Sunday, June 24, 2012

Why Renewable Energy Important for India

The persistent electricity shortage is a key bottleneck in sustainable growth of India.  Our per capita consumption (778 KWH) is one of the lowest in the world as compared to world average 2600KWH.  Approximately 80.9 million households are still to electrify.  And 42 percent of rural masses use kerosene –based lighting. So they pay 20-30 times more than they would pay for electricity based lighting. Supply is not sufficient even in urban areas. Still 6 to7 percent urban households use kerosene-based lighting.
12th plan’s approach paper says for GDP to grow at 9 percentage rate, commercial energy supplies will have to grow at a rate between 6.5-7.0 percent yearly. It suggests a 100 GW power capacity addition for the plan period 2012-17. An IEA (International Energy Agency) report concludes India need around 800GW-1200GW by 2050 as compared to present 199GW capacity.
Coal, oil and gas are non-renewable fossil fuels. They take millions of years to form and its reserves are depleting faster than new formation. About 65% of electric generated from coal and oil. Hence it is on top in electric pattern generation in India. Low calorific value, less production capacity and growing demand for power forced India to import about 20% of its coal requirement. India import almost 76% of its oil requirement from middle-east countries and rest it meets by local production.
A rising India should give due heed to challenges posed by enormous energy needs. Oil and coal will remain the chief sources of energy for the foreseeable future. As a result, India will remain highly reliant on potentially unstable countries for its energy needs. The erratic fluctuations in prices of crude oils and fossil fuels are great concern for us. This adds salt to owe of the masses. And businesses see its impact down the line up to the bottom. Families feel the pinch when they go for basic needs. Oil demand is growing with the rising power demand. Thus, the price of oil will keep rising.
Energy security is a critical issue for us. It has political angle too and attracts the attention of eminent world thinker and politicians. Our former president Dr.A P J Abdul Kalam says “Energy independence is the lifeline of a nation.”  US President Barack Obama made it an election issue in his 2008 campaign.  He wanted to get rid of dependence on gulf countries due to oil import. So, he promised $15 billion yearly investment for research on green energy. On March 30, 2011 he said “My country can’t afford to bet our long-term prosperity and security on a resource that will eventually run out. Therefore it is time to do what we can to secure our energy future.
India stands at 6th in energy consumption with very little resources.  It is very interesting and strained us to think on our planning like USA efforts in last 4 years. On one hand US efforts have decreases its oil import by 12% while on other hand it is increasing in India rapidly.  That is why, India must take serious endeavors to secure and control our energy future. That we can by harnessing all our resources that are available with a diverse energy portfolio.
India is fortunate enough to be endowed abundantly with renewable energy (RE) resources. RE includes solar, wind, biomass and small hydro etc which are widely distributed across the country.  And it can be utilized through commercially viable technologies to generate power. Hence it is accelerating the use of RE and is indispensable for India to keep its survival. RE technologies are based on the inexhaustible resources. These technologies offer sustainable energy alternatives to a world beset by serious environmental problems and volatile fossil fuels.
RE has started showing visible impact in Indian energy scenario. It is good news for us as it is now about 12 percent of total national eclectic installed capacity.  Decentralized based RE and its distributed applications have benefited millions of rural folk. It is meeting their cooking, lighting and other energy requirements in an environmentally benign manner.
RE have social, political and economical implications. It reduces poverty among rural masses by supplying clean energy. It also generates employment at village level and ultimately improvement in the standard of living and creation of opportunity for economic activities at village level which are not possible in absence of this power. Non-availability of power is a social issue for political actors. RE provide politicians to use RE as tool to solve this social problem in remote areas for political gains.
Indian RE program is primarily private sector driven. It offers significant investment and business opportunities.  New investment in renewable has now exceeded US $10 billion yearly. India’s huge potential is likely to be even greater than 150GW. Yet, resources from sources such as plantation on wasteland and offshore wind farms have not mapped. These have significant generation capacity and to harness this we need to a lot more.  The potent solar power is likely to increase significantly with improvement in technology as solar power generation contributed more than 500MW in one year.
RE has the potential to transform energy markets across the world.  Globally, the clean technology industry is considered the next big high-tech industry (like IT sector). Recognizing the sector’s potential, India should made a strategic plan for our overall growth similar to Mahatma Gandhi model. This means strengthening the rural India which can now possible by RE. There are thus many strong reasons for placing high priority on renewable energy development.
Heera Lal
(Writer is Secretary UPNEDA but views are personal and based on different sources)