April 2009

Time for Action

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Renewable energy sources are increasingly being harnessed today to provide people with alternative and eco-friendly energy for their fuel needs

As people become more conscious about preserving the environment and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, better alternatives are being developed and utilised. This holds true in terms of the energy usage also. This is the reason behind the growing popularity and need for alternative and renewable energy sources.

Renewable energy means that it can be easily replenished in a short span of time. This is because sources of this type of energy are in abundant supply and are foreseen not to experience any shortage in the future. Much of this renewable energy is used in electricity generation. This is followed by the production of heat and steam for industrial applications, transportation and heating of homes and buildings.  The negative effects of the use of fossil fuels are taking its toll on environment and  humans alike. Pollution mainly from the burning of fuels has long been pointed as a major cause of the earth’s deterioration and man’s health problems notably those related to respiratory illnesses. Additionally, world prices of fuel never fails to shock, as a result search for alternative sources of energy is fast gaining momentum.

M. Hamid Ansari, Vice President of India in India energy conference had said, “Energy for development debate is important and should be multifaceted in nature encompassing environment conservation. Successful nations have harnessed energy security. Government’s energy policy must meet demands at competitive prices and should be economically viable.”

Addressing the same conference , Dr R.K. Pachauri, Director-General TERI and Chairman IPCC said, “We are going through historic changes in the energy sector, hence renewable and alternate sour ces of energy should be tapped in a bigger scale. I feel that nuclear energy is an important component of the energy sector. Energy sector needs major investments for R&D and the oil exporting nations will play a quintessential role in supporting
the infrastructure and welfare of the local community.”

A major advantage of renewable energy is its low impact on the environment especially since it does not emit hazardous greenhouse gases. As such, they are cleaner and safer to use. While renewable energy were a bit expensive to use in the past, they are considered to be more affordable now. Some drawbacks, though, include their remote location, high cost of building power lines and less constant availability especially those that are dependent on the weather condition such as solar and wind energy. Renewable energy sources are increasingly being harnessed today to provide people with alternative and eco-friendly energy for their fuel needs. As the prices of crude oil and natural gas, the production and use of these fuels continue to grow and are expected to go on for many more years. This may still be coupled, though, with the use of non-renewable fuels.

Telecom trends

Reducing emissions and costs remains a high priority on the 2009 telecoms agenda. According to a new report from Ovum, the global advisory and consulting firm, going green now ranks high on the agenda for many telecoms operators and rightly so.”Apart from the feel-good factor that comes with knowing you are doing your bit to save the planet, there are a number of other benefits to be gained from implementing green initiatives throughout the telecoms business. Reducing costs and improving brand perception are only an example”, says Sally Banks, Senior Analyst with Telco Operations at Ovum.

Although identifying, implementing and monitoring green policies within the telecoms industry will cost money to establish, the benefits far outweigh these initial costs in terms of both financial savings and revenue generating opportunities, as well as helping to prevent climate change.

“Operators across the world have introduced an array of green policies”, explains Sally Banks. Using renewable energy sources to power networks and mobile base stations and natural resources from sustainable sources are just a couple of examples but there is still more that operators can do. Recycling materials from phones, networks and offices, improving the battery life of mobile phones to reduce the need to charge them so frequently, cutting energy usage and using more energy efficient technologies, are also high on the list of green priorities. Telecom operators have also started using fresh air cooling systems for data centres rather than high-energy air-conditioning systems and switching from diesel/petrol to LPG on fleet vehicles to reduce emissions. “Introducing environmentally-friendly initiatives is only part of the challenge of implementing a green strategy. However, in order for it to succeed, telecoms operators need to ensure the full co-operation of its employees, establish credible key performance indicators that can measure progress and, importantly, send consistent marketing messages pertaining to its green credentials”, continues Sally Banks.

Estimates suggest that telecoms can achieve a 1-2% reduction in global carbon emissions by implementing green initiatives within their operations. However, the telecommunications industry is expected to enable other businesses to reduce emissions by up to five times this amount, highlighting that telecom has a major role to play in enabling a green economy.

Erratic power supply in rural areas is pushing more and more Indian telcos to alternative energy to power their towers. Sometime back Idea Cellular announced that it was looking at bio-diesel to power some of its rural cellular base stations. The fad apparently is catching on. Ericsson  has already set up 4 towers running on fish and vegetable oils, for Idea Cellular in the power-strapped Maharashtra circle. Reliance Communications is tapping wind and solar power. While it has already installed windmills on its towers at Kunustara and Murugathal near Durgapur in West Bengal, it is in talks with Pune-based solar cell manufacturer Machinocraft on the solar power front. On a rough estimate, a wind power turbine or a solar panel mounted on towers will generate around 1,800-2,000 watts during peak sunshine hours or high-windy days. Of this, the repeater sites consume up to 500 watt each, while the remaining is stored in batteries and used to power the network at night or low windy times.

Success stories

On December 31, 2002, the Indian Railways conducted a successful trial run of an express passenger train on the Delhi-Amritsar route using five per cent of “biodiesel” as fuel. The fuel is extracted from the seeds of the `Jatropha’ plant which is well-adapted to semi-arid or arid conditions and demands low soil-fertility and moisture. In Warangal, Andhra Pradesh, the Azamshahi Textile Mills, set up by the Nizam of Hyderabad in 1940, generated all the power needs of the factory using non-edible oils until its recent closure; and it had surplus power left over for the city’s needs. Since Dr Srinivasa’s rediscovery of the potential of he Honge tree, Dandeli Ferroalloys of Dandeli, Karnataka, converted all five of their diesel engines to run entirely from Honge oil. Powered by Honge fuel, Kagganhalli’s villagers have now been able to pump enough water to turn their dry and desolate village into one that can produce watermelons, mulberry bushes, sugar cane and grains.

Several new power alternatives have also emerged in the arena of transportation. Thanks to pressure from the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) and subsequent Supreme Court rulings, Delhi’s buses and three-wheelers have now switched to Compressed Natural Gas (CNG). Seoul has also begun a switchover to CNG. Other Indian metros, and cities in Indonesia, Iran are considering similar moves. Cairo and Dhaka are also drawing up CNG plans so as to reduce intolerable levels of urban air pollution and reduce consumption of petrol or diesel.

Advantage India

Close on the heels of the Kyoto protocol recommending a phased changeover to bio-diesel through blending, the Government of India has taken a number of initiatives to promote bio-fuels. The Agriculture Ministry has drawn up large scale plans to plant Jatropha across the country. India currently has nearly 250,000 acres under Jatropha cultivation. Indian Oil Corporation, the country’s leading oil PSU has drawn elaborate plans to venture into the bio-diesel segment. Bharat Petroleum alone has undertaken Jatropha plantation in 1,000 acres of land. Hindustan Petroleum plans to plant 10 lakh Jatropha saplings, install transesterification units and tissue culture-related research and development. The Planning Commission of India has also initiated the draft policy for bio-fuels envisaging 5% blending by 2012 and 10% by 2017.

Major institutions like the Indian Institute of Planning, Indian Institute of Chemical Technology, Indian Institute of Science, and the Indian Institute of Technology are working diligently on the research and development aspects of bio-diesel.

A study by Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India, six million CFL’s used every year in India would eliminate the need of 3700 MW of electricity and save around $6 million In India, there are 300 million general lighting service points, and if 10% of these are converted to CFL, 4,000 million KW per annum of electricity would be saved, reducing the country’s electricity bills by INR 1320 crore. IFC, a member of the World Bank Group is prioritising investments in Renewable Energy & Energy Efficiency domains of Indian businesses. Three lakh Electric Vehicles on the Indian roads by 2020 (2,3 & 4 wheelers) could result in a reduction of over 16 lakh metric tons of CO, NOx & HC by 2020, savings of over US$ 1billion in foreign exchange.

Important announcements in 2009

  • West Bengal government plans to raise the minimum take off  limit from renewables for its distribution company to 10 % from its current amount of 4.8 %. This is in response to the expected US$1 billion worth investments in renewable energy sector projects by 2012.
  • Moser Baer Photovoltaic, a subsidiary of Moser Baer India has won a contract from the Roads and Buildings department of Gujarat to set up roof-top solar photovoltaic installations. The solar photovoltaic system with 135-kilowatt-peak installed capacity will run a 40-kilowatt load for 10 hours each day and charge a battery bank of 6,000 ampere hours.
  • Mumbai-based company, Refex Energy Ltd, has announced its intention to invest INR 1000 crore (US$205 million) for setting up a 50 MW solar power plant in Gujarat.
  • Moser Baer announced that its photovoltaic subsidiary is ready for production of thin film photovoltaic modules at its manufacturing plant in Greater Noida. The 40MW capacity line is the largest thin film solar line in India.
  • Bharat Heavy Electrical Ltd (BHEL) is entering into an understanding with Kerala Electrical and Allied Engineering Co Ltd (KEL) for setting up a joint venture (JV) to manufacture wind power generators. The proposed JV expects to generate a turnover of US$12.3 million by next year.
  • Infrastructures Kerala (Inkel) has announced plans to launch four hydro-electric projects with a total capacity of 53 MW. Of the four projects, two are at Bhoothathankettu with a capacity of 16 MW each, one at Keezharkuthu with 15 MW, and a 6-MW project at Chittoor. The aggregate investment for the four projects is US$51.3 million.
  • The Punjab government has drafted a plan to generate power from agriculture waste by setting up co-generation power plants at all the state-owned cooperative sugar mills. The concept aims to involve the private sector on a Build, Own, Operate and Transfer (BOOT) basis at its nine sugar mills. The private sector companies will purchase agriculture waste through cooperative societies in the state to generate power through the biomass project.
  • The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) is considering a proposal to set up a company for generating power from renewable sources. The company would be 100% owned by the government. The proposed firm will tap solar, geothermal, wind, biofuel and biomass sources for power generation. This will be the first PSU generating power from renewable sources.


Studies carried out by the geological survey of India have observed existence of about 340 hot springs in the hot country. These are distributed in seven geothermal provinces. Geothermal energy is at present contributes about 10,000 MW over the world and India’s small resources can augment the above percentage. An experimental geothermal power plant of 5-MW capacity has been set up at Manikaran in Himachal Pradesh. A cold storage plant has also been set up in the area to utilise geothermal energy at 90°C for preserving vegetable and fruits. Glitnir Bank is  continuing to spread the world about  geothermal, announcing a joint venture with  LNJ Bhilwara Group. The venture is being set  up with initial capital of $10 million for its exploration phase.


India has been generating hydropower for more  than a century. India ranks fi fth in the    world in terms of exploitable hydro potential. According to CEA estimates, India’s exploitable hydroelectric potential is estimated to be 150,000 MW, whereas the installed capacity in the country has so far been 34,653.77 MW, which is about 23 % of the potential. According to the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy(MNRE), the potential of Indian small hydro power projects (up to 25 MW) is estimated at 15,000 MW, whereas the country   has so far set up SHP  projects with a cumulative installed capacity of 1,976 MW only. The government envisages a capacity addition of 1,400 MW during the 11th Five-Year Plan period (2007- 2012). Apart from this, projects aggregating to a 394 MW capacity are under implementation. The  Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency (IREDA) arranges lowinterest loans for hydel power stations with capacities up to 25 MW. A package of incentives and subsidies,  including fi scal concessions, are available for SHP projects. Many states have announced preferential tariff structures for SHP projects. The Government of India is encouraging the development of small hydro projects through public and private sector participation in various States. Due to the wide distribution of small hydro power stations, India has a wellfunctioning network of manufacturers and dealers with established international connections and partnerships.


India is on course to emerge as a solar energy hub. The techno-commercial potential of  photovoltaics in India is enormous. With GDP growing in excess of 8% (till sometime back), the  energy ‘gap’ between supply and demand will only widen. Solar PV is a renewable energy  resource capable of bridging this ‘gap’. Most parts of India have 300 – 330 sunny days in a  year, which is equivalent to over 5000 trillion kWh per year – more than India’s total energy  consumption per year. Average solar incidence stands at a robust 4 – 7 kWh/sq.meter/day.  About 66 MW of aggregate capacity is installed for various applications comprising 1 million industrial PV systems – 80% of which is solar lanterns, home/street lighting systems and solar  water pumps, etc. The estimated potential envisaged by the ministry for the solar PV  programme, i.e. solar street/home lighting systems, solar lanterns is 20 MW/sq. kilometre. The potential of the solar thermal sector in India also remains untapped. According to the  Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE), the estimated potential of solar water heating systems is 140 million sq.  meters collector area. Against this, the achievement till 31 March 2007 stands at 1.90 million sq. meters only. The Ministry proposes an addition of 9.50million sq. meters during the 11th Five- Year Plan period (2007-2012).


India is endowed with a large, viable and economically exploitable wind power potential.  According to the MNRE, India’s potential is conservatively estimated at 45,195 MW. The use  of wind power in India ranks fourth by worldwide comparison with an installed capacity of  7,092 MW. In fact, the Indian government envisages a capacity addition of 10,500 MW  during the 11th Five – Year Plan period (2007-2012). India is placed at the third position in the world in terms of new construction and this corresponds to an overall increase of over 40%  in new wind power stations. India’s largest private power company, TATA Power is  setting up a 100 MW wind energy project in India. National Thermal Power Corporation plans  to install wind energy capacity of 250 MW. Hindustan Petrochemicals Company  Limited and Oil and Natural Gas Commission are foraying into the wind energy segment with  wind farms of 100 – 150 MW at various sites along India’s coastline. A programme  entitled “Small Wind Energy and Hybrid Systems” is developed every year for the small  wind-power station segment i.e. those with a capacity up to 30 KW and wind-powered water  pumps produced in India. During 2006-07 (validated up to 30 September 2006),  indigenously produced wind turbines valued at US$ 250 million have been exported to  Australia, Brazil, China, USA and to European countries. The export of wind turbines and  components together is likely to touch about US$ 500 million during the fi nancial year. A  vast range of attractive incentives including fi scal concessions are offered to wind power projects by the MNRE, Government of India.

Now is it the time to take action, otherwise our future generation will be deprived for clean  and safe environment. As the saying goes “ prevention is better than the cure”, let us all work  towards a better tomorrow by adopting alternate sources of energy which will make this world a better place to live in.

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