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.