Friday, December 28, 2012

ENERGY SECURITY THROUGH RENEWABLES: THE ONLY WAY AHEAD

The quest for Energy Security has been the endeavour of mankind from times immemorial. The growth and prosperity of nations has revolved around their capacity to harness natural resources in the best possible manner even in pre industrial revolution era.It all started with concept of use of manual energy from humans and animals. Then mankind started using the force of flowing water ( Kinetic Energy ). Post industrial revolution, conversion of one form of energy to another and inventions of steam engine, petrol engine, electricity generators etc. changed the entire scenario. Fossil fuels and hydroelectric potential became synonymous with energy security. Then came the taming of the atom and nuclear power  was considered to be the ultimate word in energy security. It was by about 1980, after the Three Mile Island accident in USA nuclear power plants started losing their sheen. So much so that after Chernobyl and recent Fukushima Daichi disaster the nuclear power route to energy security because of nuclear energy safety concerns has been abandoned by many advanced countries and phasing out of existing plants is underway. Energy from the fossil fuels has its own problems of huge carbon dioxide emissions which are a big contributor to global warming which is threatening the very existence of mankind on this globe. Besides the fossil fuel reserves are finite and at best can last for another seventy years or so for commercial exploitation. Needless to emphasize that carbon is precious and needs to be saved for future generations in view of futuristic requirements of mankind.
The enormity and eternity of renewable energy sources like solar, wind, ocean waves was always known to mankind and the thrust towards renewable energy sources is languishing because of vested interests of nuclear club nations and powerful industry lobbies who have spent billions and billions on researches, technology development and required manufacturing infrastructure in the fields of power plant engineering, transmission and distribution  for fossil fuel and nuclear fuel based power plants which seems to be redundant in the light of  majority of the electricity requirements of any country bestowed with very large solar, wind and tidal energy potential.
Deciding on renewable sources for energy security by any country is a win win situation for all times to come because of the following:

  • Available in huge quantities with almost all nations much in excess of even their future requirements implying thereby that the user nations don't have to buy it from anywhere.
  • Available on the site where electricity is needed or is to be employed with no additional fuel transportation costs and need for related infrastructure. 
  • The availability is eternal and not finite as is the case with fuel based sources.
  • The technology of harnessing energy from these sources is suitable for standalone, micro,mini and even large grid applications with no bearing on its cost because of scale and size of operation.
  • Clean energy with no contribution to much worrying issue of global warming.
  • No large scale impact of natural disasters like hurricane Sandy in USA and grid failures witnessed this year in India,  on the supply of power.
  • Immunity against terrorist strike on the plant or accidents and catastrophe resulting thereof.
  • Immunity against rising fuel costs as global reserves of all fuels are getting depleted at at a fast pace.
  • Quick response capability instead of long gestation periods, five to seven years for thermal power plants and up to twenty years for nuclear plants which are normally witnessed. Imagine the compounding effect of investments in renewable energy technologies as benefits start accruing in proportion to the investments just after say six months from the day of start instead of waiting for the returns till the installation and commissioning of the plant takes place may be after five, ten or fifteen years.
  • And above all, invest as per your present demand and requirement and keep on adding as the requirement grows without prejudicing earlier investments as the technologies are totally modular.
Some vested interests who want to delay the march of humanity to renewable energy sources and those who refuse to see the ultimate reality of energy security  point out that the intermittence  of  supply of energy from these sources as also the requirements of large land footprints are the two major stumbling blocks for abandoning fuel based power plants in favour of solar and wind energy. The whole world has realised the enormous potential of roof top solar and available unused government and community lands. The problem of intermittence is hardly a problem in the light of science and technology knowledge available to mankind. If modern day science has found ways and means to produce atomic energy, controlling natural forces in a big way, there is simply no reason it cannot find solution to intermittence through energy storage or hybridization. Old classical concepts of having large power plants and national grids have to give way to newer concepts keeping in mind the flexibility, modular nature and the economics of power generation from solar and wind energy. In any case this is bound to happen. Now or after seven decades is the question, when we run out of all fuels, fossil or nuclear. The wisdom says we do it right now by focusing on renewable sources with all our might for the simple reason that researches in these fields for improving efficiency and addressing problems of energy storage are going to be value additive for all times to come.As it is some men with wisdom and far sight are talking about 'Wind- Solar- Storage could power 99.9% Grid by 2030.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Direct Cash Transfer scheme not a complex project: P Chidambaram

Published: Monday, Dec 24, 2012, 18:17 IST 
Place: Puducherry | Agency: PTI
Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram on Monday said the direct cash transfer (DCT) scheme to the targeted sections of people "will be a simple and error-free" arrangement with the utilisation of technology.
Addressing officials of Puducherry government and various banks at a meeting organised by state level Bankers Committee here, Chidambaram said, "With the availability of banking technology, the scheme is not a complex arrangement but an easy programme."
"Banking technology is a black box technology and there is absolutely no room for mistakes, corruption or human interference in the operation of the scheme," he said.
The Centre was releasing as much as Rs 2,00,000 crore as subsidies under various schemes for the targeted sections across the country. The intention of the government was to ensure that the DCT scheme was implemented by the end of 2013 in the country as a whole.
He asked bankers and officials to ensure that there was inclusion of beneficiaries in the scheme to provide them advantages of the 15 centrally sponsored schemes implemented in Puducherry.
Chidambaram said he was confident that the DCT to beneficiaries linking Aadhar linked bank accounts would go on stream successfully on January 1 in Puducherry.
He also reviewed preparations made by the banks and government departments as part of rolling out the scheme in the Union Territory, comprising Puducherry, Mahe and Yanam regions.

Monday, December 24, 2012

INDIA CRYING

It is a widely acknowledged fact that the nation is suffering in its war against corruption, black money, and maintaining law and order because of inadequate manpower for tax enforcement, police department, investigation agencies and judiciary. This invariably results in  cases related to all streams lingering on for decades. Punishing perpetrators of these crimes within a reasonable time frame has so far remained a mirage. Thanks to the priorities of the rulers of the country in spite of the fact that the government is aware of this fact, whole of the polity of the country knows this, the citizenry of the country have been clamoring to have an effective system in place for quite some time.
In recent times, a lot of  cases about rapes and gang rapes have been reported from different parts of the country. In fact a rape crime takes place every 20 minutes in this country. It is a well known fact that majority of the cases go unreported because of social stigma that falls on the victim. There is a lot of anger among the public over the insensitivity on the part of government over an issue that affects all members of Indian society. The protesters and all the well meaning citizens of the country are demanding justice for the victim in the quickest possible time as also necessary government measures so that such occurrences do not happen time and again. The deterrence has to come from

  • An awe striking  punishment delivered quickly. Indian government promises to set up fast track courts for such ghastly crimes but when. As it is the judiciary seems to be suffering from inadequacy of numbers in its ranks which is further accentuated by governments apathy towards filling in over 300 judges' posts lying vacant in High Courts. This is a little over 33% of the sanctioned strength of all the high courts. No wonder that Delhi high court alone has 61000 pending cases out of which 30% are pending for more than five years. The nation's requirement is enhancement of judiciary vacancies at all levels and it appears the polity's goal is exactly opposite of that. Is it their insensitivity to the cause of good of the nation and its common citizens or simple callousness or a simple ulterior motive of waiting for finding suitable candidates from within their near and dear ones committed to them personally or worst still their desire to allow all cases to linger for decades so that their innumerable brethren in polity who are booked for economic and criminal offences to continue as legislatures in the interest of their continuing in power.
  • The alertness and effectiveness of police force. Here too a large number of unfilled vacancies for reasons best known to these rulers with about 20% of Indian police force is only on paper. This is further complicated by the fact that very large contingents are deployed for VIP security, much in excess of the sanctioned numbers which are as it is bloated to cater for the whims and fancies of these VIPs rather than being need based.
In this given scenario, the intent of the government at the centre and the states leave a lot be desired and perhaps the Indian citizen has to be satisfied only with lip service unless and until some drastic changes are forced upon the present day polity and rulers. After all they are the servants of the people and not their masters as is their thinking at the moment.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

BLACK MONEY: A CURSE ON INDIAN DEVELOPMENT STORY

In one of the latest reports by a Washington based research and advocacy firm, Global Financial Integrity (GFI), India lost $123 billion in black money in a decade in illicit outflows. "While progress has been made in recent years, India continues to lose a large amount of wealth in illicit financial outflows," said GFI director Raymond Baker.
There has been a lot of hue and cry on the recovering of Indian black money stashed abroad but surprisingly not much has been said about curtailing the ongoing outflows of this money and the creation and supply of this black money within the country. According to some estimates, India's underground economy has grown to a huge figure of about 50% of the Indian GDP. Imagine what could be achieved had this been taken care of by successive governments. And what can be achieved in future by putting this money as investment in various urgent needs of the country like education, infrastructure, healthcare etc. etc.. In fact the principle of compounding holds very well in this case and in about five years time perhaps the category of Below Poverty Line (BPL) families would vanish.
Black money creation is a result of corruption, bribery, kickbacks and tax evasion and affects the GDP growth directly by making available less funds in the exchequer and simultaneously increasing the expenditure on every new implementation and maintenance. Its potential to blunt the Indian march to prosperity through deleterious effects of fiscal and current account deficits, inflation and rupee devaluation is immense and is being felt by the nation as in actual terms the growth rates are quite dismal.
 If somehow or the other Indian government can control corruption, bribery, kickbacks and tax evasion, country's face and the plight of teeming millions could be changed in no time through good governance, good economics and good politics in that order. What ails India and the remedies thereof does address majority of these problems and how to overcome them. It is a well known fact that the Indian government and Indian polity understands all this but for some reason known only to them are dilly dallying on this issue of prime and utmost interest to the future of this country, its citizens and even their respective vote banks.



Sunday, December 16, 2012

IS INDIA PROGRESSING OR REGRESSING ?

Day in and day out Indian government reels out statistical data on the growth of GDP, per capita income and the consumption of steel, cement, electricity etc., the various parameters of growth of a country. This data brings about the rosy side of government efforts. Some people in the country are satisfied with this pace of growth whereas to a vast majority these are only some numbers and has not made any material difference to their quality of life and the path to poverty alleviation.
The two important parameters, namely the reservations and subsidies are sharp pointers to the failure of India's planning policy.
  • Reservations and Quotas: In 1950, the country started with the  reservation policy wherein schedule castes and schedule tribes were given a reservation of 15 % and 7% respectively on the basis of social and economic status. After sixty years, instead of these quotas coming down, the country has reservations to the tune of 50% and some places even much more by additions from newer classes. In fact more population groups are clamoring for additional quotas for themselves. Either the number of people that falls in the quota criterion has risen or it is the boon of vote bank politics. Whatever may be the fact, the answer to ' Is India progressing or regressing ' is clear to any unbiased citizen of the country.
  • Subsidies: If India were progressing the number of people in need of subsidies for food, fuel as also the amount spent on doling out these subsidies should have come down whereas the reality is just the converse of this.
India certainly is on road to become an industrialized nation but sadly the fruits of this industrialization  do not seem to trickle down to its poor millions. This raises a very serious question. Is India's planning on the right path? Is this growth rate sufficient to alleviate poverty in a reasonable time frame, say two or three decades? Or India will grow into an industrialized giant/behemoth wherein a big percentage has to be content with poverty and live below subsistence level existence as had happened in the developed world during the early stages of industrial revolution. It is time the polity and planners brood over this concern and come out with solutions that will bring the graphs of reservations and subsidies sloping downwards at the earliest.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

WHY THRUST TOWARDS RENEWABLE ENERGY SOURCES IS LANGUISHING

Edison-solar-energy
This is what Thomas Alva Edison, the inventor who gave this world electricity and electric bulb thought about the potential of solar, wind and tidal energy way back in 1931. Simultaneously he had a premonition that the human race would commit the folly of waiting for the drying up of all our fossil fuel resources before tackling the scientific and technological problems associated with harnessing of renewable energy.
There are others like George Porter, Ralph Nader and Joseph A. Tainter who gave their own assessment for this delay and how right they have been.


I have no doubt that we will be successful in harnessing the sun’s energy… If sunbeams were weapons of war, we would have had solar energy centuries ago.
George Porter, an English chemist (1973).

The use of solar energy has not been opened up because the oil industry does not own the sun.~ Ralph Nader, an American consumer activist and politician (1980).

Any change from the long established practices and technologies are resisted by cartels of nations,industries and even the technocrat lobbies for reasons of self interest and fear of losing on their monopolies and importance. This is why the nuclear nations are strongly touting for nuclear energy in spite of the universally known fact that a nuclear power plant is a ticking catastrophic bomb and has massive problems associated with disposal of wastes, dismantling of old plants, danger of nuclear fuels passing into the hands of terrorists and what not. Joseph A. Tainter, an American anthropologist has very aptly summed this in the following lines.
…a voluntary change to solar energy and green fuels, energy-conserving technologies, and less overall consumption… is a utopian alternative that… will come about only if severe, prolonged hardship in industrial nations makes it attractive, and if economic growth and consumerism can be removed from the realm of ideology.
The two main problems i.e. the requirement of large tracts of land and energy storage when renewable energy sources are to be employed are just excuses by vested interests to avoid them for the time being. 
“Opportunities to install renewable energy systems on vacant properties can be found in every community,” said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA’s Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “Tapping sun and wind power at brownfield sites, rooftops, parking lots, and abandoned land could provide untapped gigawatts of clean energy.”
Similarly, the requirement and problem of energy storage is not as big as is being made out. First of all, about 50% of power requirements are during day time, similarly large quantities are required in stand alone applications, mini and micro grids. All solutions lie in combining and hybridization of technologies. In fact the developed world is guilty of telling us how renewables cannot be used for providing energy security to  this world  instead of how they can be used. Where there is a will, there is a way.The day politicians, scientists and technologists set their sights on these inexhaustible sources, nothing else will be required for energy security.


Friday, December 14, 2012

INDIA CALLING OR CRYING: REFORMS: CABINET COMMITTEE ON INVESTMENTS AND LAND...

INDIA CALLING OR CRYING: REFORMS: CABINET COMMITTEE ON INVESTMENTS AND LAND...: Cabinet committee of Government of India cleared two much hyped reforms, namely the formation of cabinet committee on investments chaired ...

AADHAR BASED PAYMENTS ARE A BIG STEP FORWARD

Unique identification number (UID) or the Aadhar based cash transfers will take effect from January 2013 in 51 districts of India. This initiative is ultimately going to be a game changer in the fighting corruption particularly the petty one. This corruption involves payments of  National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) wages, scholarship and pensions to non existing individuals, leakages and pilferage of subsidized food articles, kerosene and LPG gas to non existing persons. Though petty in nature, the impact of this corruption on the economy is huge as the loss amounts to something like 25000 to 30000 crores of rupees. Similar amounts gets wasted as a result of wrong classification of poor, wrong allocation of NREGA work, maintaining musters, identifying beneficiaries for scholarships and pensions etc. India aims at covering 600 million people under Aadhar by 2015. for such payments and that will be a day of reckoning for no legal beneficiary will have to dole out cuts to any person.
Aadhar is the only viable solution to the malaise of black money and corruption . The day India is in a position to link all asset forms to an Aadhar card, a new prosperous and powerful India will start emerging.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

FDI In MULTIBRAND RETAIL

The Indian parliament is engaged in a hot debate on whether India should go ahead with FDI in multibrand retail or not. Various classes of people namely the Indian retail community including small retailers ( Kirana stores ), farmers, employees of Indian retailers, multi layered middlemen system and finally the consumer. Every body's aspirations are to have a prosperous and better life. This means interests of every class clashes with that of the other. Farmer will like to have maximum value of their produce, consumer will like to have maximum value for its money, workers whether in the farming sector or small retail will love to have better wages and better working environment or in other words will love to be part of organised sector and the middle men will will like to earn maximum through commission trade. It is in this confusing scenario that the country has to seek a solution for the betterment of its masses.
It is a basic fact that every individual whether belonging to rich, middle or poor class, whether from the farming community, working class, retailer community is a consumer and any means/ any policy measure that can help in lowering down the price to the consumer and simultaneously giving better remuneration to the farmer has to be welcomed. Any measure that moves the work force to organised sector from unorganised sector with better working conditions, amenities and basic perks like insurance and medical facilities has to be welcomed and not decried. If the scale of operations can help in manufacturing activity and reduce the cost to consumer in fields like automobile, telephone etc. without harming the small sector and in fact giving a big boost to all ancilliary industry and small scale industry.
In the light of this, the country must make use of benefits of scale of operation which is the only way forward to improve the standard of its masses and FDI in multibrand retail is one such measure that will go a long way in mitigating the plight of Indian masses with enormous high grade employment opportunities at all levels at the front as well as back end. Not going ahead with such an opportunity will be a retrograde step and an opportunity missed to improve upon the plight of India's poor masses.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

ENERGY SECURITY THROUGH NUCLEAR POWER : A BANE OR A BOON FOR HUMANITY

The story of  immense energy locked up in an atom and its release during fission and fusion processes is about seventy year old and has been a talk of thinkers, philosophers, scientists and leaders for use in  military, energy and medicine fields. In the early second half of the last century, we were given to understand that the catastrophic effects were associated only with the military application of nuclear bombs and if we allowed science to develop as a good servant instead of its being the master, nuclear sciences could well be the game changer for humanity for all times to come. Slowly the overall deleterious concerns of playing with the nuclear sciences came to light. The concept of energy security through nuclear power emerged as a bane  rather than a boon to the humanity. The rhetoric of a few world leaders, a few powerful lobbies and  industrial cartels with vested interests and ulterior motives not withstanding. "I do not know with what weapons the third world war will be fought but the fourth world war will definitely be fought with bows and arrows" These ominous words from none other than A. Einstein, the man behind the concept of nuclear energy, though said in the context of an atom bomb hold equally well for mankind's efforts to utilise this energy for peaceful uses, the much touted nuclear power. We have to understand that controlling such an enormous energy giving reaction with our limited knowledge of nuclear physics, mechanical sciences, material sciences, causes of accidents along with the uncertainties of nature and allied phenomena  with 100% surety is nothing but a mirage. It will only be prudent on the part of mankind not to sit on thousands of these ticking catastrophic bombs of self annihilation just for the sake of energy security and that too for the coming few decades ( In the light of limited availability of nuclear fuels ), particularly when our planet has been bestowed with eternal and absolutely safe energy sources like sun and wind. If we are destined to fall back upon the use of renewable energy sources for all our energy needs after six or seven decades, is it not worthwhile to do it right now and be done away with the risk of destruction of mankind.

NUCLEAR FUELS ARE A CURSE ON HUMANITY

Today Energy security is the topmost priority requirement of the mankind and how to achieve this is the hottest topic of debate in all countries on our globe. While everybody seems to agree  to the idea of having clean energy so that global warming is controlled as a first step and subsequently reversed, a fierce battle is going on about the route to be adopted for this clean energy. The candidates for clean energy are nuclear, and renewable energy sources like hydro, solar, wind, ocean, geothermal etc. etc.. The major criterion for  any clean energy are 
  • Involvement of clean and safe processes for making available energy source at the power plant
  • Power producing  process to be safe, least accident prone and incapable of being catastrophic under any conditions
  • Wastes and by products resulting from the process should also be safe and clean
It does not require rocket science to understand that all renewable energy sources measure themselves adorably when subjected to the rigours of all criterion postulates mentioned above but can we say the same about nuclear energy. The answer is a big emphatic no to all the three criterion.
Let us now examine the story of energy from nuclear power plants rigorously.
  • Nuclear fuel mining: The troubles start right from the stage of the mining of uranium ores to their crushing, leaching to make what is known as natural Uranium. The miners are subjected to toxic effects and the mines are left with toxicity on the surface which otherwise was lying dormant deep under the surface of earth.Uranium mining is a very inefficient process and generates vast amounts of toxic waste.In fact uranium mine tailings leave vast amounts of toxicity.
  • Fuel enrichment: Natural Uranium is about 99.27% of U-238 and 0.72% of U-235, the fissile isotope which is used for nuclear reactors of power plants and nuclear weapons. What is left behind is called depleted uranium ( DU ) containing about 0.2 to 0.4% U-235 and the balance U-238. DU has a density of 19.1 g/cc and is used for defensive armour and armour piercing projectiles as also the so called Dirty Bombs. DU contamination occurs when these products are employed during a war and produces lingering toxic effects on humans and land area.
  • Nuclear power production: Apart from the ever imminent lurking danger  of  a catastrophic  accident, as probability theory cannot be relied upon for assessing the safety of a nuclear power plant in the light of big chunks of deficiencies in our knowledge of nuclear physics, mechanical sciences, material manufacture and subsequent behaviour in different conditions and the vagaries and severity of natural calamities and disasters. Also we have to understand that technology can never be a guarantee to safety.
  • Wastes and by products: The spent fuel and its disposal are the biggest cause of concern for the humanity and even though the world has been producing nuclear power for well over fifty years, no viable solution has been found. Solutions to the problem of managing Nuclear waste and its safe custody are the topics that are bothering the strongest exponents of nuclear power for the costs involved and effectiveness of these solutions.