VILAS BABURAO MUTTEMWAR, minister of state (independent charge) for non-conventional energy sources, tells KUSHAL P S YADAV
What will be your main focus areas?
We will primarily concentrate on increasing awareness about renewable energy sources amongst people in villages. This has not been done in the past. There have many schemes and programmes but their impact has not been as desired.
We started work on renewable energy much before other nations. For long we have had a dedicated ministry for renewable energy. But our progress has been poor compared to many other countries, which started much later...
We realise that it is very important to give a thrust to renewable energy, and so an independent status has been given to this ministry. We have renewable energy resources in plenty. Unfortunately, we have not been able to exploit them adequately. But doing that is just a question of increasing people's awareness.
We have to make people understand that coal will get over in 200 years, while our oil and gas reserves will finish in the next 100 years. So, we have to create a culture of energy-efficiency.
What about the national renewable energy policy, which has been in the pipeline for a long?
The policy needs a few amendments. We are getting new suggestions about areas that should be addressed by this policy. What we really want is to turn the whole idea into a movement.
What are the main problems that you currently face?
We do not have the infrastructure to monitor our programmes. Currently state governments monitor the implementation of our schemes, but we are not sure if they accord adequate priority to this task. So, we are thinking of initiating our own monitoring schemes. This will help us keep track of the overall progress of plans and programmes promoted by our ministry. The first monitoring stations will be set up in Pune and Nagpur, Maharastra. If these succeed, we will set up similar offices in all states where we have ongoing programmes.
Is the current budgetary allocation enough or does the ministry need more resources?
Budgetary allocation is not a problem. In fact, we must first spend whatever we have. The Planning Commission has asked us to provide energy through renewable sources to 25,000 remote villages by 2012. We have to go ahead and make programmes and schedules to attain this target.
What other major changes and new programmes can we expect from the ministry?
We have already prepared an outline plan for a new programme, 'Village energy security through biomass'. The ministry will soon identify the villages where this programme will be implemented and work on the project will start this year itself. Village communities will own and manage the schemes under this plan. We do not expect all of them to succeed, but with increased awareness the programme's success rate is bound to increase. We expect that such schemes will generate employment for at least 25 people in each village. The intricacies of the schemes, such as the selection of the technology to be deployed, will be decided in consultation with the villagers, the panchayat and district officials along with the technical input from our scientists.
Your ministry had earlier announced that 10 per cent of all additional electricity generated till 2012 will be from renewable sources. Any changes on this?
If we increase awareness, we can even surpass this target.
There have been major problems in the way rural electrification has been approached in the past. Even if a single household in a village gets a bulb, the entire village is declared has having electricity. Shouldn't this warped procedure change?
Yes, it should. Many villages have transformers and electric poles but no electricity. We want to change this state of affairs and give assured power through renewable sources. And this will not be restricted to providing lighting amenities. All energy requirements of villagers will be met: they will have lighting in their houses, their heating and cooking requirements will be provided for, we even plan to give them enough energy to set up a small household run business.
At the recently concluded Bonn conference there was a very vocal call for regional or global targets for renewable energy. What is our stand on this?
We don't agree. We have to keep Indian conditions in mind while designing and implementing our programmes.
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