Energy Security~II

We need sustainable and clean fuels so that we can drive our energy transition to renewable and other non-fossil energy sources. But a country like India will find it difficult to get out of the coal-trap easily. Though dirty, it is cheaper. It makes the entire world unsafe and insecure. This is where the rubber meets the road

Energy Security~II

(Photo: Getty Images)

According to cumulative global wind installations, India ranks fourth in the world in terms of installed wind power, with a capacity of 41.8 GW as of November 2022. But this is not enough for the country to meet its target of sourcing 450 GW of electricity from renewable sources by 2030, set in its Nationally Determined power target of 60 GW by 2022 and 140 GW by 2030 compared to solar power target of 100 GW by 2022 and 280 GW by 2030.

An analysis by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), Delhi, shows that this wind power target can be achieved only if India increases its installed capacity by over 12 GW annually for the next eight years. The National institute of Wind Energy (NIWE) estimates that the country has a wind potential of 302 GW at 100 m hub-height (indicates how high the turbine stands above the ground) and 695 GW at 120 m hub-height. Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu are the country’s top seven states with high wind energy potential.

Tamil Nadu and Gujarat top the list by accounting for 24 and 23 per cent of the country’s total installed wind power capacity respectively. The advantage of wind power is that such plants could be spread all over the country based on the survey of wind conditions and thus be able to feed nearby consumers directly. Where India’s transmission and distribution (T&D) losses in the power sector are ‘substantial’ (over 20 per cent of generation, which is more than twice the world average), this set-up would be fairly cost effective as transmission losses would be reduced. The other renewable energy sources are biomass and small hydro projects, which have been targeted to reach up to 10 GW and 5 MW respectively by 2022. India achieved the target of 10 GW of biomass power before 2022 with the present installed capacity of 10.17 GW of biomass power.


The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) has realized the potential and role of biomass energy in the Indian context and hence initiated a number of programmes for promotion of efficient technologies for its use in various sectors of the economy to ensure derivation of maximum benefits. SubHimalayan states like Arunachal Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh are installing many mini hydroelectric plants in their remote areas; some of them in locations where roads are yet to reach.

Interestingly, the first small hydro-power plant in Asia was established by the British in 1897 at Sidrapong about 12 kilometers from Darjeeling. The visionary project had two hydroelectric sets producing 65 KW each, which was sufficient to meet the energy needs of Darjeeling at that time. In addition, new technologies with huge potential are emerging for generating renewable energy. Among them are ‘geothermal energy’ which is the thermal energy in the Earth’s crust which originates from the formation of the planet and from radioactive decay of materials. The word geothermal comes the Greek words geo (earth) and therme (heat). It is not only a clean but also renewable energy. It is renewable because heat is continuously produced inside the earth. Though heat in geothermal zones below the surface of the earth is being used in many parts of the world, at present this remains at the nascent stage in India. Hydrogen is a highly efficient energy carrier. It has the highest energy density by weight as compared to other conventional fuels like natural gas, petrol, and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG). Its lowest and highest heating values are 120.7 megajoules (MJ)/ kg and 141 MJ/kg respectively. This is the highest as compared to other non-conventional fuels. Hydrogen has zero carbon content and also is a non-polluting source of energy. Other advantages of using hydrogen as fuels are: it addresses climate change issues, reduces fossil fuels imports, tackles energy security concerns; and also helps integration of renewable energy and decarburization of different sectors. Electrolysis is an electrochemical process that splits water into hydrogen and oxygen using electricity. If electricity comes from renewables, the hydrogen from electrolysis has the potential to be zero carbon. India is pouring crores of rupees to explore the potential of hydrogen energy. As a viable alternative to conventional and coal or gas based power generation, India has also planned to source a major portion of its energy from nuclear power plants having the latest technologies and greater safeguards.

‘Energy independence is India’s first and highest priority’ said India’s former President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, a scientist of repute. Further, he asserted that the nation has ‘to go in for nuclear power generation in a big way using Thorium based reactors.’ Presently, nuclear power constitutes the fifth–largest source of electricity in India, contributing approximately 2 per cent to the nation’s overall power generation.

Energy conservation is a sine qua non for ensuring energy security. Conservation is the effort to reduce wasteful energy by using fewer energy services. While there is enough talk about how the climate is changing and carbon footprints of developing countries are getting out of control, a bevy of professionals have been driving a revolution without the rhetoric.

These professionals, called energy conservation specialists, help various companies cut down their energy consumption, saving them money as well as conserving one of the nation’s most prized resources. We know that energy is neither created, nor destroyed. It is simply converted from one form to another by the action of various processes. However, during these processes, some of the energy is converted into forms that are not intended to or cannot be utilized.

Let us take a simple example of an incandescent light bulb. When electricity passes through its filament, it glows due to the material’s resistance and light is produced. Simultaneously due to the same resistance heat is also produced and that is energy being wasted ~ both in terms of electricity used and unutilized heat (these also add to cooling cost, one of the biggest components of domestic power uses).

Of course, one solution is switching to compact fluorescent lights (CFLs), which use less power and heat up less. Simply, switching from a 100W bulb to the new range of 36W tube lights, which give twice as much light output renders a saving of about 60 per cent ~ a huge saving in terms of energy consumed and cost. Again, replacing a 40W tubelight with a 36W one will directly save 4W. Currently, Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) are being widely used.

They consume very little power, are very hardy and last long. Indian industries have been regarded as a role model across the world when it comes to social responsibility. Today, energy saving is top in the list of social responsibilities of every individual. Energy saving measures also help in curtailing pollution that is one of the major factors contributing to Global Warming.

The IEA defines energy security as the uninterrupted availability of energy sources at an affordable price. Energy security has many aspects. Long-term energy security mainly deals with timely investments to supply energy in line with economic development and environment needs. On the other hand, shortterm energy security focuses on the ability of the energy system to react promptly to sudden changes in the supply–demand balance. We need sustainable and clean fuels so that we can drive our energy transition to renewable and other non-fossil energy sources.

But a country like India will find it difficult to get out of the coal-trap easily. Though dirty, it is cheaper. It makes the entire world unsafe and insecure. This is where the rubber meets the road. We shall not forget what Robert Redford said: “The measure of our success will be the condition on which we leave the world for the next generation.”

(The writer is a retired IAS officer)