Sunday, April 09, 2006

Sustainable energy and living

Sweden, has proclaimed that it will be off oil by about 2050, which is an audacious goal in itself. Sustainable energy and living is slowly becoming a much talked about theme globally. When will India move away from oil onto renewable energy? The movement away from oil has economic, environmental and significant political ramifications as well.

In India, we have been small strides and a few noises too, starting right at the top. We have run trials on bio-diesel trains (5% to start with), some Mercedes cars too. It was encouraging to see a few solar heaters and windmills in Tirupati. The Reva keeps getting better and can get better. Delhis buses run on CNG, as do the majority of autos and taxis in Bombay with some encouragement.

Wind power is something we have been exploring for the past few years. Gujarat has taken the lead in tapping windpower. TN, AP, Maharashtra are also there. I have seen windfarms in the Konkan in the 80s and in a few other parts and wind power is definitely on an upswing. Heres an excerpt from Suzlon's (6th largest in the world) website:

Pioneers of the concept of large wind parks in Asia, Suzlon has successfully established a host of large wind parks across the country, including Asia's largest - the 200 MW Vankusavade wind park.

But the big thing we need to do in a nation of abundant heat is to tap solar power. Like wind power, solar power too is moving ahead, but both these are yet, no more than a trickle in our energy hungry country. Tata BP Solar has a list of projects up at its website. (Its nice to see Infosys, IIMB among others on this list)

India is a nation that really should have led the world in sustainable living. The way our villages live is by itself a great model of sustainable living. Many houses in the olden days had their own pond, in any case the village had its own pond that took care of water levels. By having forests demarcated as sacred forests, we saw to it that biodiversity was taken care of. Indeed, the concept of a "kaavu", saw a demarcated space in almost every home that was a local micro biosphere. But as urban living became a trend, we moved away from wells, step wells and into borewells and piped water. The sloped roofs of yore became concrete structures and the cowdung front porch became a concrete path. But the ethos of sustainable living still lives on in the heart of most of us even today.

We may not like the lines of clothes hung out to dry from our balconies, but in reality thats the best thing to do, use the energy of the sun to dry the clothes rather than use a power hungry dryer. We may not throw out things (this is rapidly changing though), until we have recycled the last element of usability from it. After all, the coconut tree -kalp vriksh- (called so, because from the coconut tree no part goes waste, every part is used) is our model.

There is no better time than now to take this forward.

1 comment:

Raj said...

Yes, Sweden has resolved to cut dependance on fossil fuel by 2016, but whether this will mean they will switch to renewable energy fully needs to be seen. They will perhaps rely on nuclear energy for a long time.

You have cited the use of CNG, in the context of renewable energy. Fact is that CNG is as much a fossil fuel as oil, maybe slightly better with respect to CO2 emission.

On wind , Tamilnadu and not Gujarat is the clear leader, with over 40% of the country's installed capacity.

Finally, unless renewable energy can promise 24 x 7 availability that fossil fuel has helped ensure, it will not gain acceptance. Wind is seasonal. Solar too, despite improved designs of PV cells. In my opinion, bio-oil based decentralised power generation offers the best potential and should be encouraged. Green power available on 24 x 7 basis and providing employment too to farmers.