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Mr. Yogendra Prasad, Former Chairman, NHPC

'Increasing supply of renewable energy to help replace carbon-intensive energy sources'

Quote: It is essential to simultaneously develop pumped storage hydroelectric projects

Yogendra Prasad, former chairman, NHPC, makes a strong case for promoting renewable energy in India. According to him, deployment of renewable energy will not only help reduce green house emission, but will also lead to significant opportunities for job creation.

Everyone knows that today power sector is the most important sector for economical growth and prosperity of any nation. Human activity is overloading the atmosphere with carbon dioxide and other global warming emissions which trap heat steadily, drive the planet’s temperature and creates significant harmful impacts on our health, environment and climate. Electricity production accounts for more than 50% of global warming emissions with the majority generated by coal-fired power plants in the world. Natural gas plants produce more than 10% total emissions approximately in the world. In contrast to this, most renewable energy sources produce very little global warming emissions. According to data aggregated by International Panel of climate change, life cycle global warming emissions associated with renewable energy including manufacturing, installation, operation and maintenance and dismantling etc. are minimal. Compared with natural gas, which emits CO2 between 0.6 to 2 Pounds Carbon dioxide equivalent/kWh and coal which emits CO2 between 1.4 to 3.6 pounds equivalent/kWh, wind emits 02 to 04 pounds of C02/kWh, Solar 0.07 to 0.2 pounds CO2/KWH, Geothermal 0.1 to 0.2 pounds/kWh and Hydro 0.1 to 0.5 pounds CO2/kWh. Renewable electricity generation from biomass can have a wide range of global warming emissions depending on the references and method of harvesting.

Increasing the supply of renewable energy would allow us to replace carbon-intensive energy sources significantly in the world. Generating electricity from renewable energy rather than fossil fuels offers significant public health benefits. The air and water pollution emitted by coal and natural gas plant is linked to breathing problems, neurological damage, heart attack and cancer etc. Replacing fossil fuel with renewable energy has been found to reduce premature mortality and lost work days. It reduces overall health care cost. The aggregate national economic impact associated with these health impacts of fossil fuel is significantly high. Wind, solar and hydro electric system generate electricity with no associated air pollution emissions.

The geothermal and biomass energy systems emit some air pollution but total air emissions are generally much lower than those of coal and natural gas-fired plants. In addition, wind and solar energy require essentially no water to operate and hence do not pollute water resources at all. As such, they do not interfere with agriculture, drinking water systems or other important water needs. In contrast, fossil fuel can have a significant impact on water resources.

Greater job creation in renewable

Jobs and other economic benefit are very high in developing renewable energy systems in comparison of coal and gas-fired systems. Fossil fuel technologies are typically mechanical and capital intensive, the renewable energy industry is more labour intensive. Based on this, on average, more jobs are created for each unit of electricity generated from renewable sources than from fossil fuels. The technical potential of each renewable energy source is based on their overall availability given certain technological and environmental constrains. However, it is important to note that all of the technical potential cannot be tapped due to conflict in land acquisition as well as higher short term cost of the resources. In adding to this, there may be some limitation in transmitting all the power to be generated as well as several hindrances by the local people and other hurdles.

As on date, renewable energy which has been developed is a tiny fraction of its total potential available for electricity worldwide, but numerous studies have shown that renewable energy can be rapidly deployed to provide a significant share of electricity needs of the world. The jobs directly created in the renewable industries and growth in the renewable industry creates multiple effects. For example, industries in renewable industries supply chain of benefits to unrelated local business with benefit from increase of household and business incomes. In addition to creating new jobs, the renewable energy offers important economic local benefits to the people. Local government collect property and income taxes and other taxes from renewable energy project owners. These revenues can help support vital public services especially in rural communities where projects are often located. Owners of the land on which wind project are built often receive lease payments on very high side in comparison to their agricultural products per megawatt of installed capacities. Local people are also getting royalties based on the project annual revenue. Similarly, farmers and rural land owners can also generate new sources of supplemental income by producing feedstock for bio-mass power generation.

Affordable power

With the development of renewal energy, electricity can be provided to poor population of the country by stabilizing the prices of energies in future. The costs of renewable technologies are declining steadily and have been projected to drop in future. For example, the average price of solar panel has dropped almost sixty percent approximately since 2011. The cost of generating electricity from wind has dropped 20% in last five years. Cost of renewable energy could decline further in future with the enhancement of technologies. In hydro projects, after commissioning the projects, the cost of energy declines day-by-day.

In contrast, fossil fuel prices are varying dramatically on upper side. With development of more solar and wind power project the only problem is that in day time the power frequency goes high due to more power generation in the power system that the demand which is detrimental for safety of generator’s life of generating plants for which it is essential for us to develop simultaneously the pumped storage hydroelectric projects for which lot of potential is there in the country and projects are also identified by Central Electricity Authority (CEA). There is lot of shortage of power during peak hours during morning and evening for which storage typed hydroelectric projects must be developed to balance the frequency as per grid code of Government of India. For this, lot of potential is available in the country and details of which are available with CEA.

(Yogendra Prasad has worked in the post as CMD of NHPC, SJVPC and as Chairman of NHDC and Uttrakhand Jal Vidhyut Nigam Limited. He has also worked as honorary Vice Chairman of International Hydro Association, National Hydro Association, President of Central Board of Irrigation & Power, and Special Advisor (Energy) to Govt. of Uttarakhand).