Renewing energy options

A recent CII meet invited focus on renewable sources of energy to perk up India's demand-supply scenario

THE Indian government has given top priority to the development and exploitation of renewable sources of energy to meet the requirement of rural communities. With economic expansion, vast opportunities have been made available for bringing about active involvement of the private sector for the rapid growth of the renewable energy (re) sector. Keeping this as the backdrop, recently in Madras, the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) organised an energy summit, 1996, where a day's deliberation on renewable energy was included.

The installed energy capacity of India as on March 31, 1996, stood at around 80,000 mw. Given this scenario, among Asian countries, India is and would continue to remain one of the major consumers of fossil fuels. The growth in our gdp is of the order of five to six per cent. Every one per cent growth in gdp requires 1.6 per cent increase in power consumption.

Unless the present level of co2 emissions from fossil fuel burning is reduced to 60 per cent of the present level, there could be a major climate shift by the middle of the next century.

The Central Electricity Authority estimates that the average gap between the demand and supply by 1997 is likely to reach 14 per cent and that of peak demand to 28 per cent. The demand-supply gap is bound to rise further. It is in this scenario, the new and renewable sources of energy are poised to play a vital role in the coming years.

In the cii conference, top functionaries from the ministry of non-conventional energy sources (MNES), decisionmakers in the private sector, technocrats and foreign delegates presented their views.

Addressing the conference, A K Gupta, advisor (power), mnes, said that according to a working group of the Planning Commission, nearly 4,500 mw of power can be generated through re sources, during the Ninth Plan period. The break-up was: wind energy -- 2,000 mw; mini hydro and biomass -- 1,000 mw each; solar energy -- 500 mw. Although according to experts, the potential production was of the order of 6,000 mw, the group stuck to its target of 4,500 mw.

As far as solar energy was concerned, the contribution of renewable energy sources by the end of the current Plan period would be eight per cent of the country's installed capacity added in the last five years. Already, some states have taken steps to identify areas and earmarked them as solar energy enterprise zones. While Rajasthan has planned a solar energy plant with a capacity of 140 mw, Tamil Nadu has allowed a private promoter to put up a plant of 100 mw capacity.

An advisor to the mnes revealed that the Planning Commission has an ambitious target of distributing one million solar lanterns and 50,000 solar pumps during a five year period, commencing from the next fiscal year. If achieved, it would result in an annual saving of 540 mw of electricity and 100 million litre of kerosene.

It was pointed out that a main attraction for focussing on biomass technology was the low capital investment and low cost of power generation. The conference also suggested that the state electricity boards should be advised to ensure that a minimum of two per cent of the power generated by them came from renewable energy sources.

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