India needs tremendous amounts of energy resources not only for rural electrification but also to meet the rising demands in the big cities. Coal reserves are in short supply, with limited domestic gas reserves India is heavily dependent on imports which are mostly entangled with strategic tug-of-wars be it the case of losing oil & gas blocks to China or ditching plans for energy partnership with Iran under pressure from the US.
Nuclear energy expansion, too, has many roadblocks – concerns about safety, waste disposal & civil liability and fuel shortages.
Although dwindling, indigenous coal reserves are still the backbone of India’s power generation sector with more than 70 percent of power generated by coal-fired power plants. The Indian government has been opposing mandatory emission reduction targets arguing that it needs to provide cheap, coal-fired power to its millions of villages.
Now India already has a voluntary goal to reduce its carbon intensity by 20 to 25 percent by 2020 from 2005 levels and it will have to agree to mandatory and absolute emission reduction. Therefore, it is India’s own interests that it seriously considers renewable energy technologies which can take up a substantial burden of the power generated in the country in the medium to long term.
Advantages of Distributed Power Generation
Distributed power generation has several other advantages in the case of India. Being a large country it is difficult to expand transmission lines to the remote places. Distributed power generation makes redundant the various parameters that an independent power system needs to match with the central grid for efficient power evacuation. An article by Grist’s David Roberts sheds light on the advantages of distributed power generation.
The effectiveness of intelligent grids will be enhanced by new ways of storing electricity at the building and neighborhood levels. It is energy storage coupled with the smart grid, Alford says, “that enables grid security, grid stability and power quality.”
Shifting of power generation of centre from traditional power plants to homes and communities would ensure reduction in losses due to power theft and would also improve the stability of the grid. India lost a staggering 88,327 MW due to power theft in 2007-08.
Power generation through localized clean energy technologies would not only reduce India’s carbon emission output but could also reduce power wastage as people would possibly value this resource more when them produce it ‘themselves’, at their homes.
One benefit of energy localism that is difficult to quantify but nonetheless significant is that it engages a city’s residents in a more active civic role: People sort their trash, they manage their power consumption, they get involved.
Local involvement at the most fundamental level of the society could initiate and fuel a sustainable revolution in the power generation sector.
Lastly, the entry of one of the largest companies in the country in a dormant sector boosts confidence in the investors and opens countless avenues of employment generation for millions. Investment thrusts from the private sector, supported by government-backed incentives and international cooperation could eventually transform India’s power sector into a profit-making sector that would fuel competition, accelerate clean energy revolution and bring the best quality services to the customers.
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