Eyeing the huge solar potential in Himachal Pradesh, the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), New Delhi-based research and advocacy body, has launched a special initiative, ‘Solar in Schools’ in Shimla in partnership with the Himachal Pradesh Council for Science, Technology and Environment (HIMCOSTE).

The initiative was launched here on Friday at a workshop to sensitize teachers about the use of renewable energy.

According to Ranjita Menon, programme director of CSE’s Environment Education Unit, “ Solar in Schools would aim to bring about a change in the way energy is consumed in schools. More importantly, it would try to enhance the understanding of energy management amongst students and the need to transition to cleaner energy alternatives with lower environmental impacts.”

The initiative is being piloted through CSE’s Green Schools Programme (GSP) which has been working closely with HIMCOSTE since 2012 to promote ecological literacy in schools.

“Schools depend on conventional sources to meet their energy requirements, but a shift to renewable energy will go a long way in providing both environmental and economic benefits,” said Menon.

Some schools that are part of the GSP network have adopted alternate sources of energy such as solar roof top (SRT) systems or using bio-pellets in place of LPG, but these are few and far between.

The GSP 2018 environmental audit of 1,700 schools revealed that only 13 per cent of schools operate on solar energy.

In Himachal Pradesh, of the 114 schools that participated in the GSP Audit 2018, only 16 claimed to have installed solar energy systems. Many of the schools were burning biomass or wood (mainly for cooking mid-day meals).

According to CSE researchers, Himachal Pradesh has huge solar potential, though estimations vary widely.

Himachal Pradesh is also one of the 11 special category states that can claim 70 per cent of the project cost as Central Financial Assistance under the National Solar Mission, making it viable for schools.

Solar in Schools will be piloted first in Shimla, and will be rolled out in phases.

The participating schools will submit an energy audit of their schools to identify the sources of energy used. For schools where solar panels have already been installed effort will be made to enhance the students’ understanding of the value of the solar installations.

“The Shimla pilot is a step towards addressing the existing gaps and the learnings from the pilot will help develop a model renewable energy awareness campaign among schools, with the potential to upscale at a national level,” said Menon.

The initiative will also provide a unique educational opportunity for students to learn about technologies that have ecological benefits, added Menon.