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.

Geothermal

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

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