many of which would otherwise struggle to secure a loan for rooftop solar technology quickly and efficiently—can now rapidly benefit from lower-cost solar-generated electricity.

The Bigger Picture

So how does the investment fit into our wider strategy? India needs to ramp up small-scale distributed energy—such as rooftop solar energy—if it is to reach the millions who remain underserved by a central power grid.

For Shell, too, it is significant. Of every five people on earth without any access to reliable electricity, at least one of them live in India. So we are looking at how we can meet the energy needs of different types of customers—from rural farmers to multinational corporations.

Shell has a global ambition to provide reliable electricity to 100 million people without a modern connection by 2030. We aim to do this through a combination of proven technologies and business models that can be deployed at a large scale and replicated. These include decentralised solar energy systems that can power homes and businesses.

One such investment is Husk Power, a firm that builds and operates minigrids in India. This technology can power homes, shops, and businesses through a combination of solar power and a backup system comprising batteries and agricultural waste.

Read the full column here.

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