States hold the key to alternatives

Written by ASHOK B SHARMA | Updated: Jan 13 2009, 05:34am hrs
New and renewable sources of energy can be effective tools to electrify remote villages where grid connectivity is not feasible. The Rural Electrification Corporation (REC) had identified 9,075 such villages in 24 states. But the progress so far is unsatisfactory: only 4,237 villages and 1,142 hamlets have been provided with electricity or lighting systems.

This is particularly significant, as the national rural electrification policies of 2006 had declared that providing electricity to all households by 2009 was its aim. It had also assured quality and reliable power supply at reasonable rates, and minimum lifeline consumption of one unit per household every day as a merit good by 2012.

New and renewable sources of energy can also electrify villages where grid connectivity is possible. According to data available until September 30, 2008 on a cumulative basis, new and renewable sources generated 13,450 mw of grid-interactive power, or 8% of the total power generating capacity of the coun-try at 1,44,912 mw. The assessed potential for grid-interactive renewable power is 88,142 mw.

Much can be achieved if the decentralised route for the generation and distribution of renewable power is followed. India, which is implementing one of the worlds largest programmes in renewable energy possesses this capability. Decentralised generation and distribution can resolve problems of banking, wheeling, third-party sale of power and minimise transmission & distribution losses. India ranks second in the world in biogas utilisation and fourth in wind power and photovoltaic production.

As the cooperation of state governments is vital to electrify remote village, four years ago the Union ministry of new & renewable energy launched a scheme to set up district advisory committees (DACs) for the promotion of renewable energy at the grassroots level. So far, 560 DACs have been set up in 34 states and Union territories, with the district collector as chairman and the project director of the district rural development authority as its member-secretary.

The membership of DACs consists of the zilla parishad CEO, general manager of the district industries centre, district forest officer, deputy director of social forestry, civil surgeon, district health officer, district information officer, district government pleader, chairman of the district bar council and representatives from local industry associations, NGOs and prominent citizens.

With a view to promoting renewable energy, the central government set up

energy parks in 489 districts in 27 states and Union territories. Also, 554 renewable energy clubs have been set up in 20 states and Union territories. However, in some cases, DACs have not functioned well due to a lack of support from the district administration.

Renewable energy can also be used in agriculture, industry, urban buildings and by households. The type of renewable energy for a specific location needs to be properly determined, particularly the cost vis--vis power from fossil fuels. An appropriate subsidy and incentive regime can foster its growth.

The Union government has launched a new scheme for the development of solar cities, covering 60 townships with populations of more than 5 lakh and less than 50 lakh. It has also planned five pilot projects for generation of power from waste in different metros.

However, notwithstanding the governments schemes, the progress of the renewable energy sector is not satisfactory. Until September 30, cumulatively 137 mw of off-grid power has been generated from biomass, 102 MWeg from biomass gasifiers, 31 MWeg from waste, 8 MWp from solar PV plants and 723 kw from aero-generators and hybrid systems. The slar water heating collector area remained confined to 2.45 million sq m, against an assessed potential of 140 million sq m.

On the grid-interactive front, 9,521 mw was generated from wind power, against a potential of 48,561 mw; 2,220 mw from small hydro plants, against a potential of 15,000 mw; 656 mw from biomass and agro-waste, against a potential of 16,881 mw, 993 mw from bagasse cogeneration, against a potential of 5,000 mw, 55 mw from urban and industrial waste, against a potential of 2,700 mw; and only 2 mw was generated from SPV power.

For the poor, 40 lakh family biogas plants, 4.3 lakh SPV home lighting systems, 7 lakh SPV lanterns, 7,148 SPV pumps, 6,37,000 solar cookers and 1,342 wind pumps were distributed.