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Energy Security: Gathering Fresh Steam?

Dr BK Mukhopadhyay

We are hopeful of the latest going that India would develop enough solar power to run at least one light bulb in every home by 2019. The goal is part of a larger push to boost renewable energy in India, where energy demand is projected to double over the next 20 years. Side by side:  even with a drastic boost of renewable energy, India faces a formidable challenge in weaning itself from coal, which accounts for 59 percent of its electric capacity. The reality – dependence on fossil fuels is why India ranks fourth behind Chi, the United States, and the European Union, in global greenhouse gas emissions.

Now: the very aggressive goals for renewable is here. The will and the intension definitely deserve appreciation – something to be especially welcomed. The Central government has put forth a slew of ambitious renewable energy goals – to add 10,000 megawatts of capacity to the sector every year—that’s about half of the country’s current total installed capacity. The government would go “far beyond” the previous regime’s 2009 goal of installing 20,000 megawatts of solar energy capacity by 2022.

As the things stand now – much remains to be done in both the wind and solar sector. Large–scale state–sponsored programs have helped India boost its solar capacity by a factor of a hundred between 2011 and 2014. But plans for the world’s largest solar power plant, a 4,000–megawatt project in the midst of the Thar Desert in the west, have been stalled over concerns about the risks to flamingoes and other migratory birds during winter at the wetlands nearby.

The targets, if properly implemented,  will truly be having ‘pride of place in India’s tiol Action Plan on Climate Change’ as the same will be a strategic shift from our ongoing heavy reliance on fossil fuels to a pattern of sustaible growth based on the renewable and clean sources of energy.

The renewed awareness was long awaited. Even the previous target set for installation of 20 million solar powered lights and 20 million square meters of solar panel could generate that 20000 mw by 2022 that could save 7500 mw power generation capacity and one billion litters of kerosene per year. If the revised one is given effect the economy will be largely benefitted.

As things stand now, out of the present installed clean power generation capacity of 155.8 GW, renewable energy consists of only around 10 percent and that too comes from wind energy where solar power’s contribution continues to be very feeble. So the Government Plan to add solar power is really something to welcome.

A lot, side by side, depends on the implementation machinery in as much as our planning experience clearly reflects the fact that either the plans are too optimistic and / or the implementation machinery has been far from being optimal.

As far as solar energy is concerned, the fact to be noted is that – as initial cost will be high especially if it is for grid power generation, efforts should be there to minimize the same subsequently; otherwise commercial use will pose a big problem. No doubt the blending of more expensive solar energy with cheaper thermal power will smoothen the way for tariff reduction ultimately.

Essentially, energy efficiency is a strategic issue in the development process and countries have necessarily to strive for building an energy efficient society. If we look at the global picture we could definitely locate that no country is energy–independent. Even Saudi Arabia – the world’s largest oil exporter –imports refined petroleum products like gasoline. Gasoline is imported by UAF, Norway and also Nigeria, whereas tural gas is still imported by Russia and UAF and electricity and coal by Russia and Norway, Thus, the regions with abundant raw resources also rely on import of some form of energy.

Whatever it is, the fact remains that the vast majority of countries rely on a few energy–producing tions rich in hydrocarbon sources. Therefore, energy independence remains an unrealistic goal. Balancing the needs of the producers and consumers is thus as crucial as increasing the supply and curbing the demand. Remember, oil demand is projected to grow up to 115 million barrels per day (MBPD) by 2030 against 82 MBPD in 2004!

So far India is concerned it is to be kept in view that our oil reserves are estimated to be around 5.4 billion barrels (less then 0.5 per cent of the world oil reserves) and the tural gas reserves are of the order of one trillion cubic matters. We continue to be a net importer of energy, crude oil being the largest import–bill–eater. We are even importing coal. There remains a functiol market for fuels globally and as such any country is free to purchase its requirement at the price that the market determines from time to time. At the same time, uncertainties prevail. War, political turmoil, tural disasters, accidents and such other events block the supply line and affect the availability at affordable prices.

It is a well known a fact today that energy security essentially means uninterrupted availability of energy for the economy at all times at prices that are broadly in line with what the rest of the world pays. To counter adverse situations, some developed as well as developing economies resort to storing large quantities of fuels – oil and gas – in order to tide over the likely duration of any supply disruption. The question remains: is it the solution? Temporarily these practitioners may counter the problem, but in the long run?

Problems are two–fold: in some vibrant areas a realistic approach is missing, or the works are not systematically carried on – lack of exact coordition, to be specific. So far as the indicator, per capita consumption of energy is concerned, we are among the lowest in the world. Side by side it is also a fact that we top the list when it comes to the use of energy per unit of GDP. Power theft is silently tolerated!

Close technical cooperation with the neighboring economies emerges to be the crucial thing, which, in turn, will benefit all of the parties concerned.

Full–fledged cooperation among the major energy consuming tions in the matter of development and exploiting energy resources, especially in energy conservation, improvement of energy efficiency, development of altertive energy resources as well as environmental protection concerning energy utilization and filly contribution towards maintaining the stability and security of intertiol energy supply, is the real way out. For that, no doubt, efforts must be made to promote the use of solar, wind and tidal energy, biomass and other renewable energy sources, especially keeping in mind the fact that the demand for petroleum products in a number of countries has been growing. There are obviously multiple elements to address the issue of securing energies. Minimizing the size of strategic reserves – diversifying the geography of supply sources and the modes of fuel transport– are the other altertives. The need for technological innovations is very high and we need to find ways and means to reduce the space intensity of current solar applications, including the use of no–technology.

In fact we have to take a comprehensive view. Global energy security depends on many factors – flow of investment and expertise, innovation, prosperity and high per capita energy availability, among others. One has to diversify energy supplies, find more traditiol fuels, and at the same time develop altertives. Needless to say that without involving all of the countries lasting solution would remain far from being achievable.

That is why a comprehensive policy duly covering all of the vital areas such as nuclear energy tapping, minimization of transmission loss, and emphasis on renewable energy sources, can help us inch forward towards self–reliance in energy!

(The Writer, a noted Magement Economist and an Intertiol Commentator on Business and Economic Affairs, can be reached at m.bibhas@gmail.com)

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Ankur Kalita

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