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In 2016, my city, Delhi, faced a severe pollution crisis. Every morning, I’d leave my house only to be greeted by murky grey smog and a pungent smoky odor in the air. The situation was so dire that even schools started getting suspended due to the health risks that the pollution caused for students. Finally, I got fed up with sitting in my house as the pollution continued to affect my health, and I decided to take action.
I did some research and I was shocked to find that my school at the time used diesel generator sets – a large contributor to pollution – as their primary energy source. Therefore, I, along with students from my school’s Environment Club, petitioned the school to install solar panels – a clean and economical source of energy. After overwhelming support from our students, teachers and administration, our effort was successful and the school decided to install solar rooftop panels. However, the installation process was very complicated and it took my school nearly two years to understand their energy needs and find a suitable vendor offering a desirable price. Furthermore, numerous students did not understand the benefits of the ‘blue squares’ on the school’s roof once the panels had been installed.
This experience motivated me to start the SUN Foundation with the goal of educating the youth through awareness and advocacy. In addition to this, after seeing the obstacles my school faced while installing solar panels, I also wanted to create a platform to facilitate connections between solar rooftop providers and schools.
There is a dire need to educate the youth at an early age about severe issues such as climate change and global warming, and get them involved in collectively demanding sustainable solutions for such problems. SUN Foundation provides various calculation tools for estimating schools’ solar energy demands and providing vendor connections to meet these demands, while also helping the youth estimate their carbon footprint so that they can educate themselves through our curated resources and commit towards enabling a sustainable future.
According to a study conducted by the Green Schools Programme of the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), only 13 percent of 1,700 schools in the country were ‘solarized’. If all the stakeholders involved – the schools, rooftop solar providers, and most importantly, the students – work collectively to accelerate energy transitions at the school level, they could offset a large amount of carbon emissions. Other than the clear environmental benefits, there are various economic advantages that come with installing solar panels such as cost-savings on bill as the schools will depend less on the grid.
The same CSE study also elaborates that though the initial cost of installing rooftop solar systems may be hindering educational institutions from purchasing them, the systems are actually economically advantageous in the long run. Furthermore, the government is also helping enable the energy transition. The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) mandates that Indian schools are eligible for a subsidy covering up to 30 percent of the benchmark cost of a solar project, further incentivizing schools to go solar. My school was greatly benefitted by this program. Another important aspect of installing solar panels in schools is keeping the youth engaged, both before and after the installation. Exposing students to activities such as maintenance and monitoring could create more sustainability enthusiasts, who might then want to pursue their interests through careers in the renewable energy field. Laying that seed of passion among the youth is an essential objective of SUN Foundation’s platform.
In the post-pandemic world, renewable energy, which has already been receiving increasing demand and support in India, is set to take over traditional sources of energy, which have proven to be volatile in the past. While the threat of climate change still looms, through collective action, we can significantly reduce our carbon emissions by transitioning to clean energy sources. Here, I see a great opportunity for vendors to reach out to schools as they are a large, untapped market waiting to be addressed.
Students, vendors, and schools can help power this change, through collaboration, education and engagement. Solarizing our future while sensitizing the youth can create the wave of change required to significantly reduce carbon emissions and address the faults of our previous generations. I, for one, am optimistic about this green future. For those reading, there is an opportunity for you too. Grab it and do your bit to preserve the Earth for our generation!
Article Contributed by Siddhant Sinha, Founder, SUN Foundation www.solarunlimitednetwork.com