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Tag Archives: Fossil fuel

Green Bussiness Idea: Sustainable Trade Practice is possible.


Driving the circular economyIn the recently concluded Accenture Sustainability 24 Webinar, closed loop recycling was given its due weight-age. The beautiful explanation  in info-graphics must be shared for one and all in this planet to understand the importance of sustainability. As one reads through this article while the graphics scrolls side by side (click to enlarge graphics) one would be amazed as to how easy it is to understand that we are at the very edge of entering a resource depleted world.

A BBC Special report on Thursday, 25 October 2007 gave State of the planet, in graphics with these comments – Globally human populations are growing, trade is increasing, and living standards are rising for many. But, according to the UN’s latest Global Environment Outlook report, long-term problems including climate change, pollution, access to clean water, and the threat of mass extinctions are being met with “a remarkable lack of urgency”. Global Environment Outlook [21.9MB]

The implications of this is evident from the various events which are unfolding is bits and pieces between then and 2013 AD. If seen from a perspective, one can easily see that as resources become scarce and traditional monopolies erode, regional and international tensions are bound to grow. And the tragedy is that sustainable practices would become the first casualty. Simply because it is perhaps the only sunshine industry in this despondent atmosphere.

China solar panel imports investigated by European Union &  China files EU solar subsidy complaint with WTO are just a few headlines on anti-dumping and protection news in the BBC webpage.

As long as the paradigm of Business and Trade remains entrapped in the archaic mode, our lifestyle will not let us stop from consuming 5 times of what is available to live sustainably. Even while we clearly understand that we are living in a shrinking world Graphicof resources.

While in Germany the primer company Solar World is anxious at the way the state of China is helping its domestic industry to produce cheaper Solar panels thus foreboding doom for stellar Solar PV company; somewhere in Britain nascent industries which make the balance of systems for the SPV’s are happy at the rise of the Dragon and would in no way want anti-dumping laws to be initiated against China.

Thus there are no easy solution out of this.That is if we still continue to follow the same patterns of Trade & Politics since Marco Polo.

However, we don’t need to and can’t afford to do any more.

While I can’t even think of suggesting Economics or Socio-Politics to the masters of the game, I do believe that at times simple ideas become the stepping stone of success. What is needed is to pick up the best created by the masters themselves and apply some innovation.

If we look at the idea of the Public Distribution System (PDS); better understood in India as ration shops and the concept of MNREGA we perhaps could create an idea which can at least be a fair attempt to slow down the depletion of resources until better model of adaptation and mitigation is developed in this rapidly warming Globe to give us the chance to live Sustainably.

The Circular economy advocates in the graph alongside show how from Minerals,Metals to Fossil fuel we are looking at an increase of consumption of 118% in just a span of 20 years (AD 2010-2030 ).

GraphHow this exponential increase would effect the planet is well documented in the 3 graphs above. The human ecological footprint is way above the straight line of the Biocapacity of this planet.And that straight line was created by Nature in a complex chain of event which we are still “researching” on.

With this piece of evidence I would reinforce my humble thought that, its time we think of a global rationing system. From Minerals to Metals to Fossil Fuel. It is time to put a stop to this mindless Business As Usual model.

Let us explore and expand the idea further.

The word Execution has very ominous meaning.

And some gentlemen have played their part in the destruction of this Planet very well in their Avatars as CEO’s. It is time when, we yank those CEO’s who should actually be the “Chief Environment Officer” as was mentioned during the Sustainability 24 – 2013 Webinar; than Chief Executive Officers. And make them responsible for the preservation and judicious use of  resources which are finite.

And let the Academicians and Scientist, instead of Trade & Political pundits of all Nations sit and decide the quantum of Quota which should be applied to de-pressurise the planets resource utilization.

Once they have achieved this, let the Corporates and MSME’s come in a common platform to innovate and scale up the process of  R’s. Reuse -Recycle-Refuse-Regenerate and thus like a Phoenix rise from a linear economic model to that of a Circular economy.

Additionally we must through the help of UN make this a true ONE WORLD than just a lyric in a song. To do that we can start by stopping to  count human population and poverty Country wise.

It is time we talk of Human population and poverty in global perspective rather than roll out the demography of a Country. Why should there be a rule of one child per couple in one country while there are no such limitations in another? Do we count insects, birds, fishes and other animal species in such a fashion?

Does it not occur to the most intelligent of animal species that the impact of Human is no more localized? If we have 9 Billion people with only, say as few as 500,000 in some Arctic country and a Billion in another, does it really mean that the one with higher demography is consuming it’s own resources more and the country with less population has limited impact on the consumption of produce within its own geographical limits and beyond? It is the Human species which has created a Political boundary into a Geographical one.

The planet and its forces do not conform to it. Read up on any Earthquake or Tsunami.

It encompasses all and everything from Minerals, Metals to Fossil Fuel and Life itself. No one Nations owns one over the other. No one Nations has aplenty while it is scarce for the other.

And  the Geographical boundary begins and finishes with the Sphere itself.

And to retain that life which till date is understood to be found only in this Sphere called Earth, we must ration its resources.

Production of each and every goods must be based on a quantum per year. Recycling and consumption of recycled products by each country in equal measure should be mandatory. No hand -outs to so called Third World Country, while the rich retain the right to plunder.

The issue of trade and economy can be addressed by the WTO quite well. Never was there a time when one country has not felt aggrieved and the other supposedly advantaged, in the polarized World we live in. And never will it be possible to think rationally until we actually become United as a Nation. Understand the power as well as the limitation of being ONE.

Sustainability can be practised and the concept of Circular Economy can truly succeed only if each Nation agrees to follow a rotary format of what it can produce and consume every five to ten years cycle. Shorter or longer cycle can be put in place depending on the type of industry and its gestation period.

And the most important aspect perhaps for success of such ideas is that of Human resources. Why should there be competition say for example, amongst IT professionals of one Nation with that of the other? Why can’t the Countries on whose share development of IT and its related products fall, pool all the best Human Resources across Nations? And here too individual professionals can be rotated based on the numbers, thus giving each a guaranteed employment such as in MNREGA, which I mentioned above at the start.

This model would insure equity in participation from all Nationals in making this World a better place to live in while in the process Wealth instead of Riches can be created.

If there would be even an iota of rational thinking in this process, I would request all those who can think and act better to reach out and make it happen.

 

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Green Business Ideas – Abandoned coalfields can boost RE and save forest in India.


Through this article, an attempt is being made to be on the top rung of the IWR-2012. We as a Nation must understand the meaning of Wealth as opposed to Riches. As the World reels in the clutch of economic depression; of its own making through continued myopic vision of the leadership, India my beloved nation is gearing up to tear away the last remaining virgin forests in the name of “development”. That development is a fundamental right of humans, the right of live of all living beings (trees, animals and even moss, lichen and bacteria)  and their importance in keeping this world alive can’t be discounted. As always, I abhor unlawful protest and mindless activism, but would attempt to find an idea for mankind to earn more riches but in the process create & preserve the natural wealth of the Nation.

In the recent report published, it is stated that the USA is abandoning RET for cheaper Gas. Many companies especially in the Solar PV business have closed shop.This is primarily because, people will adopt technologies which are cheaper. To this argument I have only one question to ask, is Gas renewable energy? It is not and it has its own set of problems, both ecological as well as geopolitical. Thus if the sum-total is added up, Gas is not cheaper as it is presented via a series of complex mathematical calculations. These calculations are made by “experts” who have no expertise on the environmental and ecological consequence. Neither are the experts on the physiological impact it would bring in the long term on the Peoples who, addicted as they are to fossil fuel go into depression, for want of continuous supply of the same. Every middle east upheaval can be attributed to this fear of change in the absence of another addictive fossil fuel, Oil. On whose slippery ground the modern civilization stands today. As far as I know in the India context, we are having a major Geopolitical tension with our Northern neighbours, who seem to be claiming a sea zone for itself. Although War is also a form of ‘renewable’ action, I don’t think it is sustainable and green, just as the shale gas for which we are going into so much trouble.

While we have some time unlike the USA, to really have an impact from gas; we surely have created a World record recently – by having the largest grid failure in the history of the civilized world. And this has renewed the baying for more coal field allocation, which is fatal to the preservation of the Ecosystem.

A modern Nation, with weak infrastructure is a recipe for disaster, as it becomes vulnerable to external malicious attacks. Imagine if we are in a grid-lock, with all  critical systems off-line ( although external defence may have back-ups but civil defence in disarray would only cause problems) and disaster strikes. Either natural or man-made, the resulting mayhem is to scary to discuss.  And this is exactly the matter which the mandarins at the Capital must be discussing. The sudden explosive actions across the Nation to increase electric tariff and diesel price, points to the direction that the last remaining saner voices within the administration are being heard and untenable subsidy may be on the way out.

The danger however is that, historically politicians across the world have a very myopic vision but superb oratory skill. And with this Devil – gifted skill, they would convince the Nation that “coal-gate scam” is actually a boon. And we must allow to rip the heart of Mother Earth ever more and extract coal, to fuel our thermal power plants and thus produce more electricity. And a few more Nuclear plants would actually ease the pain .

Environment be dammed! Already preparation are on to create a sham of the Madhav Gadgil report on the western ghats, which suggests detailed recommendations and suggestions on preservation of the Ecologically sensitive region which has even got the UNESCO status. ( details in DNA news).

But, as in all problems my beloved Nations faces, in this Great National Blackout too I see a fantastic Green Business opportunity. Together we the people, the environmentalists and the think-tanks can help our Corporate Czars, perhaps members of CIICESD and WBCSD to build upon the renewable energy options and reap the benefits. Before we delve into it let us first understand coal.

Coal is perhaps one of the most important discovery which catapulted the human civilization to its present form. Coal has various grades Lignite, Sub-bituminous coal,Bituminous coal, Steam coal, are mostly used for industrial purpose, where as Peat, Anthracite, Graphite have also found use in residential heating, agriculture and making lubricants and most importantly the Pencil . However the primary use of coal lets say to keep it simple, is for two basic purpose – It is primarily burned for the production of electricity and/or heat, and is also used for industrial purposes such as refining metals. The five largest coal users – China, USA, India, Russia and Japan – account for 77% of total global coal use. Coal & Oil along with their derivatives are here to stay and no amount of protest would stop its use and extraction completely. Let us not for a minute, forget that even the rudiments of protest which we as environmentalists are advocating & sharing via electronic media today would  be possible if the production of coal is stopped abruptly. Because we are using the very infrastructure built via use of coal.  Over the ages, with knowledge which we had during that time, coupled with complete absence of any form of protest against pollution; we have built this modern high-carbon life style completely dependent on one form of carbon or other.

However, if concerted action is taken we can within an acceptable and accelerated time-frame perhaps be able to switch over to more cleaner and renewable options which are already available in the alternative energy basket. And the way forward may be the idea I’m about to present. It would in no way be perfect, but just a seed of thought which I’m sure people with expertise can work on. And coupled with the renewable energy mission our country is attempting to take, we may just be able to increase  that scope. Especially Solar, Hybrid Solar  and Solar thermal power stations. And I propose another type of idea that which may be named – Geo-thermal + Hybrid solar, if it finds currency among the experts. And to this I appeal CAN-International, WRI and Green Peace International to find the experts who could make this possible.

Having established that Coal ( as is oil & gas ) is  a fuel, we need to see where it is being used. Again to keep it simple, we will take the largest consumers namely – 1. The Steel Plants  2. The Thermal Power plants.

In India, our steel plants come under the banner of Steel Authority of India (SAIL) and they are situated in the city of  Bokaro, Bhilai, Rourkela and Durgapur. To begin with let’s see look at the area a steel plant requires and what are the allied industries within it or at close proximity. Clicking on the image one would be able to zoom into the Rourkela Steel plant, Odisha.  On one end you would notice the Slag dumping ground and exactly opposite between the CISF grounds and the Diesel Colony railway station, a massive coal yard. The coal to this plant comes from  the once beautiful place around the now famous Mahanadi Coal fields thermal power plant area  around the historic IB river valley between  Jharsuguda, Brajrajnagar and Belpahar. ( “Bel” = wood apple + pahar = hill, one should know that there are no more hills because the open cast mining has ripped this place apart ) and the the iron-ore from the last dense forest cover of Kiri Buru. A place so beautiful that it could have made one of the best hill-station of that region, if humans had not found iron -ore there.  While my limited knowledge can’t find the alternate to steel, it is however a different matter about how we can limit the use of coal.

To begin with, let us switch the use of coal as being envisaged for thermal power plants  in the  steel plants too. And use Solar Photo Voltaic to the extent possible. As the supply of coal becomes more and more scarce, the massive land area within the Steel plants which has to stock up coal  can easily be converted into land for Concentrated Solar Power panels. Coal is required as a fuel, to be burnt in blast furnaces to produce heat to produce steel. Now if we can still provide the heat through heating coils, which are powered by CSP, the job can be done. The fundamentals would be more or less the same which is being advocated by NREL Coupled with heat recovery units and in time other innovations, CSP may well be able to supply the electricity required for night-time operations too, perhaps with Nickel–iron battery (NiFe Batteries) which are reborn and  presently showing promise better than the Lithium-ion batteries. But it is obvious that the land required to produce the amount of electricity needed will not be sufficient within the plant premise. For this I would like to draw our attention to the following.

The attached     table    on degraded and wasteland  from a research paper by Indian  Council  of Agricultural Research and National Academy of Agricultural   Sciences       (double click on image for full report) shows that we have an average of 133.95 Million Hectares of degraded and wasteland. A detailed and easy to understand report it warns of the impending food crisis and climate change due to the continuous degradation of land. Excerpts – Forests occupy about 19.4% of the total geographical area of the country against the ideal requirement of 33%…. Per capita availability of inelastic land resource is rapidly declining in  relation
to annual population growth of 1.4% in the country.  Increasing GDP growth is expanding urbanization and industrialization and, therefore, more and more of agricultural lands are being utilized for non-agricultural purposes. The complex interplay of natural and anthropogenic processes compounds problems of land-use planning further. Maintaining and enhancing productive potential of our land resources is vital for progressive introduction of sustainable technologies, and thereby resilience in crop production….This challenge must and needs to be met in the face of the changing consumption patterns, impacts of the climate change and degradation of the finite land and water resources. Management of land resources, in general, and potentially cultivable lands in particular, encompasses, crop production methods that will keep pace with country’s food needs, sustaining environment, blunting impacts of climate change, preserving and enhancing natural resources, and supporting livelihood of farmers and rural population in the country. Thus, there is a pressing need for enlarging area under arable lands, by the way of reclaiming degraded lands for sustainable intensification of agriculture, in which crop yields can be increased without compromising and yielding to adverse environmental impacts and without reducing area under forests…. Land degradation, like climate change, is an anthropogenic induced process and poses biggest threat to sustainable livelihood security of the farming communities across the country. All of these factors combined with increased rate of land degradation are contributing towards decline in agricultural productivity leading to food insecurity. Since land resources are finite, requisite measures are required to reclaim degraded and wastelands, so that areas going out of cultivation due to social and economic reasons are replenished by reclaiming these lands and by arresting further loss of production potential.
In all this dark and doom, one can see that India’s democratic foundation is strong and its institutions work. Only the reports which can actually make a positive impact gets buried in Crony Capitalism and narrow political agenda of a few. That there is a rot in the cart of apples is evident, therefore the better ones are in grave danger and need all the more to connect to the pulse of the people and do the right thing.

And if the recent buzz is to be believed we are going to lose a massive forest cover sooner than later for mining coal for feeding our thermal power and steel plants. And this can be reduced if not stopped.

And that would be to identify the completely degraded land and set up Solar plants in them to offset the needs of the power and steel industry. According to the Wasteland Map of India–NRSA data, land which comes under Physical degradation that is – Mining and industrial waste 0.19 million hectares; Water-logging (permanent surface inundation) 0.88 million hectares; and as per Salt-Af fected Soils Map of India,CSSRI, NBSS & LUP, NRSA and others, land under Chemical degradation ie; Exclusively salt affected soils amount to 5.44million hectares.

If one visits the coal -belt area between Durgapur Steel Plant and Asansol ( Burnpur steel from British era ) and halt at Andal junction, one would find huge tracts of waste land, where not even a single blade of grass grow. While underground mining is relatively better for the ecology  but how far biological reclamation is possible needs to be understood, as this Newsletter of ISEB India has touched upon.  Therefore one suggestion could be that solar power plants be installed in these degraded land. Even the permanent water logged abandoned mine areas and contaminated water from the mines which are run-off can be taken into good use by converting them into the mini-source of water, which is what in the form of steam runs the turbines of a thermal power plant to generate electricity.

And the most important innovation would be to tap into the heat of the smouldering underground fire which these vast mine fields have ignited.By using Geothermal Technology. It is a phenomena found World wide and I can not fathom how the great corporate Czars have not yet thought of exploring this heat to electricity and earn a Noble Prize in the process.

The Greatest Green Business Idea till now would be that with one deft stroke, where-ever possible ( everything is possible if economics do not come in the way, just as it does not when a Nation hosts the Olympics, spending billions on stadia which would hardly see the same amount of use, ever again ) degraded land especially near Steel plants and Thermal power plants need to install CSP. And capture the latent heat from the vast burning underground coal fields to supplement the night-time requirements.   A strong policy which looks into the aspects of support as required by this fledgling RET industry must be given. And for those who are wondering how to capture the heat from the burning coal-fields just read-up on geo-thermal technology.

As mentioned in my earlier article, the private sector is already geared up to meet this challenge and some of the players would jump into the opportunity of Build Own Operate and Transfer model (BOOT).  The challenge is would the media house and the top environment NGO’s take this matter up to create a crescendo of public awareness, thus making the government take action !

Note:  The images used have their original urls attached to them (and the articles therein are a must read) as are underlined links which contain the complete story to support this article. These images are only for representation purpose, however if the idea in the article helps recover any waste land for good use, I shall be grateful.

 

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Post Rio+20 – the path towards the actual Green Economy.


English: Graph showing Human Development Index...

English: Graph showing Human Development Index and Ecological Footprint. The “sustainable” criteria of ecological footprint within global capacity, and human development index above 0.8, is shaded. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On the eve and post Rio+20 UNFCCC meet a lot of things happened which needs to be understood for its far reaching implications in the near future. Highlighted below are a few paragraphs –

The world’s fixation on economic growth ignores a rapid and largely irreversible trend of natural resources depletion that will seriously harm future generations, according to a newly released report that unveils a new indicator aimed at encouraging sustainability.

On 17 June 2012, at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (the Rio+20 Summit), the International Human Dimensions Programme on Global Environmental Change (IHDP) and partners launched the Inclusive Wealth Report 2012.(IWR 2012)

The IWI report examined changes in the combined wealth of twenty countries, which together account for almost three quarters of global GDP, from 1990 to 2008. Despite reporting a growth in GDP Brazil, China, South Africa and the United States were shown to have significantly depleted their natural capital including fossil fuels, forests and fisheries.

Around the same time a letter was published at the Rio+20 Summit.The Clean Revolution campaign, a major initiative by The Climate Group and a range of partners from the public and private sectors that calls for a ‘green growth’ push out of global recession. The letter, says: “By the end of the decade, the low carbon market could triple in value to over US$2 trillion. At a time when government and business leaders everywhere are calling for strategies that deliver growth, we have an historic opportunity before us to lead the world out of recession and into a more stable, sustainable future. This is the time for a green industrial revolution led by real investment in clean technologies and infrastructure. The ‘Clean Revolution’ is essential if we want to ensure we save our economies from the crippling costs of runaway climate change, and create meaningful jobs and enhance energy security.” It will be a new Industrial Revolution – Tony Blair.

The attempt to have subsidies removed all together from fossil fuel was the first  step in the right direction. It was bound to fail, but that itself is a success. Because never before so many groups from such diverse back ground could raise the collective voice against the fossil fuel lobby and be heard.

English: Created in Photoshop, based on "...

English: Created in Photoshop, based on “Sustainable development” diagram at Cornell Sustainability Campus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What must be understood is that to have a resurgent economy, one must have the resources in place. And today, the World has an historic opportunity to remove inequality. Today we do not, other than in theory; have a developed against a developing world. Because once we change the indices which measures development and growth, it is the “least developed” and “emerging economies” which have more Natural wealth than some of the developed Nations who have over exploited their own.

However, the developed Nations like the EU & the USA, Japan, Russia, Australia and others have enormous technological advancement and knowledge base, which should be exchanged in fair-value for equitable distribution of the Earth’s Natural resources. And at the same time efforts must be made to replenish what is possible. It is indeed a fantastic time to do business which by default has to be sustainable because there are no options left. The best part is the large conglomerates and corporations survival depends on continued and constant supply of raw material for production. And they will ensure that Sustainability in all form of modern living is applied. It would be done either with partnership or coercion.

The call for going beyond material wealth to gauge our well-being and make sure that well-being is achievable and sustainable for future generations has long appeared in much of the sustainable development, environmental, and ecological economics literature, significantly less in economics and development literature. The present pre-occupation with the Green Economy, we fear, will not provide the change we seek if we do not address the fundamental problem of what precisely we are measuring and the indicators we need to develop. 

English: Sustainability chart

English: Sustainability chart (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

These words in the IWR 2012, underscores the changing mindsets of the economies which have an impact in this World. And it would be well for all Nations to adapt and adopt measures which lead to an age and era where history will define it as the Golden Age of Mankind, when generating wealth would no more mean accumulation of riches which are intrinsic in nature but have the true resonance of Sustainable Development Goals and Millennium Development Goals .

 

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A clarion Call to Sustainable Living


A couple of days ago, I was giving a presentation as how through my firm I can provide Solar Photo Voltaic system to all Commercial and Infrastructure projects which require large amount of energy to operate.  And that too in an OPEX format, by that I mean I have investor backing who would want to become RESCO. Presently it is  on roof-top model. So Hospitals, Hotels, Malls, Commercial Complexes and Airports, Rail-stations etc, which have large roof-top can have power. It would obviously lower Diesel consumption, which is generally used for back-up.

The idea as I have mentioned in my earlier article Green Business Ideas – Applying Solar OPEX model on Green Buildings will make Grid parity easy. is becoming popular but when we want to scale, its facing the biggest road block of subsidised tariff on fossil fuel. Even when my concept of Solar OPEX is ready to handover ownership on the 10th -15th year, and only charging discounted tariff on generation, due to heavy subsidy in the industrial sector the idea just can not germinate under the intense competition from the subsidy. We can provide power to all at about INR 8.50/- but all arguments fall flat when the industry and in some states even commercial power is at INR 4.50 – 6.00/-.

Recently there has been an article which says that a lobby consisting of industry captains, NGO‘s and common persons are petitioning the UNFCCC meet at Rio, to come out with strong laws which would abolish subsidy on fossil fuel. And to be honest, this would give birth to the best Green Business Idea of this century.

Long there has been talk of how one must charge the true value of water, only then the waste of it can be limited. Longer has been the demand to remove subsidy from fossil fuel. Granted it is a political hot-potato, but if one shows a slight more maturity and instead of short-sighted goal explain to the people the farsightedness of this measure, I am sure people would understand. Unfortunately, mostly vote bank politics and corporate greed drive policy.That we have finite resources must be advertised with all the collective forces we can gather and impart that knowledge to all.

We must now begin to evolve an universal law. Not laws which govern different countries. Constitution of each country is different. What is crime for one can be heroism for another. How then we are the United Nations?Let there be diversity in approach to a solution but let laws that govern the sustainability of Earth be one. To be adopted by every member nation. It is only then we can have prosperity. It is not a tall task to achieve because, when 134 Nations can come together to force a recalcitrant Nation to subjugate, it can as well be applied to save the Earth from disaster.

Today our civilisation is in a cusp. It is time we move away from the era of Capitalist consumerism. Human history had many epoch – the stone age, the bronze age, the iron age. And Human Civilisation did thrive. Excellence was achieved. So much so that they still stand testimony in the name of Arayabhatta, Chanakiya,Confucius, Aristotle. In great monuments like the Pyramids in the Americas and West Asia, the monuments in Macedonia and Greece, the Great Wall and many more. They stand testimony to time. Sustainable thoughts & deeds and also sustainable buildings. Sadly today we can not be as advanced in thoughts as our ancestors, the reason is complete disconnect from Nature.

Though I do not advocate any religion, yet in paganism which was followed around the globe once, there was a direct connect to Nature. We must evolve ourselves into a collective which can rise above religion and creed, greed and short-sightedness to evolve a solution which is the NEXT CIVILISATION. An era where B-Crop are norm then exception and Sustainable is not a catch phrase but a human and corporate agenda.

 

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Future Energy – Which are the three finalist ?


a collage about renewable energy. see at the s...What would be the best Sustainable Energy solution, if we can finally change over from the current set of energy options we have today? That it would be a renewable and clean energy is obvious, but which among the ones would it be? With various opinions and expert advise, the common persons tends to get confused. However, it would finally be the common person who would finally choose the Energy Next.  It is therefore important to make them aware from  a holistic point of view about all the Energy Mix that is available and help make a informed choice, because the Earth as we know today, hurtling towards cataclysmic GHG induced Climate Change, does not have the luxury of time to learn from mistakes any-more.

Conventional Energy – the total conventional energy field of Nuclear, Coal, Oil and Gas is considered cheaper than the Renewable and Alternative Energy which are being advocated. I am not discussing Hydro, neither Macro nor Micro, because with the pitiable state of Water in the World, having enough for irrigation and drinking would be a challenge in itself. And nobody in there right mind would like to build another huge dam, without inviting controversy. And for the smaller ones, finding a fast flowing stream close to civilisation is difficult.  Perhaps one must also tread with caution when we look at the total boutique of Alternate and Renewable Energy source and not take things at face value.

We will explore through this article each form of energy and do a comparative analysis of the pro & cons. And in the most simple way possible.

1. Nuclear power is the use of sustained nuclear fission to generate heat and electricity. Nuclear power plants provide about 6% of the world’s energy and 13–14% of the world’s electricity. Although now considered conventional due to the time frame it has been around, Nuclear technology is both an alternative energy as well as a renewable energy. Nuclear fusion and nuclear fission are two different types of energy-releasing reactions in which energy is released from high-powered atomic bonds between the particles within the nucleus. The main difference between these two processes is that fission is the splitting of an atom into two or more smaller ones while fusion is the fusing of two or more smaller atoms into a larger one.

Proponents, such as the World Nuclear Association and IAEA, contend that nuclear power is a sustainable energy source that reduces carbon emissions. It’s more environmentally beneficial solution since it emits far fewer greenhouse gases during electricity generation than coal or other traditional power plants.

Opponents, such as Greenpeace International and NIRS, believe that nuclear power poses many threats to people and the environment. Radiation isn’t easily dealt with, especially in nuclear waste and maintenance materials, and expensive solutions are needed to contain, control, and shield both people and the environment from its harm.

2. Coal, is composed primarily of carbon along with variable quantities of other elements, chiefly hydrogen, sulphur, oxygen, and nitrogen. Coal is a combustible black or brownish-black sedimentary rock usually occurring in rock strata in layers or veins called coal beds or coal seams.

Proponents, Coal could be the world’s most attractive fuel in years to come thanks to the methods of coal purification which are resulting in more cleaner coal, removing sulphur and other dangerous elements. Coal is not only burned directly, but it can also be transformed into liquid or gas form. Its claimed that liquefied or gasified coal burns cleaner, meaning less air pollution.Coal is one of the world’s most plentiful energy sources. Compared with other energy sources, such as oil and natural gas, coal is inexpensive. It has been a useful resource for human consumption throughout history. It is primarily burned as a fossil fuel for the production of electricity and/or heat, and is also used for industrial purposes such as refining metals. Coal, a fossil fuel, is the largest source of energy for the generation of electricity worldwide.

Opponents, Coal usually has a negative impact on environment, mining can damage ground and surface waters and when coal burns as the fuel it releases CO2 which is the main greenhouse gas that causes global warming. The soft coal, which many power plants burn, contains sulphur. When the gaseous by-products are absorbed in clouds, precipitation becomes sulphuric acid. Coal sometime also contains radioactive material. A coal-fired power plant may also emit some radiation into the air, and is one of the largest worldwide anthropogenic sources of carbon dioxide releases.

3.Petroleum or crude oil is a naturally occurring, flammable liquid consisting of a complex mixture of hydrocarbons of various molecular weights and other liquid organic compounds,  it is a fossil fuel.

Proponents, Due to its high energy density, easy transportability and relative abundance, oil has become the world’s most important source of energy since the mid-1950s. No other energy source can move vehicles with greater speed at longer distances than oil. Petroleum is also the raw material for many chemical products, including pharmaceuticals, solvents, fertilizers, pesticides, and plastics wax, sulphur, asphalt ; the 16% not used for energy production is converted into these other materials.

Opponents, Oil may contribute to global warming in its production and use by releasing carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas. Burning oil releases extra carbon dioxide, that has been stored in the earth for millions of years. This is disrupting the natural carbon cycle. It also causes strong localized effects. CO, NOx, and particulates damage local ecosystems and directly impact life expectancy (think smog, asthma, etc). Separating and refining oil takes a lot of energy. Oil exists as a mixture of hydrocarbons with traces of sulphur and other compounds. For useful products to be separated from crude oil, it must be treated with “thermal cracking,” an energy-intensive process that separates and reforms different hydrocarbons based on their boiling point.

4.Natural Gas is a naturally occurring hydrocarbon gas mixture consisting primarily of methane, with up to 20 percent concentration of other hydrocarbons as well as impurities in varying amounts such as carbon dioxide. Natural gas is widely used and is an important energy source in many applications including heating buildings, generating electricity, providing heat and power to industry and vehicles and is also a feedstock in the manufacture of products such as fertilizers.

Proponents, Widely used, contributes 21% of the world’s energy production today. Used extensively for power generation as well as heat.Cleanest of all the fossil fuels. Burns quite efficiently. Emits 45% less CO2 than coal. Emits 30% less CO2 than oil. Low levels of criteria pollutants, (e.g. SOx, NOx) or soot when burned. Can be used as an automotive fuel. Burns cleaner than gasoline or diesel
No waste (e.g. ash ) or residue to deal with. Lighter than air, safer than propane which is heavier than air. Can be used to makes plastics, chemicals, fertilizers and hydrogen.

Opponents, Emits carbon dioxide when burned. Contains 80-95% methane, a potent greenhouse gas (GHG). Additionally, there are significant environmental risks associated with “fracking”. Water pollution due to run-off of fracking chemicals. Water can also bring up adsorbed underground toxins including arsenic. GHG footprint of shale gas greater than coal over 100 year time frame.
Fracking has been linked to earthquakes.

The most important fact of Coal, Petroleum and Natural Gas that they are a finite source. And with the World Human population growing to 9 Billion strong, finite source of Energy would soon divide the World into haves and have nots. Wars have been fought for less. Of Nuclear as far as attracting controversy, it can be considered the champion.

So that brings us to the New age energy mix, one one hand is the Alternative Energy and on the other Renewable Energy.While RE is in itself an alternative energy source to the conventional energy, I would still elaborate it so that the common person does not get confused by the smart use of words. Let me explain.  The definition for alternative energy is found thus –Alternative energy is an umbrella term that refers to any source of usable energy intended to replace fuel sources without the undesired consequences of the replaced fuels.

Say the undesired consequence from coal fired thermal power plants is sulphuric acid rain, so can the alternative be, oil fired power plants or wood is used as fuel ? They would not have the same “undesired consequence” of  the replaced fuel but bring in some other equally undesired results such as decimation of the rain-forest. Or instead of ‘fracking’ the gas,  extraction of Gas Hydrates is propagated as the next alternative. The problem related to it I have already dealt with and can be read via the link. Then there are some alternative energy source, like bio-fuel which presently at a nascent stage to really make an impact. And that too has its own set of problems. One would require vast land mass to cultivate the cash-crop and other  than it having the potential of destroying indigenous plants of the region, it would also require large security to keep it safe from natural disasters and man made mischief.  One may also  consider Nuclear, but unless the science fiction cold fusion becomes a reality, the present form has its own set of disadvantages. Therefore one must pause at the explanation for Alternative fuel which says “undesired consequences of the replaced fuels.

Corporations with vested interested use these very languages to confuse the common person in accepting solutions which are not truly beneficial but can be presented as such till the problems it creates becomes endemic and the proverbial cat is out of the bag.

The bitter truth is there are no real solutions to the problem at present, all the solutions which are being presented are lets say – “bridge solutions”. Although I  am a self declared fan on all Renewable Energy source. (even Nuclear, if its safety can be guaranteed ; unlikely in the present understanding of the technology), the fact can not be denied that for manufacture and transport and assembly of the New Age renewable energy machines, we still need to use mineral and machinery which can not be considered to be “clean”. This we must bear in mind while advocating for the RE technology. Therefore it is imperative that we back the right technology, lest “the sacrifice” we need to make in terms of environmental damage, to create the ultimate clean technology leaves us with no room to manuvere.

This brings us to the Gen Next solution of Renewable Energy. Let’s see how they stack up.

Krafla Geothermal Station.

Krafla Geothermal Station. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

1.Geothermal Energy is thermal energy generated and stored in the Earth. At the core of the Earth, thermal energy is created by radioactive decay and temperatures may reach over 9,000 degrees Fahrenheit (5000 degrees Celsius). Thermal energy is the energy that determines the temperature of matter. Earth’s geothermal energy originates from the original formation of the planet (20%) and from radioactive decay of minerals (80%). The geothermal gradient, which is the difference in temperature between the core of the planet and its surface, drives a continuous conduction of thermal energy in the form of heat from the core to the surface.

Proponents,Once produced, geothermal energy is nearly completely non-polluting. Geothermal power plants are relatively inexpensive to operate. The energy is technically renewable and can be used as direct power source. These power plants are environmentally friendly and leave few carbon footprints. Fossil fuels are not needed to bring geothermal power plants on-line.  Geothermal energy (geothermal power) is a vast, renewable, clean, green, low carbon energy source that can be converted to electricity, and used to condition building environments. Improved technologies have the potential to access vast untapped sources of geothermal energy estimated to contain 50,000 times the energy of all oil and gas resources in the world. Geothermal energy requires no combustion; its energy already exists as heat. Capital costs for geothermal installations are lower than for comparable-size fossil or nuclear-fueled plants, and once a plant is built, there are no fuel costs.Where resources are abundant and accessible, geothermal power is already an energy bargain, usually less expensive than electricity generated by coal and nuclear plants It is flexible in its applications. It is well-suited for integrated industrial use – producing electricity, process steam, and heat for a a variety of industries and agricultural activities in a single region. There are no major economies of scale in production; small generating modules can be added one at a time as local development and need dictate.

Opponents, Technology only makes geothermal energy available from certain regions on the planet. Initial drilling costs are expensive and the process is complex.Geothermal energy requires a wide area. It needs to have a massive area in order to lay the pipes and to build the power plant itself. Studying an area if there is enough geothermal energy source is costly. Geothermal energy plants have the possibility to cause earthquakes. It is not viable in areas where geothermal heat is not abundant. Geothermal characteristics change with the area, so exploration is not easy. Geothermal turbine efficiency is comparatively low due to the low temperature and pressure of steam input. Overall plant efficiency is estimated to be about 15 percent less than that of a fossil-fuelled plant. Possible environmental dangers posed are land subsidence; production of waste water with high mineral content; release of noxious gases, such as hydrogen sulphide, ammonia and boron into the atmosphere, and large amounts of water vapour; and noise produced are substantial. Initial construction cost is expensive.

© Guerito 2005

© Guerito 2005 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

2.Wind Energy, Wind is the movement of air across the surface of the Earth, from areas of high pressure to areas of low pressure. The surface of the Earth is heated unevenly by the Sun, depending on factors such as the angle of incidence of the sun’s rays at the surface (which differs with latitude and time of day) and whether the land is open or covered with vegetation. Also, large bodies of water, such as the oceans, heat up and cool down slower than the land. The heat energy absorbed at the Earth’s surface is transferred to the air directly above it and, as warmer air is less dense than cooler air, it rises above the cool air to form areas of high pressure and thus pressure differentials. The rotation of the Earth drags the atmosphere around with it causing turbulence. These effects combine to cause a constantly varying pattern of winds across the surface of the Earth. Wind power is the conversion of wind energy into a useful form of energy, such as using: wind turbines to make electricity, windmills for mechanical power, windpumps for water pumping or drainage, or sails to propel ships. ‘Wind Energy’ is the kinetic energy of air in motion.

Proponents,Wind energy is a green energy source. Wind energy is friendly to the surrounding environment, as no fossil fuels are burnt to generate electricity from wind energy.  Wind Power is free and in abundance in certain areas. The Wind Speeds are always higher on the shoreline, at the top of a hill, and in places free of obstructions. Wind Power does not generate “Pollution”, or radioactive waste. It does not consume any of the non-renewable resources such as coal, natural gas, or oil. Wind Power can generate enough energy for large numbers of people. By using larger turbines connected to an electrical grid it allows people the benefit of wind power without owning their own wind system. With new technology, the cost of a residential wind power turbines have decreased significantly while increasing in their efficiency. Small Wind Turbinesgaining some traction – While Wind Turbines are not generally used in distributed form, it is possible to now use small wind turbines being built by a number of companies to power small establishments.It is reported that costs have decreased well over 60% since the 1980’s. Wind power has no hidden costs, and it has become more cost-effective with each new round of technological advancements. It is a “permanent energy”. Wind turbines take up less space than the average power station. Windmills only have to occupy a few square meters for the base, this allows the land around the turbine to be used for many purposes, for example agriculture. Another advantage of wind energy is that when combined with solar electricity, this energy source is great for developed and developing countries to provide a steady, reliable supply of electricity. The offshore Wind Energy sector has the advantage of no land usage,no noise problems and the wind is much better leading to higher load factors. The costs are currently higher but in the future are expected to come rapidly come down. Wind power may be used to provide electricity to individual homes or other facilities on a self-reliant basis, with no need for fuel or other materials to be supplied. If a natural disaster severs power lines, residents with windmills will not lose their supply of electricity. The wind will exist until the end of the sun. About 5 billion years.

Opponents, Wind is unpredictable and the availability of wind energy is fluctuating. In many areas, the winds strength is too low to support a wind turbine or wind farm.Wind energy is therefore not suitable as a base load of energy source . This is why wind turbines have to be used together with other renewable or even non-renewable to meet the power demand. Another of the disadvantages is that they can be damaged in thunderstorms, partially because of their tall, thin shape. The website of the US National Lightning Safety Institute indicates that most damage to wind turbines is caused by lightning. This is more of a problem in warmer parts of the world, where they are frequent.Wind turbines generally produce a lot less electricity than the average fossil fuelled power station, requiring multiple wind turbines to be built in order to make an impact. The noise pollution from commercial wind turbines is sometimes similar to a small jet engine. Wind Turbines can sometimes use large amounts of land if not properly planned and built.The construction of roads to access the wind farms etc also takes up some land. Environmentalists express concern about the loss of trees, because the large turbines require turbulence free wind and also  for bird life as they can intrude on birds migration flight path.

3.Wave Energy, Wave power is the transport of energy by ocean surface waves, and the capture of that energy to do useful work,for example; electricity generation, water desalination, or the pumping of water (into reservoirs). Machinery able to exploit wave power is generally known as a wave energy converter (WEC).Wave power is distinct from the diurnal flux of tidal power and the steady gyre of ocean currents. Different regions of the earth’s surface receive different amounts of heat from the sun – the polar regions, for example, receive less sunlight than equatorial regions. This uneven heating creates differences in air temperature and pressure that cause wind. Winds blowing out at sea cause waves to form; these waves travel across the ocean surface and break on shores and beaches around the globe. In many areas of the world, the wind blows with enough consistency and force to provide continuous waves. There is tremendous energy in the ocean waves. Wave power devices extract energy directly from the surface motion of ocean waves or from pressure fluctuations below the surface.

Proponents,Wave Energy does not produce any GHG emissions or cause air pollution from the combustion of fossil fuels unlike coal,oil or gas.This makes them very attractive as a source of cheap,non carbon dioxide producing electricity. Wave Energy does not require any fuel like most other sources of energy. Wave Energy Generators can be installed in various sizes with as little as 1 MW.This is not possible for other energy forms which require a minimum large size such as Coal,Nuclear etc. Compared to wind,wave energy has a major advantage. The air that drives the turbines  is about one thousands less dense than the water just below the ocean surface. The energy that can be harnessed and used in electricity generation is parallel to the density of the medium. This means  that wave energy could be harnessed at much lower speeds.The amount power in that comes in waves is huge.  The energy density is typically around 30-40 kW for every meter (3.2 feet) of wave along the shore. Further into the ocean 100kW for every meter may be achieved. Waves are hardly interrupted and almost always in motion. This makes generating electricity from wave energy a reasonable reliable energy source ( when  compared to solar and wind). Wave energy source ultimately comes from the heat energy that is emitted from the sun. Thus will exist until the end of the sun. About 5 billion years.

Opponents, strong ocean storms and salt water corrosion can damage the devices, which could increase the cost of construction to increase durability and/or cause frequent breakdowns. This especially holds true with the increased complexity of the devices. Sea life could be harmed or have habitats disrupted or displaced by the operation of the devices or the mooring of the devices. The potentially larger footprint of ocean-dwelling device farms could reduce shipping channels and fishing and recreation areas. The movement of Attenuators or Point Absorbers or intake and movement of water in the OWC and Overtopping devices could produce a loud, constant noise. This noise is unlikely going to be significantly louder than the waves would make on their own.

4.Solar Energy, Solar Power, as the term is commonly used, applies to energy systems that produce energy directly from sunlight. Solar energy is the conversion of sunlight into electricity, either directly using photovoltaics (PV), or indirectly using concentrated solar power (CSP). Concentrated solar power systems use lenses or mirrors and tracking systems to focus a large area of sunlight into a small beam. Photovoltaic convert light into electric current using the photoelectric effect.

Proponents, All forms of solar power are extraordinarily clean and abundant. They produce zero pollution when operating. Well suited in also providing power in home or single building applications, such as rooftops of home owners, office buildings, etc. This reduces loss of power in transmission from utilities. Ability to harness electricity in remote locations that are not linked to a national grid. Very efficient in a large area of the globe, and new technologies allow for a more efficient energy production on overcast/dull days. The technology is proven by its ability to harness electricity in remote locations that are not linked to a national grid. A prime example of this is in space, where satellites are powered by high efficiency solar cells.  Small solar power systems are easily installed. Solar energy systems can be used in solar heating water systems, photo voltaic solar systems, solar home heating systems and solar home cooling systems. Its scalable & portable to be used in products like calculators, flash-lights, camping lanterns, attic fans, pond heaters and racing car kits. They are silent and have no moving parts. It is the most reliable form of energy -The sun rises daily, without fail. Will exist until the end of the sun. About 5 billion years.

Opponents, Solar energy is only able to generate electricity during daylight hours. Although there is a variety of options for storage, the most obvious is batteries, which are quite expensive. The weather can affect the efficiency of solar cells. Pollution levels can affect a solar cells efficiency. Low efficiency, requires large surface areasSolar panels take up quite a bit of roof space and there are reported problems from glint and glare.

The above completes the complete energy mix available to Humankind of the 21st Century. But it also opens up more questions than answers as to which would be the final energy medium to be declared the Champion. To find the answer we must explore a bit more.

The two essential components of all generators on the power grid are dispatch-ability and reliability. Dis-patchability means that generators can be started when operators need them, any time day or night, regardless of weather conditions and Reliability means that a generator will, virtually every time it’s fired up, produce constant, controllable power exactly as required by the power plant operator.  The electrical grid system, run through conventional power works not because every piece of equipment is one hundred percent reliable, but because there are hundreds of components with a large amount of reserve output capability (back-up) that work together to form one, very large, reliable system. The modern electrical power grid is designed and managed to operate 99.9% of the time with less than a 2% variance in voltage, regardless of the load swings placed on the system. The new age renewable energy systems need to match up to this.

Now if we bring in Geo-thermal and wave technology, the former was never considered as a major source of energy by many nations, not because it does not have potential, but because it is limited to a great extent by geography, and even where it may be present in abundance, it can not be totally green because the basic method of extraction is drilling, which is similar to fracking and can have similar problems and hazards.

Lets look at Wave Energy. There are many forms of this technology.But none are having the ability to produce large amounts of power yet. But if you look at the one devised by Palamis which I wrote in my earlier article it holds a lot of promise. Yet it too is not completely dis-patachable or reliable. High waves are not always a constant feature and vary from on geographical location to another, therefore reliability would require customisation depending on which part of the globe it is to be installed.

Wind power also  isn’t completely dis-patchable; it can’t be started unless the wind is blowing. Solar power also can not be produced in absence of sunlight.  Wind power also fails the reliability test because, even when the wind is blowing, it rarely blows at a constant speed. Wind tends to blow in gusts with an ebb and flow that makes wind generated power difficult to control. Solar too faces the uncertainties of weather. Also Solar insolation is not the same throughout the globe.

So as of now there seems to be no ‘perfect solution’ in sight, unless we combine the three, Wind – Wave – Solar. In an article some time back I had written about the benefits of Wind-Solar and Geothermal, while keeping Wave power separate in another article. But if you combine the three, the probability that at any given time one would be producing power can not be discounted. However, the problem therefore would be how to calibrate the power generation between the maxima and minima. Therefore breakthroughs in energy storage technologies is required to change this in the future. Already lot of work is being done, but it is not a ready solution yet.

But learning for Humans is a continuous process and I too have learnt that the Final winners for ENERGY NEXT would only be the combined strength of all the three. TRI -RE. ( pronounce – tree )

The most important advantage is that all the three energy is renewable and cannot be depleted. As long as the sun heats the earth and winds drive ocean waves, we will never run out of wave energy either. Fossil fuels, by contrast, are replenished so slowly by natural processes that for are essentially non-renewable. Once we run out of fossil fuels, we won’t have any more. If the tri-energy combine proves practical, it might help to replace fossil fuel combustion as a source of electric power. To do this we must look towards the sea, away from visual horizon, to take the aesthetics in mind and more power extraction, yet closer to the coast – for minimizing it from natural hazards and easier transmission. (The moorings can act as artificial reefs, thus attracting fish and other plant life, while keeping the deep-sea trawlers away. ) And complementing the loss in transmission by creating relay system using which ever technology among these  is appropriate for the geographical place, thus minimizing the impact on land surface area.

Yet, they would be the ‘bridge solutions’ till the science fiction Nuclear Cold Fusion happens and can be packaged as fuel cells. Perhaps its time for  WBCSD to think of Vision 2075 and look at all the Green Energy Combine.

Courtesy to :wikipedia, energy-consumers-edge, nuclearpowerprocon, ehow, energyformankind, energy-green, energyinformative, clean-energyideas, greenworldinvestor, renewablesguide, hubpages, windturbine, ocsenergy,  idebate, gentle-earth, earth911, greenfuture. 

 

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Coal corporations helping India’s Clean tech aspirations is becoming successful – a model more nations need to follow.


Renewal Energy Distribution Companies find it so difficult to work and grow.The primary reason being denial of open access system by the power supplying companies the unquestioned rulers. The resistance is natural although national policy says in time open access must be allowed to level the playing field and bring grid parity. These companies have spent a lot of money and effort into developing the infrastructures and letting the new RE guys piggy-back on them is not something which sound business policy advocates. Yet, these powerful “Goliaths” would fall and the “RE Davids” would rise. Sustainable Energy requirements is the call of the hour.

For Humankind, the preservation of self is the most supreme and any event or cause which would stand in its way would have to perish. Today the desperation for survival of small island nations and mountain states, being mostly small in size and economic might; not really being heard by the mighty nations and the supporting fossil-fuel corporation. But as the effect of Climate change is being felt and the associated business risk gets recorded within the mighty nations, along-with more businesses understanding that their economic salvation lies in marketing and manufacturing ecologically sustainable products, the fossil fuel led lobby’s influence and foot-print is bound to shrink.

And no one can stand against the might of the collective. History has proved it time and again. And when an idea whose time has come also gets the support of the powerful United Nations, crony capitalism and narrow national interest will lose. It is the writing on the wall.

But Indian ethos teaches compassion. Those who have provided energy to the world for the last 300 years must not be thrown out unceremoniously but shown the light. Just as it is difficult and confusing for a one mighty ruler to accept defeat and face uncertainty, so is the case of these Energy Czars. Redundancy is not a polite word.

So India has devised a way out. The solution although complex, the logic is simple – channel the oil / coal profit into R&D of Renewable Energy solutions.This is the reason why in India we have the NVVN .  In Mumbai, India; BEST ( Birhan mumbai Electric Supply & Transport Undertaking ) draws 10% of its Electrical power for supply from RE as mandated for development & support of RE.Such mandate is more or less followed by all states.

Moreover, no one imagines that in the next 50 years, oil / coal would vanish from our economy. While its use begins to diminish ( hopefully ) it would be wise for the companies to diversify and invest from now into the clean-tech. And in the present economic situation, buying could be cheap.Further they should help in easing the entry of roof-top solar / wind in the immediate future. This would free up their power for industrial use, while residential, school & malls could draw their power from the RE industry.

A win-win situation for all. Hope the model is adopted by Nations sooner than later.

 

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Renewable Energy is viable..period.


The preamble

The power of raw sunshine at midday on a cloudless day is 1000 W per  square meter. We can turn this raw power into useful power in four ways:

1. Solar thermal: using the sunshine for direct heating of buildings or water.

2. Solar photovoltaic: generating electricity.

3. Solar biomass: using trees, bacteria, algae, corn, soy beans, or oilseed to make energy fuels, chemicals, or building materials.

4. Food: the same as solar biomass, except we shovel the plants into humans or other animals.

David JC MacKay

With the run-up to Rio+20 Summit and the UNEP driven Future Cities program the use of RE especially Solar becomes more and more important.

With the tremendous pressure all Nations are facing over Environmental Impacts from their citizens, who are getting more and more aware about the disasters non-sustainable living; Bangkok would be a very recent example; RE in all form would have to be accepted and assimilated main-stream. Let there be no confusion that the Economy of the world are driven by three basic needs from time immemorial – Food, Clothing & Shelter. I will deal separately the issues of Energy -Water in detail later.

Food – Requires energy, from plantation to processing to cooking.

Clothing – Textile industry are considered one of the high energy usage sector.

Shelter – About 40% of GHG (green house gas) comes from building related activities.

In many countries Sustainable Building design have been adopted in form of BREEAM, LEED, IGBC etc. Nations have committed to the UNFCCC agenda of keeping the world temperature from rising another 2°c. All that requires tremendous dedicated effort from all sectors.

And most importantly, busting the myth of negative Return on Investment (RoI) put forward by the fossil fuel industry.

The Argument

In my opinion, if the home I live in sinks under the sea because I refused to pay a little more now to avail RE sources for my energy needs over coal/oil, I don’t think myself much of an economist.

An economist is a person who plans for the welfare of generations to come, albeit his own. Given the fuel lobbyist are pandering to this very self agenda, however there is a small flaw – their path would just sink the landmass; not much of an economic playing field will be then left, for the future generation !

Having said that, let’s see if we can still make a case of RoI with using RE in its present economic form. Today the cost of generation of power is “compared to” the cost of generation of power via fossil fuel. This in itself is a flawed argument. As I’m not an economist, my examples would be simple. Also I would perhaps not be 100% accurate in my assessment.

Now to begin with my theory – Fossil fuel has been used as a primary source of energy since man learned to control fire; however it was during the industrial revolution with the advent of steam engine did the consumption of fossil fuel jump exponentially. But if documents are researched, energy from fossil fuel driven carts would not have been cheaper than horse driven carriages in the then predominantly agrarian era. Neither was flying over ship when its time came!

It was only by economy of scale that these things became “cheaper”. Also because they became popular, flying though costlier than travel by ship saved time, thus the merchant could do more business within the allotted time, than waste more of it via land/sea travel. So even if flying (even today) is costlier than sea/land travel, the business person calculates his RoI in the form of time saved! Now if for some reason the venture fails, then the RoI becomes bad. So for a successful business person air-travel is good RoI and for the other bad! So in lay-man terms RoI is a subjective matter. It depends on what is the datum of your argument. I have as yet to see any person who buys a fuel guzzling car ever calculate RoI. Therefore RoI is a concept which needs to be researched better.

Further warming up to this argument, how does one say that the cost of generation from Thermal power is cheaper than Renewable Energy? Does it factor in the destruction – ecological, social & physical (pollution leads to host of diseases)? Moreover, it can but consumed only once. You burn the coal or oil, it would not come back to you, and you can’t replenish it via any natural process. It can be argued that the paradigm of Business is different from literally logic which perhaps is what I’m professing. However with “Eurocracy” in serious danger perhaps all business models need to be restructured.

The Solution

Now, having vented my exasperation on the fossil fuel lobby’s clever wining technique, let us dwell on the subject of improving the reach of Sustainable energy production. Just as any new technology in its infancy faces teething trouble, so is the RE industry.

Amongst all, Solar is the most promising and perhaps therefore faces most challenges. Its plant efficiency factor is very low, it uses large surface area and the present technique of trapping the solar rays are perhaps cumbersome. But given dedicated research and analysis, it is perhaps the best bet. Because there are two things one can bet his last dollar on, the Sunshine and the Breeze. As long as the Earth is there these two would be available for sure.( so would geothermal & wave, but that’s another story) Having understood that, what can we do to make this industry stand on its own? For that we would need changes in mass thinking. Once that is achieved the political class would seal the deal.

To change the mass thinking we need to bring RE into their everyday lives. In India we have the Prime Minister driven Nation Action Plan on Climate Change. Through these the Government is trying to make at first the 9 Industry sectors energy efficient. However the Building Industry is untouched at the moment. Even then if amongst the 9 sectors (Aluminum; Cement; Chlor-alkali; Fertilizer; Iron & Steel; Pulp& Paper; Power; Textile & Railways) have role of the Building industry; as each need their HQ and other Administrative blocks for operations.

 If 10% of energy use for these industries on their above mentioned assets is made mandatory along with offsetting another 5% of energy use by their respective employees residence, we will begin with a massive program, which will truly bring in the scale required to make RE viable. Most importantly, it would act as a compromise. A compromise between the Government who would want NMEEE and PAT to be viable as soon as possible and the said Industrial sectors which is putting forth their argument of the trails & tribulations.

India should lead the SAARC nations in providing  Solar -RE for its rural and most importantly Tier-II, III & IV towns and cities. This is because, availability of roof-top to pattern of consumption; is complementary to each-other. That is, most of the residential buildings are single owner 1-3 storied buildings with ample roof and land area. Along with it the residents are yet to be “spoilt” by the crass consumerist life-style which the mega-cities of India have taken to, in its quest to become more “western”. They by default consume less energy and this itself becomes an advantage to put small systems on their roof-tops to amply fulfill their energy needs.

Already most countries are familiar with “Green Building” concepts through LEED / GRIHA / BREEAM etc. Energy efficiency is becoming important to sustainable living and the concept of “Green Power” is getting introduced by these rating systems. Here too through local legislation or voluntary CSR 25% of a residential complex (min 100 flats) power needs could be through Solar PV. This would translate to the power consumed by the lift, gate/boundary lights and other common space lighting. Though the need for space to power the demand may not get fulfilled by the roof-tops alone, innovative and practical ideas are available! In sustainable terms if say each & every society of say, a city like Mumbai, more importantly the affluent districts in the city adopt the Solar roof-top solution the State of Maharashtra can better manage its Energy problems.

Translate this concept to New Delhi, Chennai, Bangalore or Hyderabad and we can already see RoI of solar extremely practical.

Perhaps it can also inspire other countries to love Ra – the Sun God, as Civilization did when it began its journey!

 

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