This thesis attempts to examine the dynamics of rural electrification and explore the complementary convergence of decentralised electricity systems with centralised grid for improved rural electricity services in India. The thesis first analyses the evolution of rural electrification in India over three distinct politico-historical periods and then attempts to identify and use a novel PESTIF framework to empirically analyse the strength of different drivers and barriers to rural electrification. Thereafter, a socio-technical framework of analysis for assessment of cases of rural electricity systems is developed and applied to explore the interplays of different elements of rural electricity systems, enabling and hindering factors, and actors and institutions that may be affecting the governance, sustenance and expansion of rural electricity services. The methodology followed includes document analysis including review of scholarly papers, structured and semi-structured interviews at national, sub-national and local level, and group discussions complemented with quantitative survey. The research field to test the framework comprised of electrified villages in two states having public sector central grid and public & private sector led minigrids.
A mixed research method was used to study the socio-technical perspectives using 21 indicators representing nine different interplays of elements of rural electricity systems. The study reveals that rural electrification in India has had a checkered progress; however, enabling policies and state support have been strong drivers for grid-based electrification. High capital and transaction costs are perceived to be the most important barriers both for grid and decentralized electricity systems. The socio-technical framework analysis reveals there is a significant effect of governance on technology performance (irrespective of grid or decentralised systems; public or private sector), which in turn significantly affects the customer practices. There is also significant correlation between customer practices and governance. Along with policy enablers, strong institutions and actors - both sub-national and local - are key drivers to effective governance. Further, irrespective of centralised or decentralised technology, adequacy and reliability of electricity supply and effective customer service delivery at the local level is important i.e. both supply reliability and quality and customer service quality are equally important. The findings have clear policy implications for the governance of the electricity sector in India.
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