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What a green idea

We all know that though electricity is a major source of energy, it involves an inordinate use of fossil fuels. The thermal power stations operate on an average efficiency of less than 30 per cent, writes Shishir Tamotia.

india Updated: Mar 09, 2009 21:10 IST

Last December, the Cabinet approved the Integrated Energy Policy, submitted by an expert panel in August 2004. Despite taking five years to be cleared, the policy still doesn’t offer anything new to counter the present energy crisis. In fact, the panel felt that even in 2031, we would be burning 2 billion tonnes of coal to generate the required amount of electricity.

We all know that though electricity is a major source of energy, it involves an inordinate use of fossil fuels. The thermal power stations operate on an average efficiency of less than 30 per cent. If we add the transmission and distribution losses to it, the final electricity supply comes down to just 20 per cent of that contained in coal. Therefore, conversion losses and greenhouse gas emissions make it imperative for us to explore renewable sources of energy.

In Europe, a substantial amount of research to develop new forms of energy is in progress. In the Kyoto Protocol, it was expected that India and China would voluntarily set an upper limit on carbon emissions. As a responsible nation India cannot afford to generate a major part of its electricity from fossil fuels, especially when others are looking for alternatives.

Today, thanks to innovation, we have access to some renewable technologies:

l Solar power can be used in households; it can also be stored and fed to electricity grids.

l The grids can be fed by hybrid generators that use solar, biomass, wind and other renewable resources.

l The national grid can be fed by millions of solar energy-using modules installed on rooftops.

l Natural gas can be supplied to households via a national network of pipelines and a strategy can be developed to supplement natural gas grids with biogas.

l We can develop public transport infrastructure based on efficient use of energy.

India must seek its own path of development and ensure that the nation runs on at least 50 per cent of renewable energy by 2031. We can achieve this marvel, for India has sizeable resources and the requisite number of trained engineers.

We can follow the German solar energy model in which the introduction of a high feed-in tariff yielded high investments and curtailed transmission and distribution losses. Giving incentives for generation of power from renewable sources is also important. Power companies should be made independent, like the telecom sector. A network of national and local grids will take care of all our power needs.

Shishir Tamotia is Chief Executive Officer, Ispat Energy Limited.