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Here’s how rice can light up homes

As the world's seventh largest country and one of its leading growing economies, India faces major challenges when it comes to meeting the energy needs of more than one billion people.

According to the World Bank, over 300 million Indians live without electricity, and for those lucky enough to be connected, "outages remain frequent and the supply unreliable."


Manan Vatsyayana | AFP | Getty Images

Husk Power Systems (HPS) is a company looking to empower rural Indians, making the most of the essential ingredient in almost every meal: Rice. The company takes the husks left over after rice has been milled, and uses a biomass gasifier to turn them into biofuel.

"(The) basic idea was to provide affordable energy to the energy deprived people," HPS' Baljit Singh told CNBC's Sustainable Energy.

Singh went on to explain how there are two stages to the process. The first, he said, involves burning the husks to dry them out.

"In (the) second stage, the temperature goes up to 700 degrees centigrade – that is where the real gas comes out, with the other attendant particles," he added.

According to HPS, 84 of its mini power plants have been installed so far, providing more than 200,000 people in 300 villages with electricity.

The company says that each plant saves, "approximately 42,000 litres of kerosene and 18,000 litres of diesel per year," and that this helps to slash indoor air pollution and improve the health of rural communities.

As well as cutting down on pollution, the company says that the social impact of its power plants is also considerable – with extra electricity, local businesses can stay open longer and children can study during the evenings.

"As farmers, we pay a fee for the electricity," Sri Bhola Ram said, before going on to add that, "It's much cheaper than using kerosene or buying our own generator."