India’s green energy initiatives will gain full steam only when enabling mechanisms and infrastructure are ready
Increase in per capita consumption leads to GDP growth, but it poses two major threats — rapid depletion of existing natural resources and release of large quantities of harmful gases, causing health hazards.
The primary energy consumption comes from crude oil, natural gas, coal, nuclear, hydroelectricity and renewable power. A major share of crude oil and coal is from imports where we need to pay billions of dollars as foreign exchange. Around 63.2% of energy is being met from thermal power stations, ie, through burning of coal. For generating 100 units of energy from thermal power, we need to burn 45.3 kg tonnes of coal, which releases 10 kg of harmful gasses. About 7.49 billion tonnes of carbon emissions are released into the atmosphere annually.
One method of reducing or avoiding atmospheric pollution is through an effective increase in renewable energy generation. At present, we have only 18% installed capacity and its contribution to total energy production is 12%. The government of India has taken several initiatives to increase the utilisation of renewable energy sources like solar power and wind. The price of the solar power plants has also significantly come down and accordingly power purchase costs are below Rs 3 per unit, which is cheaper than any other form of generation.
India has reached a solar-roof top generation capacity of 1.7 Gw within a short period.
However, the proposed target of 40 Gw by 2022 is still far away and would require faster adoption of technology and workforce. Since there is space scarcity at load centres, the focus should be on rooftop generation. Even if just 1.3% of India’s households is solarised with roof-top technology, more than 30% of the estimated energy could be harnessed.
Farmers may be encouraged to install solar power panels in their wastelands (where water facility not available). The generated power then can be distributed to neighbour consumers to avoid expenditure on infrastructural power lines. The supplier, in turn, earns income for the energy supplied.
Likewise, there is much scope for increasing wind energy in coastal areas. Since the availability of solar and wind depends on climatic conditions, grid stability has become a big challenge and focused research is needed to address the issue.
Act on Conservation
Recognising the importance of energy conservation, the government of India introduced the Energy Conservation Act, 2001. The Act binds large energy consumers to adhere to the energy conservation norms — specified energy consumption per unit of production. About 20 major industries like steel, cement, railways, discoms were brought under this Act. They need to submit Energy Audit reports annually like income tax returns. They are penalised for excess consumption. It has also led to the creation of Bureau of Energy Efficiency — the monitoring and governing agency — to implement the provisions of the Act.
Energy Conservation Building Code (ECBC) was also released for new buildings. Star rating has been introduced for appliances. Under the government of India’s ‘Ujala’ programme, about 36 crore LED bulbs have been distributed to the public, saving energy of 48,890 million units per annum. Thus around 37 million tonnes of carbon dioxide reduction per annum was achieved. Similarly 23,10,708 fans and 71,61,257 tube lights have been distributed, resulting in major power savings of 21,48,95,844 units and 31,36,63,057 units respectively and around 1.7 million tonnes reduction in CO2 emissions.
Road to Less Pollution
Vehicles are one of the major contributors to atmospheric pollution. There are about 7.2 million vehicles on Indian roads and every day about 54,000 are being added to the system. If the trend continues, we can well imagine the future. Electric vehicles offer a solution and the government is encouraging electric mobility under its FAME (Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of (Hybrid &) Electric Vehicles in India) scheme.
However, despite subsidies, the initial cost of electric vehicles is very high, when compared with petrol or diesel. There are also not enough charging stations. The government has to address the infrastructure roadblock if it has to achieve its target of replacing all government vehicles with electric vehicles by 2030.
Trend in Telangana
Telangana has executed the world’s single largest street project in Hyderabad, by replacing 4.4 lakh conventional lights with LED lights with the automation of 27,000 on/off switches. This has saved about 253 million units of energy and resulted in a reduction of 2 lakh tonnes of CO2 emissions. Besides, streetlights in all municipal corporations were changed with energy-efficient lights. However, in villages, these need to be replaced.
The Telangana government is also at the forefront of the implementation of ECBC code and has made it mandatory for buildings constructed with a plot area of over 1,000 sqm or a built-up area greater than 2,000 sqm, and for certain category of buildings such as multiplexes, hospitals and convention centres, irrespective of the built-up area.
In solar power, it has emerged as a leader with 3,600 Mw capacity. It also made the right decision to go about 40 electric buses in Hyderabad. But, all government-run vehicles must go electric and for this, its electric mobility policy must be robust. Many States like Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat and Delhi are ahead in this regard. The State government must release its electric vehicle policy at the earliest to encourage entrepreneurs to set up charging stations and other allied industries.
Replacing 21 million inefficient agricultural pumpsets with BEE 5-star rated pumpsets will result in an annual energy saving potential of 54 billion units and cut down CO2 emissions by 40 million tonnes. The government also may ban non-star rating appliance production.
Electric charging stations must be established at all existing parking places like cinema hall, shopping malls, bus, railway and airports so as to boost electric vehicle sales. HT category consumers must compulsorily submit energy report annually. Energy conservation syllabus in school and college will inculcate energy conservation practices in children.
While the steps towards green energy are on the right track, more efforts will see us reaching the target quicker. And what better way to remind ourselves than on the National Energy Conservation Day, which is today — December 14.