Show green signal to green power
Come summer, a lot of energy will be spent by people in production sectors and consumers discussing the persistence of energy shortages, especially peak load. However, energy crises also offer an opportunity to look at innovative approaches to the problem, and one of them is promotion of non-conventional and renewable energy sources, besides conservation of power through efficient use.
Of course, it is not as if renewable or non-conventional energy is quite new to India but what has been lacking, despite a plethora of supportive schemes at the Central and State levels and a wide network of technical and financial institutions, is awareness at the popular level, including among businesses, of the immense potential offered by these alternative sources of energy.
The benefit of renewables is dual - they add to the overall installed power capacity and at the same time help in strengthening the sustainability of the environment. It is generally perceived that many renewable sources of energy (like windmills, in which Tamil Nadu is the uncontested leader in India, solar energy, biomass) are at present not commercially competitive and cannot stand on their own feet but this is a misleading conclusion, if one were to take into account the cost of damage to the environment (and consequently to the health of the population) that is caused by pollution from traditional modes of energy generation like coal-based power. Reckoning “life-cycle costs”, many renewables would be a preferred option. Also, coal and other fossil fuels like petroleum and natural gas are exhaustible resources that cannot be relied upon to last for generations.
The Central and State governments are operating many schemes and incentives for generation of alternative energy sources and manufacture and use of alternative energy equipment and efficient use of energy. The Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency (IREDA), under the Union Ministry of Non-Conventional Energy Sources (MNES) in particular operates a whole range of schemes, assisted by funding from international agencies and some developed countries. State-level agencies, like TEDA (Tamil Nadu Energy Development Agency) also operate schemes, often in association with IREDA. Businesses and consumers should take an active interest in the schemes, evaluate their strengths and weaknesses and seek to influence public policy as also its implementation, instead of leaving the issues concerned to officialdom and organised networks alone.
Slashing of customs duties for imported parts and components and very low or nil excise duties on equipment have helped popularise the use of alternative energy sources. However, at the level of the common man, awareness of the value of renewable sources of energy is quite low compared to, say, awareness of the need for conservation of water.
According to some experts, the official policy framework in the energy sector could be further improved by making it mandatory or attractive for States to allow direct third party sale of energy from renewable sources like windmills instead of the generators having to route power through their grid or having to sell to the Electricity Board. Resistance on the ground to the new law on electricity, which seeks to bring about reforms in this direction, can be solved only by popular support to renewables. Also, it is felt that direct tax incentives to projects in the renewables sector should be linked to actual general generation and not to investment or depreciation.
SSIs : A review