India is the fifth largest consumer of energy in the world. Our nation currently consumes well over 524 million tonnes of oil equivalent (mtoe) energy. A look at recent statistics is alarming. India’s per capita electricity consumption for 2014-15 stands at about 1010 kilowatt-hour (kWh). But why are these statistics alarming? This is because India is still largely dependent on quickly depleting fossil fuel resources for energy. About 60 percent of the country’s power is generated using hydrocarbons. Population, and consequent energy needs are, on the other hand, spiralling out of hand. By 2030, India is likely to be the most populous country with a population of about 1.45 billion. Unless the nation turns towards renewable and clean energy, more specifically solar power sources, the country is on the brink of an energy crisis that may simply bring the nation to its knees. It is perhaps with this in mind that Indian PM Narendra Modi has pledged to ramp up solar power generation in the country and committed that by 2030 India shall draw about 40 percent of its electricity from renewable sources.
India’s Major Solar Energy Initiatives
- In August 2015, Cochin International Airport in Kerala, one of India’s busiest airports became the first in the world to operate entirely on solar power. The airport’s solar power plant produces 48,000 units of energy each day and is likely to help cut down about 300,000 tons of carbon emission over 25 years.
- As of 2015, Madhya Pradesh is gearing up to invite global tenders to commission what is likely to become the world’s largest solar power station. The station is likely to generate 750 Mega Watts of power when fully operational.
- In July 2014, Dharnai in Bihar became India’s first fully solar-powered village when Greepeace launched its 100 kilowatt solar energy microgrid here. In 2015, Fakirpur and Chanduhar in Uttar Pradesh and Baripatha in Odisha joined the league of fully solar-powered villages in India.
- Solar-powered automobiles are the new rage in India.
- In April 2015, students of the Manipal Institute of Technology designed SERve, a completely solar-powered car. Similarly in July, students of the RV College of Engineering, Bengaluru, designed Soleblaze, a single-seater solar-powered car. This seems to be the trend India’s automobile industry is taking.
Ambitious Not Impossible
Micro implementation is the key to successful redemption from the impending energy crisis faced by the country. This means that every household, every village must be empowered to tap into India’s vast solar energy resources. India has about 200 sunny days a year. Solar panels on every rooftop will generate adequate energy to fuel the household’s power needs. Solar-powered stoves shall replace traditional dependence on LPG and wood or coal as fuel. Such energy saving devices are already flooding the market. The awareness of Indians with respect to these is, however, low. As of 2012-13, Tata Power Solar Systems, Vikram Solar Pvt Ltd, Emmvee group, Waaree Energies Ltd, and Moser Baer Solar group were the top solar energy solutions providers in India.
Currently, using the solar panels becomes an expensive choice for households. The reason for this is the high cost of production and the low demand. High prices send the demand for these to lower levels. To break this vicious cycle, it is important that the government focus on the industry. The centre already allows for a 30 percent subsidy on manufacture of solar panels. Awareness generation among the people is another key factor. While solar-powered energy saving devices may be expensive, they more than compensate by way of reduced electricity and fuel bills. State governments also need to join hands with NGOs and global climate change organizations such as Greenpeace to encourage more Indian villages to become solar power driven.
Cost of Solar Powering a Household
The cost of powering an average Indian household with solar panels is between INR 1.2 lakh and INR 1.8 lakh. This system should generate about 1 Kilowatt of energy – enough to power about 8 power points such as fans and lights, and even television sets. All that is required is a solar power system and about 120 square feet of space exposed to direct sunlight. While this may not be adequate to run air conditioners, refrigerators and other sophisticated high-consumption systems, these are more than adequate for the masses that do without such luxuries. The solar power system includes a set of solar photovoltaic panels, a power inverter capable of supporting about 3KW energy, and a battery for solar charging. The battery itself costs INR 11,000 or less. Most manufacturers extend a warranty of about 5 years, but on an average the system produces energy for about 20 years. After 20 years, the energy generation capacity diminishes to about 85 percent. Looking at the immense benefits extended by these systems, the costs of solar powering households are more than justified. A number of manufacturers have also come up with smaller systems within INR 50,000 that power smaller households.
India‘s Solar Alliance
In the midst of a worsening climate change environment and much turmoil caused by natural elements, India has emerged stronger and more committed towards a green future. Our nation has turned a grand pioneer and announced a new global alliance of over 120 nations committed to developing and promoting use of solar power. This announcement was made by PM Narendra Modi along with French President, Francois Hollande at Paris during the course of the Paris COP21 Climate Change Summit. The headquarters of this alliance will be set up in India, likely in Gurgaon. The Indian government is likely to make an investment infusion of about USD 30 million to get the initiatives of the alliance going and eventually this Solar Alliance aims to raise about USD 400 million. A number of companies from across the globe, including Tata Steel, HSBC France, Areva, Engie, and Enel have shown interest for active involvement in the project. In time, this initiative shall be a global game changer, said the French climate change ambassador and indeed this is likely to benefit India greatly.