Tuesday, October 29, 2013

ENERGY SECURITY OPTIONS: A TALE OF NUCLEAR AND SOLAR POWER, THE TWO MAIN CONTENDING TECHNOLOGIES

Ever since the reality of finite quantum of all fuels fossil as well as non fossil ones has dawned on mankind, energy security has acquired utmost importance for all nations, developed and underdeveloped alike. The use of fossil fuels for majority of global energy needs has pushed mankind into the extremely serious problems of global warming and pollution related health hazards as a result of associated carbon gases and radioactivity which if not attended to on a war footing can endanger the very existence of mankind.
In the race for energy security options of the 21st century under the headings of clean infinite energy sources, following contenders emerge namely, the solar energy, wind energy, tidal energy and hydro energy. And surprisingly they all owe their existence and availability to sun and sun alone which is in fact the mother of all these energies. Choosing the most appropriate energy option for a nation must be on the basis of the following.

  • First and foremost, the option must be free of pollution of carbon gases and radioactive pollution. The whole story and myth of nuclear energy being a pollution free energy stands busted in nuclear power at what cost.
  • The source should be eternal so that science and technology has to work only on the improvements instead of fishing for new sources with passage of time.
  • The option should be suitable for all applications, standalone, mini, micro and large scale and that too without any bearing on cost aspects of installation and power production.
  • The option should have quick response capability and small gestation periods.
  • The option should be simple and for best results should be realizable by keeping it simple.
  • Maintenance costs should be low. 
  • Not prone to catastrophic accidents  under any known or unknown circumstances.
The whole world has been debating on all available sources and out of nuclear and solar, the two main contending technologies, nuclear fails on all counts and it is solar that stands out. In spite of these bare facts, it is strange that our globe still has touts of nuclear power plants. The strong and viable case of solar as the best energy security option available to mankind does not need knowledge of rocket science but asks for an iota of common sense on the part of one and all controlling the fate of our planet.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

MANAGING OIL ECONOMY CAN BE A GAME CHANGER IN INDIAN GROWTH STORY

Oil economics the biggest thorn in the Indian growth story needs immediate attention by the planners and rulers of India. Its contributions to the fiscal and current account deficits of the country and resulting inflation, rupee devaluation and deleterious effects on the economy  are so huge and long lasting that no government can afford to be slack in seeking permanent remedies to the malady of oil economics.
In majority of the countries oil economy leads to current account deficit only but in India because of political compulsions of the government for its survival and its reliance on vote bank politics for attaining winning ability in elections through major subsidies in diesel, gas and kerosene, fiscal deficit emerges as an equally damaging factor. The government has been unsuccessfully trying to stick to its self professed yardstick of sub 5% individual budgetary deficits on both counts. The logic of 5 % deficit is not fully understood and one is kept wondering whether reducing these deficits further will have deleterious effects on the economy?????
The current account deficit ( CAD ) of India is soaring and soaring and in fact has been the bane of Indian growth story for quite sometime now. During the last about 15 years, the reigns of NDA and UPA I, the current account deficit to GDP hovered  from -2.3 to 1.5 and everything from inflation to rupee value to growth rates were in order. Then with the beginning of era of UPA II, everything went hay way. No doubt the global economic picture was not in the best of shapes but it was policy and governance paralysis which was main culprit in the sudden spurt of CAD which wrought havoc on the Indian economy. 
Crude oil imports, gold imports and dwindling exports are the main culprits of exploding Indian CAD. In a global reality, everybody knows that crude prices will keep on rising as the global demand keeps on rising and the crude reserves keep on diminishing every day. Instead of taking any concrete action to find a long term solution to this malady, the Indian polity was busy fooling the nation by taking credit of reductions in oil import bill as a result of  fall in international prices. The Indian rulers are still none the wiser in accepting the crucial role of oil economics in the Indian growth story and oil economics have been allowed to remain the eternal bane of Indian economy and Indian growth story. Indian rulers and policy makers simply wait for cyclic reductions in oil prices to sing their song of achievements on this front and wait patiently to blame world economy on the next upturn of oil prices.
While nations have improved their oil economies through use of bio fuels, improvements  in the road network and mass transportation systems with specific reference to quality of roads and smooth flow of traffic, very little has been done in India on this front. In fact the country is still to realize the importance of improving the quality of ride, removing traffic jams and making energy efficient transport systems. While the world is talking about 'hidden fuel worth hundreds of billions' : IEA's new energy focus so much so that energy efficiency has not only being termed as a hidden fuel bur world's first fuel. India has to manage its oil economy with lot more seriousness to explore fully the potential of this game changer in Indian growth story.

GOOD ECONOMICS AND GOOD GOVERNANCE MUST FOR POVERTY BANISHMENT IN INDIA

A country like India which is striving hard to address the basic needs and necessities of its impoverished billion plus cannot draw solace from an economy growing at 5 % but needs to have an economic growth galloping at 12-15% for a few decades so that the present generation which was born poor does not grow old with the tag of poverty hung around its neck. Let it be clear to one and all that it is growth and growth alone which can bring prosperity to a nation. Any amount of gimmicks of redistribution of national wealth and measures leading to eternal consumption of national wealth will not yield favorable results.
India and its planners must not overlook the magic of compounding as shown below:

Growth Rate %                      Period in years                   Projected GDP
         5                                      20                                       2.65 times
        10                                     20                                       6.73 times
        12                                     20                                       9.65 times
        15                                     20                                     16.34 times

This only demonstrates what the country, its polity and policy makers can achieve for its impoverished billion plus.Such achievements have been made by Germany and Japan during the period 1960-80 and more recently by China 1990-2010 and there is no reason why India cannot do it. The only requirement is that these guys have to say good bye to their baser instincts and dwell whole heartedly on good economics and good governance. Ideally they should never forget the following lines which are passed down the line generation after generation in the text books of wisdom.
Good Economics and Good Governance is Ideal;
Bad Economics and Good Governance is A Compromise;
Bad Economics and Bad Governance is A Disaster;

Good politics, bad economics and bad governance is a catastrophe.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

NUCLEAR POWER AT WHAT COST?????

With the never ending quest for more and more comforts for man, the energy requirements of our globe are growing up rather fast. The advances in science and technology have on one hand given us access to comforts and luxuries of life. At the same time it has given mankind the much needed insight into the various cycles of nature that maintain the balance so very essential for the very existence of life.
Rapid industrialization and inventions of motorized means of transport have revolutionized our lives. All this more or less through intensive use of fossil fuels has increased the pollution levels many many folds. The increased respiratory disorders among the populace, the greatly worrisome associated phenomenon of global warming and the limited fossil fuel resources of the globe has set the mankind thinking on the future course of action.
In this context, two new terms for energy resources have emerged. Firstly renewable/ infinite sources of energy such as sun,wind, ocean, hydro, bio fuels, biomass etc. and secondly clean sources of energy such as solar, wind, ocean, nuclear etc.. It does not require any rocket science to understand and conclude that future energy security of all nations must be based on the following considerations.

  • The first and foremost requirement of a viable energy security solution is that it should be a clean source  capable of producing energy in a clean manner without any contribution to the biggest worry of  global warming. Surprisingly the much touted clean nuclear power results in up to 25 times more carbon emissions than wind energy when reactor construction and uranium refining and transport are considered.
  • The source must be eternal and have the capacity to last for thousands of years so that the researches and technology development efforts can lead to an eternally valid solution like the invention of wheel. 
  • All processes involved in utilizing an energy source for producing energy right from mineral stage to fuel extraction, power plant wastes and spent fuel disposal should be absolutely safe for humanity. In addition there should be zero chance of catastrophic accidents. In fact  Nuclear fuels are a curse on humanity from the stage of ore to fuel elements to waste.
  • Lastly, the power production costs should be competitive with power from other sources. Nuclear power has always been touted as mankind’s finest invention to produce power at cheap prices without significantly harming the environment. However, a closer analysis reveals that it continues to remain one of the most expensive enterprises in the world, requiring constant subsidies and governmental support to ensure its continuous survival. Besides the manipulations regarding  ignoring costs of decommissioning, dismantling  and  nuclear waste disposal which are very very high, all governments and companies selling this technology are absolutely silent on the aspect of huge liabilities arising out of a catastrophic accident. A worst-case scenario study in 1997 by the Brookhaven National Laboratory estimated that a major accident could cost $566 billion in damages and cause 143,000 possible deaths. Another such study, by Sandia National Laboratories in 1982, calculated the possible costs at $314 billion. Adjusted for inflation, that would put both estimates close to the trillion dollar range today.
  • The typical gestation period for a 1 GW nuclear plant is anything between 10-15 years many times involving further cost escalations and time over runs whereas a solar power plant of the same magnitude  could be functional in 1 year time. Imagine the value addition to the national GDP that will come through this 1 GW of power available for additional 9-14 years. This certainly is a win win situation for any nation.
In spite of all these facts about nuclear power regarding the cost of power, how clean is its implementation and the magnitude of catastrophe that can befall a nation in case of a major accident, it is not understood why people are enameled for nuclear power option when better sound options are available. Indian policy makers seem to be guided 
  • Either by their whims and fancies 
  • Or they are overawed by this complicated and sophisticated accident/catastrophe prone yet lucrative technology of taming atomic fission phenomenon.
  • Or perhaps in their opinion solar technology cannot deliver because of its shear simplicity.In fact solar is simple and must be kept simple to retain its edge and that is the beauty.


Thursday, October 17, 2013

ENERGY SECURITY: THE MAGIC OF SOLAR ENERGY FOR CHANDIGARH

Chandigarh with its controlled and uniform skyline and vast spaces of parks is potentially one of the most suitable cities to realize its energy security through the magic of solar energy. Recently the government of India has proposed to develop it as a "Solar City". Based on the analysis of potential for demand side measures along with that of supply side augmentation through renewable energy technologies, the following targets are proposed for Chandigarh in order to develop it as a “Solar City”. The concept of Solar Cities  is being taken up all over our globe as humanity is aware of deleterious effects of global warming and fast depletion of fossil fuels. The government of India has also come up with a plan to develop 60 solar cities, Chandigarh being one of them. Looking at the potential of solar energy in a planned city like Chandigarh the targets set are minuscule and a lot more can be done and achieved in this endeavor. The targets set in the master plan are mentioned in the table below.

          Targets for energy conservation, generation and greenhouse gas emission reduction
Through Solar Power Generation

 Energy Conservation                                 Reduction in present energy consumption
                                                               
                                                                  Short Term         Medium Term               Long Term
                                                                  (till 2012)           (till 2015)                      (till 2018)
1.1 Residential sector                                    10%                  15%                            20%
1.2 Commercial sector                                  10%                  15%                            20%
1.3 a Municipal sector                                   1.5%                 3.0%                           4%
        (Water pumping)
1.3 a Municipal sector                                   1.5%                 3.0%                           4%
        (Street lighting)                                    
 2. Coverage of solar water  heating systems  10%                  25%                           45%
(as a proportion of total heating demand
in residential and commercial sectors)

Solar Power Generation

3. Roof Top solar energy based                       2.5 MW          5.0 MW                    10.0 MW
   electricity generation
4. Large solar energy based                            3.0 MW          5.0 MW                     5.0 MW
    electricity generation at Landfill site
5. Large solar energy based                             5.0 MW          15.0 MW                  25.0 MW
   electricity generation at
   Patiyala ki Rao site

Greenhouse gas emission (GHG )
reduction (tCO2/annum)                               90973               214051                   214051

Chandigarh is a city with an area of about 110 Sq. Kms with an electricity demand of about 300 MW with major demand coming from residential and commercial sector like any urban conglomerate.Architectural controls with a uniform skyline with a design concept of row houses, commercial buildings, schools and offices in a vast majority of cases make it a juicy candidate for realizing full potential of solar power through individual and community/cooperative solar power generation. In fact the city can on its own meet more than 75% of its energy needs through a solar revolution utilizing all  roof tops and non usable waste lands. In the bargain a significant GHG reduction of about 1 million tCO2/annum  will be achieved. Add to it the benefits of small transmission infrastructure accompanied by low maintenance costs and losses and solar results in a win win solution for all times to come.


Sunday, October 13, 2013

NEW MANTRA OF INDIAN POLITICS

The Indian general elections are scheduled for April- May 2014 and as usual all political parties are working overtime on their strategies to fool the voter to grab power for another five years to make merry at the cost of public exchequer and continue with their loot of the national wealth unabashedly. All leaders are well aware of the public disenchantment and disgust over the way this country has been ruled for the last sixty plus years and the manipulations of all these leaders in sucking the blood of  anemic/bloodless masses.
Earlier elections were fought and won on the capacity and capability of the leaders to malign their opponents, citing dangers to secularism,democracy, constitution and even the existence of the nation. To day it appears that these leaders have developed a realization that such rhetoric is not going to work 
It all started with Indian National Congress when they put all bad governance, failure on economic front including high inflation and failure to rein in corruption and black money on the government of the day. All high rhetoric people centric measures like Right to Information (RTI), Right to Education, Right to Food and National Rural Employment Guarantee Act ( The intentions and efficacy of these notwithstanding ) were attributed to the party/organisation or in short to Sonia Gandhi / Rahul Gandhi combine. To day Mulayam Singh Yadav, supremo of Samajwadi party put up a similar plea wherein he squarely put blame and failures on the party and made a desperate plea for not getting punished for the misdeeds/follies of his party's government in the state. Similarly Bhartiya Janta Party is doing the mockery of dumping some of the big names without doing anything worthwhile to set their house in perfect order. It is a known fact that no leader in this country has vanished into oblivion because of the misdeeds of bad governance, criminal activity or economic offence.
In fact the guys who wrote the script for the failures and inaction on all fronts of governance that could have changed the plight of billion plus Indians are trying to absolve themselves and are busy finding scapegoats to remain perched on the high pedestal of concern for the nation and its citizenry. 

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

ROOFTOP SOLAR THE PANACEA FOR ALL ENERGY PROBLEMS OF OUR WORLD

Rooftop solar has the potential of growing into the biggest industry in the world and can be termed as the idea of the megaannum, a harbinger of inclusive growth and an idea with ultimate contribution to the cause of humanity as much as that of invention of wheel.
Rooftop solar accounts for 1.6% to the national electricity in Australia, the world's largest producer of uranium fuel and a nation with zero nuclear power on its soil. And that too when 0.7 million of the total 8 million households have adopted rooftop solar. A country with a population of 23 million is on its way to have 10000 Megawatt of solar power as early as 2017 and a major portion will come from rooftop and residential sector. Similarly Brazil with a population of 200 million is aiming to have 1400 Megawatt of rooftop solar by 2022, up from about 11 megawatt this year.In fact all the countries on our globe are concentrating on solar power in a big way as they are realizing the benefits of energy security through clean renewables
If this is the quantum of rooftop solar these small nations are looking to build up in the near future, one can see what it can do to the fate of humanity in countries like India and China, each with a population of 1 billion plus.In these countries the electricity generation potential of residential roof top is colossal, of the order of thousand Gigawatts. Add to this the total rooftop available, one could easily reach a figure of 4-5 Gigawatts. Imagine when every household is a power producer and achieves self sufficiency in its electricity needs, how much it will add to the prosperity of individual as well as that of the nation. Together with other advantages of clean energy, the very thought is simply irresistible and rooftop solar juggernaut is simply unstoppable.
With each passing day the reduced costs of solar energy installations, better efficiency of solar films and revolutionizing the energy storage solutions along with the fact that humanity won't have to look beyond solar for all times to come, make the urge to adopt solar in general and rooftop in particular a very compelling option for all nations.