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

There are a number of contributing factors which lead to increase in the emissions of green house gases. But, energy production and energy consumption both have the highest degree of impact on global warming. Therefore, even though, there are other reasons, energy gets into the focus of discussion as central to the issue of climate change and mitigation or adaptation thereof. In the last twenty five years of economic growth and industrial development, the issue of global warming started getting into sharper focus. United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change was established in 1992 and now it has a membership of 192 countries. The objectives of this Convention are - Green House Gas Stabilisation, Food Security, Sustaining Economic and Social Development. The Convention recognised the principles of common but differentiated responsibilities, towards mitigation of green house gas emissions, among the nations. The most important global initiative under the UNFCCC has been the initiative of Kyoto Protocol finalised and agreed in 1997. Under this Protocol, countries where the industrialisation took place much earlier and green house gas emissions are of comparatively larger order, were identified to first bring down the emission level to 1990 as baseline, by the year 2012, and then to further reduce it. Unfortunately, these countries, identified as Annex-I countries not only did not bring down the emissions but, by the year 2004, the emissions increased by more than 10%.

In the recent couple of years, this issue has received further attention after IPCC Fourth Report came out highlighting the serious and adverse consequences of global warming and climate change. The Report also brought out that appropriate strategies and corrective actions could, to a great extent, control the situation.

In preparation for the Copenhagen Conference, the issue has, in the recent weeks, assumed even greater focus. The Conference is to be attended by 192 countries and each country is preparing its own position in the deliberations at the Conference. One of the Economic dailies, in its editorial today (the 7th September, 2009), has also highlighted the issue under the caption "Why is India fighting a losing battle on Green Policies?". This piece has attempted to highlight that while India's position on climate change discussions is understandable, is it getting isolated? While the full content of this piece does not clearly bring out what it wants to suggest, it does say that the U.S. and China may have a separate understanding. Kyoto Protocol commitments have validity till 2012 and the whole world is looking at the outcome of the Copenhagen Conference. The Bali Meet was not a great success. Many believe that even Copenhagen deliberations may not turn out to be very effective.

I had the opportunity to co-ordinate and moderate a Round Table discussion on the subject of Climate Change organised by Infraline Energy and IDFC at Delhi on 2nd September, 2009. We had very comprehensive presentations by Shri R.S. Sharma, Chairman and Managing Director of NTPC, Dr. P. Dadhich, of TERI and V. Subramanian, Former Secretary, Ministry of New and Renewable Energy. The presentations were followed by detailed comments and questions - answers.

Firstly, I would like to highlight the salient points made by the Panelists, starting from CMD, NTPC. It may be relevant to mention that NTPC, within India and outside, is being particularly focused because it is predominantly a coal based thermal power generating organisation. Most of its capacity of over 30,000 MW comes from coal which constitutes 82%. The company has a long term projection which takes it to about 50,000 MW by 2012 and about 75,000 MW by 2017. Since the company has also embarked upon hydro power project development, its outcome would be available in next five to ten years. As per the company's projection, in the year 2012, when the capacity is targeted to reach 50,000 MW, coal based capacity marginally comes down to 80%, gas based capacity at about 16% and hydro projects would constitute 4%. It is expected that by the year 2017 there would be a visible reduction in the proportion of coal based generation. With about 75,000 MW capacity then, the coal is likely to come down to 70%, gas at 14%, hydro at 12%, nuclear at 3% and other renewable at 1%. Therefore, NTPC will continue to be critically looked at from the point of view of global warming and climate change. Indian power sector, as such, is predominantly fossil fuel based. NTPC's strategy and action, therefore, being the leader in the power sector, is, and would continue to be, highly relevant in any deliberation on global warming. The points made by CMD, NTPC, could be summarised as below:

  • The best of technologies available in coal based thermal power generation must be deployed. Future programmes of the company rely heavily on super critical technologies.

  • The Carbon Sequestration Technology may be a technology of the future. As at present, this technology does not seem to be practical in the context of Indian power sector. We may have to wait for a while before further researches are carried out and the technology is developed to a stage that it could be deployable in Indian conditions. The technology does not provide an acceptable level of efficiency, is highly costly and is also likely to be unsafe if we are thinking in terms of geological storage. Therefore, long term effectiveness of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) is highly debatable and concerns for safety are rightly higher. The CCS plants consume large auxiliary power on account of capture process and on account of compression of CO2. It is estimated that capture process may require as much as 4% and CO2 compression almost 10% of auxiliary power. This would obviously lead to significant reduction in effective capacity and, therefore, power generation. Impact of CCS on cost of electricity, therefore, is going to be enormous.

  • While I do agree with CMD of NTPC that CCS Technology, as such, will be difficult to deploy in Indian power stations, we must participate in various initiatives in India and abroad which are trying to perfect this technology. It is with this consideration in mind that the Ministry of Power, Government of India, with full support of the PMO and Finance Ministry, agreed, during the year 2006, to participate, even financially, in the Zero Emission Future Gen initiative of the U.S.A.

  • NTPC has, in a systematic manner, launched upon efficiency improvement through renovation and modernisation. The objectives of the initiative include capacity enhancement, restoration and efficiency enhancement, life extension of old units, mitigating obsolescence, compliance of pollution norms, equipment safety and improvement in system reliability.

  • NTPC's Green Plans include a shift to renewable energy generation consisting of hydroelectric plants and also projects on bio-mass, besides adoption of super critical process.

  • NTPC has also launched Energy Technology Research Alliance which aims at development of Micro Marine Algae. This consumes thirty times more carbondioxide than other plants like Jathropa. Already development of a pilot project for 35 tonnes of CO2 per month at Simhadri is under process.

  • In collaboration with NCL, Pune and CSIR, NTPC is also working on Cation modified zeolytes with high CO2 selectivity.

  • Another study for conversion of CO2 to Methane on reaction with hydrogen has been undertaken alongwith CSIR.

  • The company has also taken up a solar thermal based air conditioning project.

Shri Dadhich of TERI emphasise the need for appropriate measures by all concerned agencies to ensure that impact of green house gas emission is kept under control. The salient points made by him are outlined below:

  • The Scheme of Clean Development Mechanism has really not worked well. The world as a whole has to evolve an appropriate mechanism under which carbon market should play a key role.

  • The Fifth Report of IPCC has also come out. The Conference at Copenhagen will need address all the issues highlighted in the Fourth Report as well as in the Fifth Report of the IPCC.

  • CCS Technology has to be further examined to see how best it could be made deployable in Indian context. Since Indian power sector has to continue to rely heavily on fossil fuel, it should be our endeavour to search for all possible technologies and methods which could appropriately address the problems that could arise out of ever increasing CO2 emissions.

  • IGCC Technology has been under debate and discussion for a fairly long period. Some work has been done at BHEL works. It is necessary that this technology is taken up at larger scale with greater degree of seriousness.

  • Transport sector is a big contributor to green house gas emissions. Efficient transport systems and energy efficient vehicles are the only right solutions.

Shri V. Subramanian, Former Secretary, Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, highlighted the role of renewable energy in the context of climate change and brought out the following points:

  • We must recognise that role of renewable energy, in the overall energy development programmes, would be only marginal, but it will be very important. For many years, contribution of solar energy will be negligible.

  • We also need to recognise that while the capacity of renewable energy (excluding hydro power plants) is 9%, the electricity generation is hardly 2%. This is because whether it is wind or solar systems, the capacity utilisation is in the range of only 20-30%.

  • Bio-mass based energy does offer a good potential. But, supply of bio-mass, in most cases, becomes an issue. Unless a good amount of captive plantation is arranged, bio-mass based generation may continue to suffer the uncertainty of availability of bio-mass at reasonable and expected price.

  • It is estimated that captive power plants constitute almost 40,000 MW of capacity. Most of these are diesel based. We may think of a Policy which should oblige captive generation only through renewable energy.

  • Any non-transportation use of diesel may be allowed only with much higher differential price, so that such generation of electricity is discouraged.

  • In the National Action Plan on Climate Change, there is a provision for Mission on Solar Energy. It would have been better if we had the Mission on Renewable Energy. Solar energy in the near future may not provide a visible contribution and impact. Therefore, the Mission could cover not only solar but also wind and bio-mass could work out to be a more effective approach in terms of deliverables.

  • Unfortunately, no private sector has done any visible research work on renewable energy in India. Both public and private sector should mobilise their efforts and resources, so that the technology is brought from the laboratory to the market. The issues are - R&D, manufacturing, deployment, financing and commercial innovation.

  • Long term concessional finance would facilitate faster development and deployment of renewable technologies. IDA types of loan with very marginal interest rate would be more applicable and facilitative for these initiatives.

The subject of global warming and climate change is so important and covers so many areas that any brief summary of these deliberations would be difficult. However, I attempt to outline below a brief summary of the deliberations:

  1. Substantial shift towards development of hydro power projects, bio-mass, wind, solar etc. as provided in the energy strategy would go a long way in addressing the issues of global warming in so far as India's energy development programmes are concerned.

  2. A major shift towards super critical technology in almost all larger thermal power plants being developed will make a significant dent on CO2 emission reduction. This large scale movement to a new type of technology, not very well in use in India, will require commensurate preparations for taking care of operational and maintenance problems. These need to be predicted and properly prepared for.

  3. Deployment of IGCC Technology in the Indian power sector has been overdue. Both NTPC and BHEL need to work in a more business like manner, rather than a cold hearted approach given to it so far by both these organisations. This could be done both on domestic coal as well as on imported coal. In order to generate right level of confidence, perhaps if a start is made with imported coal, which will lead to success. At a subsequent stage, the programme on domestic coal would also succeed.

  4. R&D in India aimed at clean coal technologies, relevant to Indian coal, will need a joint effort by NTPC, BHEL and Coal India. Massive R&D Programme with a reasonably good budget to be provided by all these three organisations, with commitments, will definitely yield better results.

  5. Largest number of CDM Projects, in the whole world, have been submitted by Indian companies. CDM Scheme itself is becoming too bureaucratic taking unduly long time and sometimes getting into irrelevant issues. What is needed is an Indian CDM under which joint credits could be traded within India.

  6. Hybrid Systems consisting of solar and gas based power generation, as well as solar systems in wind turbine farms could prove more effective leading to better productivity.

  7. Long term financing with soft terms of interest rates may make a number of new technologies viable. Organisations like PFC, REC and Banks could be approached for considering such terms.

  8. Nuclear power has been rightly recognised as a good source of our energy development programme. This needs to be pursued with full commitment of all concerned, because it does have a positive impact on climate change issues.

  9. Pump Storage Systems could lead to better management of peaking power requirement and, therefore, indirectly could lead to reduction in power generation based on fossil fuel during peak hours, thus leading to reduction in CO2 emissions.

  10. Wasteful consumption of energy is excessive. It is estimated that more than 20% of energy could be saved only if we used right gadgets and right habits. Energy efficiency initiatives of Bureau of Energy Efficiency on various fronts need to be scaled up. Even if we could achieve a 10% reduction out of the 20% wasteful consumption, it would have made a significant impact on climate change concerns.

India's position on climate change will most probably be restated in the Copenhagen Conference. Our articulation that we are one of the lowest emitters in the world in terms of per capita CO2 emissions and that India will ensure that its per capita emission shall not exceed the average of the nationalised nations even in the future, is a very sound proposition and appears completely logical. Our position that keeping in view the various initiatives under the National Action Plan on Climate Change, while India is taking all possible steps to see that its energy development programmes do not lead to excessive CO2 emission but we cannot take a targeted reduction, is a fully valid argument. We can expect that it should be possible for us to make the group of nations appreciate our position on climate change.