PowerHouse: How to build energy powered and sustainable houses for poor
Moneylife Digital Team 15 July 2015
PowerHouse, a concept of renewable energy powered houses is a project supported by CSVI. The project aims to design and enable a solution to conceptualise sustainable homes for the rural poor
CRISP Social Ventures India (CSVI), the on-ground extension of the Chevening Rolls Royce Science & Innovation Leadership Programme (CRISP), has launched PowerHouse, a global collaborative mission to design and enable a solution to conceptualise sustainable houses for the rural poor.  
"Owing to the lack of sufficient facilities, the shortage of housing and the difficulty in obtaining funds to purchase a house, the concept of renewable energy powered houses was established”, CSVI said in a release. By ensuring that the house is affordable and funding is not very difficult to arrange, Powerhouse will ensure upliftment and a better standard of living for the occupants on a sustainable basis. What exactly is powerhouse? According to its website, "Powerhouse is a global collaborative mission to design not only a house, but even the process of enabling such a solution to the potential end users. Renewable sources of power can be harnessed to develop a standardised solution, becoming an integral part of the house. Think solar, think wind...think beyond. Powerhouse will be a house, which will not only produce its own power, but will be able to generate excess power. Powerhouse will do at least three things economically. First and second, it will make money for their inhabitants as they sell back the excess power to the grid and the income pays for part of the mortgages taken to buy the homes. Third, the inhabitants will be involved in building the easy-to-erect homes, and earning thereof".
Details of the project are available here:  http://www.power-house.in/
At least 78 million people are homeless in India despite the country growing in global economic stature. There is a shortage of 18.78 million houses in the country, because of which, they either sleep in the open or by the roadside, railway platforms and under flyovers.
At present, the mission is working at finding a solution by getting the best of minds together at the drawing board stage. 
"Housing has never been looked upon as something which needs a holistic solution," CSVI, said, "policy experts, engineers, renewable energy experts, architects, bankers; all will have to sit together at the drawing board stage. It may sound a bit utopian at this stage, but that is the goal. It will address problems by 'designing a process' and not by 'designing a house', as has been the practice.” 
CRISP has called for expression of interests from experts and corporate groups who will work on a collaborative basis. 
The need to join hands is explained as follows: 
"In India, and across the globe, homes have traditionally been designed by architects and erected by contractors. All other improvements, like say installing a solar panel, are usually standalone activities, resulting in a lack of accurate integration with other services, leading to inefficient outputs. The poor in India cannot afford architect-designed homes, and thus live in poor quality, self-imagined and built habitats, with no or limited access to good hygiene, clean water and power. So what if experts designed once, and houses were mass produced; say like cars? The poor is more concerned about a reliable roof above their head, rather than a customised designer house. A collaborative team of architects, engineers, renewable energy experts, policy makers, financiers and others working together from the drawing board stage can design the process required for such mass produced “net positive” homes. It is believed that this collaborative approach, versus the ‘design in silos’ approach, will help develop a holistic, modular, standardised housing solution for the poor in India; and in the process becoming an economic development engine.
According to CRISP, these projects will be initiated across India where people can then buy well designed homes, capable of generating surplus power, just as they would by a car from a showroom. However, there will be regional variations to encompass regional characteristics. Standardisation is the key, as this will lower costs, and it will bring in efficiency and quality control. Also, research has shown that the homeless and the poor in India accept standardised solutions as long as it is a 'pucka ghar'. In the beginning, these houses will be set up in states, which have introduced the concept of net-metering where one can sell back excess power back to the grid.
The house owner will also be a part of CRISP’s co-operative mission. He/ she will earn (and that earning pays off the mortgage) by selling the excess power that the house will generate, the owner will also have an additional revenue stream by 'building for his neighbours'. It will be easy to build the house, where skills can be easily learned. This will also uplift people and communities socially and economically. This will be real economic growth from the grassroots level; a bottom up approach, which is the need of the hour. Note that these homes will be self-powered through renewable sources of power. The excess power will be sold back to the grid, which will be earnings for the occupants. This is possible due to the introduction of net metering in a few states across in India. 
The actual cost will be known once a prototype is built. However, there will be a mortgage linked to the house, and mortgage payments linked to earnings from the sale of excess power. So the house comes virtually free to the owner. CRISP is working with agencies like the National Housing Bank from the beginning. Mortgage norms can be made easier such that the poor can have easy access to them. New schemes like the Jan Dhan Yojana are steps in the right direction, as it brings the larger population into the formal sector.
The Chevening Rolls-Royce Science and Innovation Leadership Programme (CRISP) is conducted by the Oxford University, UK and supported by Rolls Royce, the British High Commission in India and the Foreign & Commonwealth Office in UK. Furthering its goal towards making India economically advanced and self-reliant, the program's alumni in India, along with support groups from Oxford and elsewhere, have established 'CRISP Social Ventures India' (CSVI).
CSVI undertakes mentoring and incubation activities for social entrepreneurs in India.
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