If voted to power in Delhi, the Bharatiya Janata Party would bring in 12,000 electric buses, its Pradesh chief, Manoj Tiwari, has promised, as has been widely reported. The idea of course is to purposefully reduce pollution levels in the National Capital territory and beyond with proactive policy action. The move would make sense, provided there are attendant accounting norms in place to capitalise the lumpy investment over a proper length of time. The e-buses would have smaller operational expenditure and would hardly require any maintenance, and these factors need to be duly taken into account.
However, in tandem, what’s also required are solar-powered charging facilities so as to bring down carbon emissions emanating from usage of fossil fuels in the Delhi National Capital Region. The Delhi Metro already gets about 90% of its day-time power supply from the Rewa Ultra Mega Solar Power Project in Madhya Pradesh.
We surely need solar-powered charging points at the main e-bus depots in Delhi, as also in other dense urban centres, to gainfully provide ‘green’ and environmentally-benign public transport. Delhi does need purposeful policy action to reduce pollution levels from myriad sources, including vehicular emissions, road dust, construction grime, brick-kiln soot, and also industrial pollution. The reported arrangement for the Rewa solar plant is that MP power distribution companies or discoms are supplied 76% of the power produced, while the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC), is supplied the remaining 24%. We need similar supply and off-take to boost renewable energy, to gainfully power urban public transport.
We can do much more. The way forward is to step-up last mile connectivity for commuters to take to public transport in a big way. What’s required are solar-powered two-wheelers and auto rickshaws, to improve the ease of access for public transport. Further, what is also necessary is the provision of solar-powered charging facilities for the scooters and auto rickshaws. The July Budget did provide income-tax benefits for purchase of electric vehicles. A part of the benefit surely needs to be provided for solar roof-tops panels, so as to incentivise on-premise charging of myriad household gadgets, including phones, laptops and even e-scooters. What’s needed are proactive policy to systematically boost green public transport.
The other steps needed would be an attractive battery leasing scheme, so as to ply e-vehicles economically, across the board. It would fast-forward their diffusion and use and so make macroeconomic sense. India is heavily dependent on oil imports, and is poised to be the largest importer of crude oil by 2024, so even if we manage to reduce the incremental demand for oil going forward, the volumes involved would be huge. It would also make much sense to leverage our information technology skills and expertise to design an online booking system for seats in e-buses in real-time, complete with the availability of an App or application for smart phones or even good-quality feature phones, which would further boost usage of public transport especially in dense urban centres like Delhi.
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.