Renewable energy from the sun – GECO Global goes southeast

GECO Global is the leading community engagement and stakeholder communication partner in several European Commission funded projects. Recently, GECO Global put this work into action for the ELAND project; visiting the Indian energy supplier BSES in New Delhi. Currently, BSES produces electricity using fossils fuels but has a strong drive to use more renewables. A large opportunity lies in utilizing the space on the flat rooftops to collect solar energy. The challenge for GECO Global is therefore to engage the building owners and local communities to embrace photovoltaic (PV) solutions.

The Scandinavian way of engaging

“One key element is: Being there in the real environment, talking to people, understanding their needs is paramount to have a successful implementation. Our approach is, we talk to people, we contribute by giving inputs from different angles. It is also important to be observing and asking questions at the same time. But this is also “blowing and eating” at the same time, it is not really possible. We need to have two pairs of eyes and two pairs of ears. We need to have people with different roles to get an impact. One to sometimes lead, one to listen. Really being present and show profound interest makes a different”, Thomas N. Mikkelsen, Co-Founder of GECO Global says on the phone from India.

“Through doing this, we were able to form more deep relationships with our colleagues in India. Especially in India, where it is more or less a new environment for everybody, especially for us. Building trust with our connections, and a result of this, we are able to meet a larger number of stakeholders and to make sure that the people we are talking to, are the most informative key players”, Thomas continues.

A “bottom up” approach is needed

Initially, engaging stakeholders starts with meeting the key players. Without consent from the DSO, changes will not happen. The starting point is the realization of the actual severe situation of pollution and the risk of an energy break down due to the rising middle class in large Indian cities like New Delhi. Next steps are identifying the potential pitfalls and opportunities. The low hanging fruits in New Delhi are obvious, the sun power and installing PV panels on the flat rooftops. The DSO doesn’t own the buildings, so they need a “bottom up” process to happen by giving incentives to building communities to take action. This is where GECO Global has it’s core business: Developing strategies and action plans in green transition – from dirty energy to clean energy – consulting companies in setting the scene and give advice on the inherent “equation” regarding energy technology, digital solutions, financing models, communication, and not the least, initiation of the “bottom up” process needed for a change to happen.

“In order to initiate a change and get a ball rolling, we will need to revisit and discuss the actual engagement strategy and implementation. In other words, to make sure we are on the same page. We can come with all our fancy ideas, but if we sense that it is not going the right direction, we will need to saddle up again. Touching the issues on cultural differences, we need to sense much more. For example, when is a consent approved by the right authority and how many people do we need approval from?”, which is a cultural pitfall identified by Thomas and Bonnie during their visit to New Delhi.

Solar panels are only one piece of the puzzle

“Installation of solar panels need to be a part of the solution – especially in the cities. Installing solar panels is not solving everything, we must also avoid peaks by leveling the energy. We can simulate how people utilize the energy which is available not at the same time, and by this level out the peaks. Leveling out the energy consumption is much more convenient in high populated areas. There are pros and cons of having people living close in large cities. It is much easier to level out the peak consumption, where consumption is high. On the other hand, it’s is difficult to find land for big PV parks. However, all roofs seem to be flat. It is very easy to utilize the roofs and install them with PV panels. In the outskirts, of Delhi a lot of new building block are being built by co-operatives and they want to be self-consuming and self-producing. They want to invest, even if initiatives only can cover 50% of their needs. And even if you go to rural areas, it could be possible to set up PV parks. It has to be a multiple solutions”, Thomas emphasizes.

A few obstacles to tackle

“IT technology is not a problem. India has a high innovation capacity in this area. In general, and in terms of solar technology, PV panels are of lower quality compared to the high-end quality in Europe. Especially, measured in energy efficiency. This makes them cheaper than PV’s from Europe, but less effective. Since there is so much sun, the investment capacity is there, because the PV panels don’t have to be as energy effective as in Europe. … India has other issues like wildlife. Elephants messing around in PV parks and monkeys spoiling energy infrastructure like cables and wires”, Thomas concludes.