There Is Massive Potential For Decentralised Renewable Energy Appliances


There Is Massive Potential For Decentralised Renewable Energy Appliances

Tushar Devidayal, the founder & CEO of Devidayal Solar Solutions Pvt Ltd (DD Solar) founded the firm in 2015. With an MBA from London Business School, he decided to  focus on designing and developing high quality, certified off-grid appliances like solar DC refrigerators, BLDC fans and coolers. The firm has made steady progress with its vision. An interaction with the founder. 

Q1. How did the idea for DD Solar come up?

Tushar Devidayal

Tushar Devidayal, founder & CEO of Devidayal Solar Solutions Pvt Ltd (DD Solar)

The motivation behind DD Solar was my passion for renewable energy appliances. As the need for de centralised cold storage solutions in rural and semi urban regions highlighted, the company became more inclined towards solar refrigerators and the impact it is creating. 

Q2. Has greater energy access and connectivity led to any change in focus, or does the firm still see massive potential?

Yes, it is correct that India now has almost 100% energy access but at the same time continuous reliable energy availability is only 22% and the worst affected area is rural India. 

At the same time our focus customers are below the pyramid low income earning micro entrepreneurs and households who are affected the most. Hence, we believe there is massive potential for decentralised renewable energy appliances. 

Q3. Could the market evolve to more AC appliances in these areas powered by microgrids, rather than DC? 

No, we believe that the market is evolving more towards DC or renewable energy resources now. The deployment of decentralized renewable energy is fuelling a disruptive transformation of the energy sector. The rapid growth of decentralized renewable energy technologies changes the structure of the energy sector towards a multi-actor set-up in which large utilities interact with self-producing consumers and mini-utilities.

AC appliances

India’s energy transition drive will get a fresh momentum after Prime Minister’s announcement at COP 26 in Glasgow regarding India meeting the target of net zero emissions by 2070.

Q4. What are the future plans at DDSolar?

Our 3 year target plan: 

  • 4000 units of Solar Refrigerator installed
  • 1,50,000 units of Solar Street Lights installed
  • 2,50,000 units of Battery chargers & Solar Charge Controllers
  • 30,000 units DC Solar Fans

Q5. Tell us more about the firm, your business model. Does it involve outright sales at profit too, or supported/subsidised sales and distribution?

DD Solar’s headquarter is at Mumbai, India and our branch offices are at Indore and Delhi. Total number of employees is 15. 

Business model: 

We customize cold storage solution depending on the ecosystem needs in the following steps: 

  1. Planning (Govt. Dept /NGO + DDSolar) Site Identification: Various typology of the sites are identified through different channels. 

Need Assessment: A baseline form is created to gather as accurate information as possible on the right technological need, potential income generation through intervention to design an overall business ecosystem of the chosen site. 

  1. Execution (DD Solar): Design of the product:  A technological design (type of TECHNOLOGY fridge, autonomy required, capacity, solar design, battery back-up if any) is proposed considering entrepreneur’s requirement, financing available & potential market/ type of products cooled. 

Solar Refrigerator

Installation & Clear Communication Selected solar and refrigerator designs are installed at the site, and one of the key aspects is to provide basic communication to the end-users on the usability, maintenance, defrosting, cleaning and other critical  parameters about the fridge. 

  1. Financing Financial Partner + DDSolar: Affordable and innovating financing During the assessment, the financial flow mapping is done for the entrepreneur. Considering the increase in income due to the intervention, loan terms are designed. 
  2. Enterprise Innovation (Beneficiary/ Customer): Innovative product portfolio Entrepreneurs identify the impact of cold-storage access as an addition to their existing business soon after the intervention, and explore other business models to improve their livelihoods. Support is given to fine tune the solutions. 
  3. After Support (Govt. Dept /NGO + DDSolar): Post installation support is a critical part for the intervention to have the desired impact. Access to easy servicing, annual maintenance support, and effective troubleshooting help the solution to sustain over long-term. 

We have a traditional dealer-distribution model that makes outright sales. Also, we have supported the low income group by providing them the appliances at subsidised rates but it completely depends on funding & grants that we receive. But the process followed is similar as stated above.

Q6. How do you see the future of distributed solar, now that storage costs are coming down? Does that open up newer opportunities for you?

Our target customers are rural households and micro enterprises and creating impact in their lives. If we talk about distributed renewable energy appliances the market is huge in India and we have a long way to go as these households aspire for bigger appliances like refrigerator, T.V, water pumps, etc. now. Definitely lower storage cost will benefit us as and our inhouse product development team will be continuously trying their best to incur these benefits.

inhouse product development team

Q7. How much of your manufacturing is in-house versus outsourced?

Our solar refrigerators are designed exclusively in house and assembled in house. Storage batteries and solar panels are sourced from other companies in India. 

Q8. What is the biggest challenge you face running the enterprise today?

Challenges: We are serving low income households, affordability is a major constraint in the off-grid appliance market. We have come up with a financing service of 12/18 months with support of Ashv Finance but we still feel the need for similar financing instruments in the market.

Another challenge that we face is about awareness. A major chunk of the rural population is still unaware about such a solution available for decentralized cold storage. Our successful pilots in fisheries, dairy, fruit pulp and the kirana segment are supporting us to spread the word of mouth and generate more referral leads.

Although we are serving non-renewable energy solutions, still some part of our business is impacted because of increasing fuel prices. Freight costs are a major part of our operational expenses.

The Powering Livelihoods initiative has supported us in clearly communicating our mission and the impact we are creating throughout different stakeholders of the ecosystem whether it is our verticalization strategy, marketing messages or our gender focus messaging. Villgro and Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW) have supported us in connecting with industry experts who have eventually guided us in our technological, marketing or financial challenges.

Q9. Which are the key geographies DD Solar operate in currently? What is the top-selling product?

 The geographies we focus on depend on different verticals:

  • For Dairy & Kirana stores focused geographies are Rajasthan & UP
  • For fisheries focused geographies are Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Orissa
  • For Fruit pulp it is Rajasthan

Our top selling product is 100 L & 200 L capacity Solar refrigerator. 


Award-Winning Solar Fridge Consumes 75% Less Power, Helps Small Biz Increase Profits

Award-Winning Solar Fridge Consumes 75% Less Power, Helps Small Biz Increase Profits

Tushar Devidayal, CEO & Founder of Mumbai-based DD Solar speaks of their award-winning flagship product, the 100 L Solar DC Refrigerator, which has benefitted over 400 small businesses in rural India.


Award-Winning Solar Fridge Consumes 75% Less Power, Helps Small Biz Increase Profits

Tushar Devidayal, CEO & Founder of Mumbai-based DD Solar speaks of their award-winning flagship product, the 100 L Solar DC Refrigerator, which has benefitted over 400 small businesses in rural India.

Sufiya Bano and Khalil Ahmed are proud owners of Muskaan Bakers and Dairy in Rudauli town, Faizabad district, Uttar Pradesh. Their commercial refrigerator used to generate an electricity bill of Rs 2,000-2,200 per month. During the summer, when the town would suffer sudden power cuts, it would result in spoilage of their dairy and bakery products.
(Image above of a small business owner with a solar-powered refrigerator courtesy DD Solar)

However, in October 2020 they installed a solar-powered dairy cooler with a capacity of 150 litres manufactured by Mumbai-based venture Devidayal Solar Solutions. Following this intervention, their electricity bill came down to Rs 900 a month, while their monthly revenue increased by around Rs 15,000.

Earlier, they would sell 15-20 litres of milk per day, but with a more reliable cold storage option, Sufiya and Khalil now sell up to 25 litres of milk on a given day.

“The refrigerator is such a blessing in areas where electricity is so uncertain. Also, the features of the refrigerator like temperature control are so user-friendly that anybody can adjust it just by going through the manual,” says Khalil, describing the impact of their solar-powered refrigerator.

Muskaan Bakers and Dairy is one among many microentrepreneurs that DD Solar has impacted with their Solar DC refrigerators with a capacity ranging from 100 litres to 250 litres. They received an 80 per cent subsidy to purchase it thanks to an organisation associated with DD Solar. Beneficiaries like them are identified by DD Solar’s on ground NGO partners, organisations or their sales team after conducting a baseline survey.

Inside the Devidayal refrigerator (DDSF-100), which was a finalist in the 2019 Global LEAP Awards for Outstanding Off-Grid Refrigerators and won the Consumer Affordability Prize.

Impact of Solar Refrigerator

“Our refrigerator completely works on solar energy. It comes in a package with two or more solar panels and storage batteries and a microcontroller. The number of panels and batteries vary depending on the requirements of the farmer or micro-entrepreneur. The installation is done by our in-house team of engineers. Our refrigerators cost anywhere between Rs 75,000 and Rs 90,000 and are perfect for small enterprises in the rural parts of India, whether it’s for selling fish, dairy products or any retail item,” Tushar Devidayal, CEO & Founder at DD Solar, tells The Better India.

These solar refrigerators consume a quarter of the power that conventional refrigerators of this capacity do. While the solar-powered 100 L DC refrigerator consumes only 0.329 kWh (units) per 24 hours, their conventional AC electricity-powered counterparts take up 1.3 units/24 hours. The electricity bill reduces drastically as there is no AC power consumption because the refrigerator is completely dependent on solar power now.

“Our 100 L refrigerators, for example, are installed for individual farmers or micro-entrepreneurs. We have bigger refrigerators of 200 or 250 liters capacity, which in single or multiple units are installed for collective use by farmer producer organisations (FPOs), and other larger processing units. We have successfully installed 402 units till September 2021 in small businesses spread across 12 states and sectors such as dairy, fisheries, restaurants and retail. And Rs 4,000 to Rs 7,000 per month is the average profit of each business from the interventions across typologies after installing these 402 units. Further, it is estimated that these deployments are able to reduce about 800 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions in their lifetime,” claims Tushar.

Solar CEO
CEO Tushar Devidayal (Left) and the solar-powered refrigerator (Right)

But how do these solar refrigerators impact different segments? In the dairy business, farmers are keeping a greater stock of milk and other dairy products because now the risk of spoilage has reduced. Given the confidence of little to no spoilage, retailers engaged in dairy products have added more products like paneer, buttermilk, mawa (khoya).

“Similarly, in the fisheries segment, we focus on entrepreneurs who buy fish from catchers daily, keep them on ice slabs at their home or small shop and sell it on the same day. But as a result of our intervention they buy the fish in bulk when the prices are less, store it in the solar refrigerator and sell it in the market where they can make more profits. They don’t use ice slabs anymore. So, this recurring cost no longer exists. Also, they have added more variety of expensive fish since now the risk of spoilage has come down significantly,” claims Tushar.

Take the example of Vasantha Mary Inaasi Muthu — who owns a small shop in Fatima Nagar in Madurai, where she sells fish. Her shop is in an area where regular electricity supply is not a guarantee. To support her business, she had to incur a daily cost of buying slabs of ice and was compelled to sell her produce on the same day she bought it given the quick rate of spoilage. Working in conjunction with the SELCO Foundation, a non-profit, DD Solar helped install a solar refrigerator with a capacity of 150 litres in Vasantha’s shop in September 2020.

“Earlier, we were not aware that even a refrigerator can be run on solar and that too for a whole day. It seemed that this product was made to resolve our issues like the continuous requirement of ice, irregular electricity supply and fish spoilage and in turn increase our monthly income. The refrigerator has been very helpful for our business, I recommend this to anyone who visits my shop and is facing similar electricity supply issues,” she says.

Thanks to this intervention, her monthly revenue has increased by around Rs 20,000. She sells up to 28 kg of fish per day, as compared to 20 kg earlier. Besides completely nullifying the daily Rs 100 expense on ice slabs, the average selling cost has increased from Rs 180 per kg to Rs 200. Earlier, the last few kilos of fish were sold for low prices given the lack of cold storage.

Solar Entrepreneurs
Rural entrepreneurs have benefitted with the introduction of these solar-powered refrigerators

The Ecosystem Approach

Tushar founded Devidayal (DD) Solar Solutions in 2015 with the vision to design and develop high-quality, certified off-grid appliances like solar DC refrigerators, BLDC fans and coolers. Prior to DD Solar, Tushar worked in leveraged finance in New York, and most recently was the India country manager for Arysta LifeScience, Japan. The motivation behind DD Solar is to address the need for decentralised cold storage solutions in rural and semi urban regions.

The solar DC refrigerator comes with a digital display, environment-friendly technology (no chlorofluorocarbon emissions) and is tested by CLASP (Collaborative Labeling and Appliance Standards Program, a non-profit which works to implement energy efficiency standards and labels for appliances, lighting, and equipment) for steady-state operation power consumption at 16C, 32C, and 43C, load processing efficiency and freezing capacity. DD Solar currently has a team of 15 members with R&D (including design) and testing done in-house.

The DD Solar Team

Their approach to business follows what it calls an ‘ecosystem approach’ that is focused on creating additional income for micro-enterprises and entrepreneurs of rural India.

“By this we mean that we just don’t sell our product to micro entrepreneurs. We also understand their technology, financial and business needs and provide them with a customised solutions. Assisting us in this regard has been Powering Livelihoods, a Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW)-Villgro initiative, which has provided considerable support in communicating our ambitions and our mission to different stakeholders. They have also helped us integrate a gender lens in our operations and connected us to experts who have constantly and consistently helped us tide over technological, marketing and financial challenges,” says Tushar.

(Edited by Yoshita Rao)


Energy Storage: An Impediment In India’s Energy Transition Drive

DRE should clearly be a part of the larger clean energy transition plan for India,” says Tushar Devidayal, Founder, Devidayal Solar Solutions


Energy Storage: An Impediment In India’s Energy Transition Drive

India’s energy transition drive will get a fresh momentum after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s announcement of meeting the target of net zero emissions by 2070 at COP26 in Glasgow. While there have been significant addition in India’s installed renewable power generation capacity in recent years, issues of energy storage will have to be addressed to accelerate this drive and make renewable energy more affordable.

Last month in October, India had a severe power crisis looming over due to a coal shortage across the country. On several days of the month, the coal stock situation at numerous thermal power plants was supercritical i.e., coal stock of less than four days. However, due to the onset of autumn and heavy rainfall in several parts of the country in the last weeks of October and the government’s efforts to ramp up coal supplies to power plants, the power demand moderated and the coal stock situation at the power plants inched towards normalcy.

Nonetheless, the media reports covering the whole crisis, letters by some chief ministers to the PMO to ensure adequate coal supplies and some advisory messages by distribution companies to consumers to use electricity judiciously created a sort of panic among the masses. These events again highlighted India’s dependence on fossil fuels. Just like any other crisis, people started discussing alternatives to prevent such a crisis in future. An obvious alternative is new and renewable energy where India has now set a new target of an energy capacity of 500 GW by 2030 at COP26. According to the latest data by Ministry of Power, India at present has 154.825 GW of Non-Fossil Fuel based installed generation capacity which translates into 39.8 per cent share in India’s total installed generation capacity.

In an interview with BW Businessworld last month, Union Minister for Power, New and Renewable Energy, R.K. Singh said that India is the fastest growing country in terms of energy transition. He further stated that in the coming years nearly 50 per cent of India’s installed generation capacity will be from non-fossil fuel-based sources. However, one of the biggest impediments in this transition drive which the Union Minister pointed out was regarding energy storage and its pricing.

In another conversation with a leading publication, the Minister said, “I am adding huge quantities of renewables and I’m also adding storage which increases costs. I can’t increase the cost for the people beyond a point. If the price of storage comes down soon enough, probably we are not going to be starting any new coal-based projects.”

So why is storage of energy so difficult?

According to MK Battery, a US based company which deals in energy storage states that solar energy is less predictable and it can fluctuate seasonally and even hour to hour as local weather changes. Also, solar energy is only produced when the sun is shining on the solar panels, which means that there are several hours each day where the panels are producing no energy at all. Energy storage helps to access this energy when the sun has gone down.

The biggest challenge with solar power storage is simply that the batteries used for this application are still quite costly, and they are large. The more power you need, the larger your battery will need to be. On average, a solar energy storage solution from one of the leading solar installers costs upwards of $5,000 depending on size, adding a significant chunk of change to the already high price of solar panels.

Sameer Gupta, Chairman & Managing Director, Jakson Group believes that batteries are the most practical solution available for storage which is indeed expensive.  However, there is innovation happening on alternate chemistries of batteries and disruption is expected to bring down storage cost.

“If we look at distribution, the key would lie in storage of distributed energy (produced at consumption site). With local manufacturing of Lithium-Ion batteries (for auto and stationary application), its cost is likely to come down to <$100/KWh, in next 2-3 years’ time. This will substantially bring down the cost of battery energy storage systems. The Government is also likely to announce PLI to promote manufacturing of Electrolysers and fuel cells, in order to bring down the cost of hydrogen,” Gupta adds.

Focus On Decentralised Renewable Energy

Devidayal Solar Solutions on the other hand believe in Decentralised Renewable Energy (DRE). DRE is recognized as renewable energy (solar, wind, small hydro) distributed both through the grid and through mini-grids and off-grid installations. “While the scale of DRE is small, energy-efficient appliances running on solar with storage are now becoming increasingly affordable and available to rural communities.  DRE should clearly be a part of the larger clean energy transition plan for India,” says Tushar Devidayal, Founder, Devidayal Solar Solutions.

The deployment of decentralized renewable energy is fuelling a disruptive transformation of the energy sector. The rapid growth of decentralized renewable energy technologies changes the structure of the energy sector towards a multi-actor set-up in which large utilities interact with self-producing consumers and mini-utilities.

“The key stakeholders in the energy and power sector, including the Government, policymakers and administrative bodies, and ground-level action takers, among others, should all come together to take strategic steps to make DRE mainstream in rural India, and pave the way towards a sustainable and inclusive future where such crisis-like scenarios due to over-dependency on fossil fuel can be avoided or averted entirely,” says Ananth Aravamudan, Senior Advisor & Practice Lead – Energy, Villgro.

India’s energy transition drive will get a fresh momentum after Prime Minister’s announcement at COP 26 in Glasgow regarding India meeting the target of net zero emissions by 2070. Currently, 70% of all power in India is generated by coal, and while it is one of the cheapest producers of solar energy in the world, storage issues as illustrated above can become a big impediment in India’s energy transition efforts. At the same time, Prime Minister Modi’s ambitious Hydrogen Mission needs attention as well as advancements in hydrogen technology and storage will also be needed to help India’s industrial sector wean itself off coal. This is unlikely to happen until around 2040 without heavy investments in research and development towards low carbon technologies such as Photolysis and other biogenic methods to produce Hydrogen.


Tushar Devidayal Speaks at Powering Livelihoods in the Global South

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