When God decided to create days and nights, and blessed the earth with sunlight, he must have assumed that humans could easily figure out how to use that light to meet all their energy needs. Although the Homo sapiens claim to be the most intelligent ‘species’ on Planet Earth, it seems their intelligence has evolved more slowly than most. Look around and be humbled as plants and shrubs have already sorted it. They thrive on solar energy and less water, harness both and grow without a murmur! As for humans, they have simply taken thousands of years to realise that solar energy could be their ultimate answer to energy needs.
But jokes apart, India is among those countries which have caught the fancy of the world. With its futuristic use of technology (like wind turbines that power Tirupati Complex and low cost mission to Mars), this tropical country, blessed with ample sunlight, is capable to fend for itself and its ever-growing population.
Due to its rapid economic expansion and futuristic policies, a traditional country like India has to meet its energy requirements by leveraging fossil fuels such as coal. Nearly 70% of the energy consumed is generated from coal, followed by crude oil (24%) and natural gas (accounting for a mere 6%). It is, therefore, not difficult to comprehend that India is largely dependent on fossil fuel imports – so much as that by 2030, more than half the country’s energy needs will have to be met with large energy imports. Our own limited fossil reserves have long threatened the country’s stability as far as energy needs are concerned.
With a vast population of 1.1 billion and the urban areas housing the majority of industries and labour forces, India is moving dangerously close to the greenhouse effects with every passing year. While carbon emissions are getting high, the agricultural land is also getting increasingly barren and arid due to the indiscriminate use of pesticides and chemical fertilisers. The effects of global warming in this highly populated country are for everyone to see. From Tsunami in the past to the Uttarakhand floods in the recent years, from progressively botched up summers to extreme winters, the calamities are too many and India is bound to emerge as one of the foremost nations being affected by global warming.
India’s energy experts have been warning against the high use of exhaustible energy resources bought from other countries, which is causing a serious dent in the country’s exchequer.
Almost 400 million Indians (nearly a third of the country’s population) have no access to electricity. And this power deficit compels more than 100,000 villages to live in the dark ages, quite literally. Lack of energy sources has also left India in a rather vulnerable condition as far as growing basic infrastructure is concerned. Its per capita energy consumption stands at just 639 KWh (Kilo Watt per hour), which is among the lowest.
This apart, what compounds India’s energy problem is the fact that three quarters of the electricity is produced by burning coal and natural gas. India may well boast a steadily growing GDP, but what has also been dangerously steady, and progressively high, is its carbon emissions. During the last decade, India turned out to be one of the biggest carbon-emitting countries, touching 1.6 million kilotonnes in 2007 alone.
Plagued by crippling energy crises that cannot be dealt with if the same pattern of energy generation, import and consumption continues in the near future, India has started experimenting with alternative energy sources. Being blessed with a tropical climate and intense summers, the country is naturally predisposed to receiving abundant solar power for the major part of the year.
The country has already entered a solar partnership programme with the US, under the US-India Energy Partnership Programme called SERIIUS. This initiative will also enable India to take the fullest advantage of its deserts and arid lands, and reap energy benefits without harming Mother Nature. India can even supply this energy to other countries, thus encouraging bilateral trades and adding to the country’s robust economic growth. However, India will require at least $13 billion in the next three years to fund this second phase of the solar energy generation unit.
Solar projects are already generating a lot of energy for some states in India. Most of these plants are located in Gujarat, with some spread across Orissa, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, among others. While Gujarat has been the bellwether in the solar projects space in India, Rajasthan will be home to the world’s largest solar plant very soon. That solar photovoltaic power plant will have an estimated life of 25 years and is expected to generate 6.4 billion kilowatt-hours per year, as per official figures.
Gujarat has been clocking about 823.9 MW, with its biggest success being the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission. What has boosted the power scenario here is the state’s pro-solar policies and its subsequent access to a consistent flow of clean energy. Encouraged by the positive growth, Gujarat has also launched about 75 solar projects over two years. Moreover, Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi has always been a believer in entrepreneurship. Therefore, harnessing the solar power is the most sensible thing the Modi government has done for the state, which is high on industrial production.
India currently does not have an over-reaching energy strategy, but what it has in place could be called disparate policies. With the country being blessed with 5,000 TWh (Terra Watt per hour) of solar insolation annually, India stands to gain a lot as far as clean energy production goes. It can also set up independent energy generation units to make its villages and cities self-sustainable.