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Energy Efficiency and Climate Change, Shri R V Shahi, Former Secretary, Ministry of Power

IIT Alumni Association organized, on 4th April, 2008 at IIT Delhi, an International Conference on Energy Efficiency and Climate Change. I was invited to present the Theme Address. I summarise below the main issues that I elaborated in this address :

  • The recent IPCC Report has projected severe and adverse consequences of global warming over next several decades. On 3rd April, there was a lively debate on a T.V. Channel in which two eminent scientists were having a different point of view from the conclusion as contained in the IPCC Report. They were of the view that the findings were over exaggerated. Even though the temperatures rise as projected takes place the consequences predicted are substantially more adverse than these scientists thought they would be. Dr. Pachauri, responding to these comments clarified that IPCC Report was based on a studies conducted by several groups of scientists and several agencies. IPCC as such does not carry out any scientific studies. It depends on the studies carried out by reputed individuals and agencies and presents, in an analytical way, these findings.

  • Whatever be the extent of differences of opinion, in view of increasing levels of production and consumption of energy, larger amounts of green house gas emissions are bound to happen. It is, therefore, essential that we are sensitive to these changes and, design and take appropriate mitigatory measures so that the adverse consequences are kept within limits. I do not think that even the two scientists, having differing views, were making a point that global warming was not an issue or that it did not have an adverse impact on climate. Their difference was limited, as I could understand, to the extent of the degree of impact. Therefore, for all energy professionals - and as a matter of fact for particularly scientists and technologists - it is a challenge to research and develop suitable technologies which enable all the countries to cope with the challenge.

  • Global warming is caused due to green house gases. These gases are outcomes of the technologies of energy production. Therefore, supply side of energy management does play a major role in contributing towards these emissions. Hence, by appropriately choosing right technologies these impacts could be moderated. For example, if we configure our overall capacity addition programmes heavily relying on renewables, and succeed in substituting, atleast partially, the energy generation through fossil fuels, to that extent the increasing trend green house gas emissions could be reduced. There is a whole range of options which provide enormous opportunities to suitably control CO2 emissions through profiling energy development programmes and by choosing right fuel mix. In today's discussions however, I do not propose to elaborate on those options, because we are examining the positive contribution of Energy Efficiency on Climate Change. Accordingly we will limit the discussions to all possible areas where through appropriate energy efficiency measures we could reduce the green house gas emissions.

  • We will also limit our discussions to issues concerning power sector, from the point of view of energy efficiency, though there are vast opportunities for demand side management in sectors like transport which have very significant effect and largely adverse impact on environment, because of inefficient technology and consumption pattern. We have, very unfortunately, inefficient technologies and inefficient practices in all the segments of power, viz. generation, transmission, distribution and consumption. In each of these areas we would analyze the technology issues as well as the problems caused on account of inefficient operations and inefficient practices.

  • In most of the countries which, in coming decades, are embarking upon large scale expansions of their power generation capacities, or have already done so in the recent past, coal based generation constitutes the major proportion of their capacity additions. Even in a large number of developed countries, capacities based on coal predominate their overall profile. It is a sad commentary on human ingenuity that in spite of working with coal based generation for more than 100 years (even India completed 100 years of thermal generation in the year 2000), the efficiency of conversion continues to be around 38%. In fact, in India, if we take into account all the old plants together with the new ones, efficiency of conversion is less than 35%. The latest entry of Super Critical Technology also does not take us beyond 41% efficiency. That means that the heat which is contained in coal is converted into electricity only to the extent of around 40%, and 60% of this energy is lost in the conversion process. This is a technology challenge to global community of scientists and technologists. To the extent are able to improve, in a 100% correlation, we will be able to reduce the green house gas emissions. High heat rates in a number of power plants in India, particularly the old ones, can be reduced and should be reduced in a time bound manner. Ministry of Power, in 2004-05, came out with an initiative "Partnership in Excellence" which is aimed at renovating and modernising old power plants which are inefficient. One of the major objectives of this programme, apart from enhancing the Availability and Plant Load Factor, is to substantially reduce the heat rate, which would mean less coal for same amount of power. All such schemes need to be taken up on priority. An institutionalised arrangement to have them accepted as CDM Projects and get the entitled benefit of carbon credit may even offset the capital cost of renovation and modernization.

  • Super Critical Technology with capacity ratings of 660, 800, 1000 MW for units have the potential of giving 41% efficiency. The Working Group on Power recommended that during the 11th Plan and subsequent Plans, Indian power sector must have a large number of these sets. Ultra Mega Project initiative which was launched by the Ministry of Power in January 2006 envisages that the developers would install Super Critical Technologies. Even now there are a large number of plants where energy consumption parameters provide enormous scope for improvement. Not only Heat Rates need to be reduced leading, in turn, to lesser consumption of coal but also specific oil consumption, auxiliary power consumption etc. need to be brought down so that these efficient operations lead to savings, leading, in turn to lesser green house gas emissions.

  • While these measures will definitely make a visible positive impact, a successful implementation of IGCC (Integrated Gasified Combined Cycle) technology, suitably dovetailed to the coal characteristics of Indian coal, needs to be put in place. We have talked about this for over thirty years but have not succeeded in installing even one plant of even 100 MW capacity which could run on Indian coal. This technology has great relevance. Ministry of Power intervened in 2004-05 with the suggestion that NTPC and BHEL could work together with a commitment to set up operate such a plant as a pilot first and subsequently set up a number of such plants. Based on experience, subsequently units of higher ratings could be developed and set up. The process is indeed very slow because seriousness on the part of all concerned is less than required.

  • High Voltage Transmission System is another area where there is a scope to be more efficient. About a couple of weeks back I was coordinating a discussion on "Open Access". The Executive Director, who controls the Systems Operations in the National Load Despatch Center, made a point that if power had to be transmitted from Arunachal Pradesh in the East to say Punjab and Rajasthan in the West, over 15% is lost in transmission, I raised the point then, and I reiterate the same again, as to why this happens, whether this extent of loss is the right assessment and if so how is it that this could be substantially brought down. There is a general perception that Extra High Voltage (EHV) Transmission Systems allows power transmission with a loss in the range of 3 to 4% in AC System, and the loss is even less in the DC System. There is, therefore, a need to critically evaluate different elements of loss - losses attributable to the system configuration, to various equipments that constitute the systems, and to the operational practices. These critical evaluations must lead to development of strategies in each of these areas so that overall efficiency of transmission system operation is improved. Any loss in transmission means the need for generating more power. To the extent if that has to happen through fossil fuel, the increase of green house gas emissions is in direct proportion. Obviously, therefore, any reduction through improvement of efficiency results in, with 100% correlation, reduction in CO2 emissions.

  • This is the situation with regard to the extra High Voltage Transmission System. If we focus on the State level transmission and sub-transmission below 220 KV, the situation is even worse. These systems, in many States are suffering from the deficiencies on account of inappropriate configuration, inadequately designed equipments and more importantly inadequate operation and maintenance practices. As a matter of fact, though in last ten years transmission has received better attention than in the past but this statement is true only to the extent of extra High Voltage Transmission Systems, primarily being developed by Power Grid Corporation of India. Most of the States still continue to pay scant regard to development of their State level transmission networks. Obviously, this leads to higher amount of system losses making to its own contribution on problems relating to climate change. The silver lining, however, is that greater degree of awareness on this issues has been created in recent years and more and more States have started realising the importance of robust and reliable transmission grid including the sub-transmission networks.

  • While there is a good amount of scope in improving efficiency in power generation and power transmission systems, as have been highlighted above, we may definitely feel happy that in these areas we have a number of success stories also. However, the area which suffers from maximum inefficiency is Electricity Distribution, and therefore this provides maximum potential for effecting improvement. In the last few years, due to schemes like Accelerated Power and Reform Programme for urban areas and Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojana for villages, modest improvements have been achieved in many States e.g. Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, West Bengal etc. In most other States visible impacts have yet to be seen, and even in the States mentioned above considerable scope still exists for bringing down the technical and commercial losses.

  • In 2006, I had the occasion to deliver the key note address in IEEMA Conference where I had the opportunity to listen to a presentation by Bankok Electricity Distribution Company. Amazingly the loss level in distribution is about 6% as compared to 30 to 40% in Delhi (even after privatisation, pre-privatisation the loss levels were 50 to 60%) and about 11% in the best of city distribution, even including the private sector. The overall loss itself in the country is in the range of 35 to 38%. There are States where losses are more than 50%. We need to distinguish the losses on account of theft and on account of technical and commercial reasons. These inefficiencies have to be removed. India has a shortage of power of the order of 10%, peaking shortage being of the order of 14%: the losses in the system are more than 35%. It needs to be appreciated that if these losses are brought down, even by 50% of what they are, perhaps the entire shortage (even peaking shortage) could have been mitigated. Impact of such loss reductions would be enormous on climate change concerns.

  • While on the subject of inefficiency in distribution, the approach of governments and regulators to pricing of power is relevant to mention. It is a general psychology that if a commodity is available at cheaper rates or free, consumers tend to be extravagant in consumption. In fact, wasteful consumption increases. To talk of efficiency of consumption of electricity, divorced from this ground reality of pricing approach, would be meaningless. We need to price power properly and provide necessary deterrent so that people do not indulge in the luxury of irresponsible and wasteful consumption of electricity. Free power to agriculture is one of the examples where consumption becomes irresponsible leading to further enhancement of power shortages besides creating avoidable ground water shortage problem as well.

  • Equally pathetic is the condition of our energy consumption habits. Because of inefficiency in consumption of electricity, we lose over 20% of total electricity consumed in India. The Ministry of Power, in accordance with the Energy Conservation Act 2001, put in place the Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) in April 2002. The Ministry launched a National Agenda on Energy Conservation in September 2002 with following main Thrust Areas:

    • Energy Efficiency in Industry

    • Efficient electricity consumption in existing buildings.

    • Developing Building Codes aimed at design and construction of energy efficient buildings.

    • Labelling (1,2,3,4,5 STARS) of electricity consuming gadgets such as refrigerators, air conditioners, pumps, motors, tube lights, transformers etc. so that consumers choose energy efficient products and manufactures produce and supply such products.

    • Developing standards i.e. norms for energy consumption in different industries and for different equipment / gadget so as to motivate producers and consumers to gradually shift to better technologies and products.

    • Educating people to make them aware about the need and economics of energy conservation.

  • Actions have been taken on all these fronts in last few years. But, we have a long way to go. On lighting CFL usage has increased but, it requires much larger coverage at a faster pace. Lighting load is 15%. CFL consumes almost 25% of energy compared to conventional lighting.

  • LED requires even less of electricity for providing same light - almost 5-7% of conventional lighting. Government / public sector supported large LED factories could provide cost effective LED products. I recall we had initiated a process with NTPC taking a lead. We need to get into manufacture of LED in a big way.

  • In last few years real estate sector has seen an unprecedented level of activities and growth - big commercial and office complexes, chain of hotels, malls etc. In most cases energy efficiency has not received the consideration which is deserved while designing and constructing these buildings. Regulatory intervention is one dimension, but more importantly we need to change our approach and mindset.

  • Energy Audit in Rashtrapati Bhavan, which we launched in 2004 and completed in 2005 led to reduction of electricity consumption by more than 30%. Ministry of Power took up in 2003-04, seven Govt. buildings in 2003-04; each has potential of 30-35% saving. What is needed is to replicate this on a large scale throughout the country.

  • Our desired goal of providing power for all and giving to our people a quality of life at par with developed countries by ensuring a sustained economic growth rate of 9-10% annually may come under severe criticism and strain if we do not act, in a responsive way, on energy efficiency measures. On the basis of per capita emission of CO2 India is at present much less than even the world average (India 1.2 tons, world average 4.2 tons, USA- around 20 tons, European counties - around 12 tons). But responding to the need and as our concern for climate, Prime Minister made a commitment last year that India would never allow it to go beyond the per capita emission average of industrialised nations. Therefore, when these countries reduce CO2, with our growth plans which targets 8-9% growth annually in electricity, we will need to be careful in choosing technology and in all aspects of energy efficiency. There are a large number of areas where enormous scopes exist to improve. And, all of them are doable. We need to, as a society, commit ourselves to act, and to achieve.