Money would come from CSR (corporate social responsibility) funds, aggregating about Rs 1,000 crore a year.

 State-run oil biggies are to tap solar power to light up the lives of one million school-going kids and help them shine in academics. The companies are to provide solarhome lighting systems so the children can study after dark without suffering the heat and toxic fumes of kerosene lamps. 

The project is to be implemented in districts with high consumption of kerosene on “area saturation” basis. Money would come from CSR (corporate social responsibility) funds, aggregating about Rs 1,000 crore a year. 

Data for the last census conducted in 2011 show 47% households using kerosene for lighting. The solar initiative is aimed at reducing use of kerosene for lighting purpose and prune subsidy. The companies had some years back funded cooking gas connections for Delhi’s poor to make the Capital kerosene-free city

India consumes about 59 million tonne of kerosene, a little less than diesel. But several studies have said nearly 40% of the poor man’s fuel sold through ration shops flows into the black market for adulteration due to subsidy, pegged at Rs 34.43 a litre at present. 

Sources said the chief executives of all the big oil firms – IndianOil, ONGC, Hindustan Petroleum, Bharat Petroleum, GAIL, Oil India – and senior oil ministry officials discussed the plan earlier this month at the Petroleum and Planning Analysis Cell, the ministry’s data monitor. 

The idea originally came from the ministry of new and renewable energy which sought a role for the oil companies in its “million solar lights project being implemented with IIT-Bombay. The idea behind dovetailing the oil companies’ CSR is to bring down kerosene consumption and reduce subsidy outgo. 

The oil ministry’s economic division thinks solar lamps could replace kerosene as a lighting fuel. Two options for implementing the initiative are being weighed – either through IIT-Bombay as part of the existing project or a separate rollout by the companies. 

The project is part of the outgoing UPA-2 government’s efforts at ramping up solar power usage. But the project and liberal funding from oil companies – and subsequently even power companies– could come in handy for the outreach plan of the BJP if the party forms the next government at the Centre. The party’s manifesto stressed solar power as a key ingredient of ensuring India’s energy security.

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