Challenges & Opportunities
Perspective on political and economic impact for the adaptation of green technologies.
With energy prices soaring worldwide and global climate change accelerating, the importance of green technologies like solar and wind energy has never been greater. However, at this early stage, there are more questions than answers in green tech. What are the opportunities and challenges in green tech investing? What role will government policy and incentives play in driving investment and innovation? What will drive technological advances in developed and developing countries? Can solar, wind and other green technologies solve the global energy crisis?
Technology Limitation and Implementation
Several of the Renewable Technologies such as Solar PV, Wind and Tidal have a relatively short development life and are less mature as compared to the conventional sources of energy. These are also affected by lesser efficiencies in manufacturing and integration. Grid synchronization involves complex systems and the expertise is limited.
There are two main reasons for high costs
a) the technology has yet to mature.
b) the market volume has to grow.
The renewable energy does need a support from the government in forms of capital and other subsidies. There are countries such as Spain, Germany and US where Renewable energy has made huge impact. In fact Scandinavian countries have switch to renewable energy to meet 90% of their energy needs. Our stocks of fossil fuels are limited and it is a matter of time when we start running out of these. Even the cost of oil running currently at $75 a barrel is not going to stay there for long and the cost disparity would arrive sooner than later.
Reduced Green Cover
Lack of knowledge or easy and cheap availability of Bio Mass such as wood has resulted into deforestation which in turn has contributed to climate change. Due to the imbalance created, this is a major challenge to all industries and individuals. We can’t go on blindly cutting down trees any more. Efforts need to be made to plant them back as well and maintain the ecological balance. If one tree has been uprooted, one must make an effort to plant two saplings in its place. Every country should ideally have 33% of land as forest reserves. Each household should have two trees in its garden. These are attainable targets if we all start contributing in our own small ways.
Reduced Land for Agriculture
There is an increasing demand for growing crops that are used for production of bio-fuels such as corn, sugar-cane, beet-root etc. These cash crops take prominence over food grains since they fetch a lot more money than the regular crops to the farmers in question. In order to embrace bio-fuels one will have to recognise this challenge of shrinking farm lands for producing food grains. If we can possibly try to use the bi-products of regular crops instead of growing crops solely for the purpose of producing bio-fuel, this problem can be rectified. Besides some of these crops require large quantities of water, hence places where water is critical, one has to bear that in mind.
Agricultural Population Migration
Job opportunities and quality education are not available at ease in the rural lands. This compels most of the working generation to migrate into the neighboring towns. This presents us with a number of challenges: firstly one needs to work at improving education at rural level. Secondly we need to aid the villages to become self sustaining units, so that the youngsters are not forced to leave their agricultural lands in search of a better future. As per latest projections more than 340 Million of population had moved to cities in 2008 and by 2030 this number would swell to whopping 590 Million. This would be almost 405 of the total Population.
Dwindling Natural Reserves:
We are running out of petroleum in 20 years, coal will last another few decades. We have probably used up all our gold reserves. So what next? Do we go mining in Antarctica or the moon or do we go look for a new planet to exploit? Here’s another cause for World War 3 …who gets mining rights in these unconquered lands. This should act as a catalyst for people and institutions to re-look at their existing energy consumptions and try and balance them out by switching to alternative energies. Countries such India have a large potential of Hydro, Wind and Solar Power and we should have proactive policies to support these technologies.
Lack of Incentives:
Using renewable energy has never been an attractive option, so far for most people because either they are not available or not effective. The current cost of renewable energy is several times higher than the conventional power. High initial costs, lack of technical know-how, refusal to embrace something completely new also discourages a great number of people. An incentive programme started by the government where individuals or institutions that switch to greener energies are recognised and rewarded will go a long way towards changing people’s attitudes and mindsets. European countries and developed nations that have these policies in place have moved far ahead to use renewable energies. Countries such as China which was probably the last country to start switching to green energy has moved to the fourth place in the world, in harnessing renewable energy. They have increased the Renewable energy installed power in 2009 by more than 100% over their previous year.
Due to Mass scale erosion of the green cover by consumption of the bio-mass from forests, the levels of Co2 are imbalanced. This has resulted in the rising temperatures. Arctic ice is melting at an alarming rate. There is an increase in the sea level and several of the islands are getting submerged on a continued basis. Very little is being to replenish the green cover. People like Al Gore have been on a mission for several years to raise an alarm on Global warming.
There is an effect but the efforts have to be made on a frenetic basis in order to make a difference. Each person must start pro-actively contributing their bit to undo the damage done to this planet we live in.
Lack of Interest and Awareness
We, in India, have limited institutions that have Renewable Energy as a course at Secondary level of education. There is very little research being done except by a few private Industrial houses. This had resulted in dire lack of technical ability at the secondary to tertiary level of graduation. As the awareness is increasing and the Institutions such as MNRE and Ministry of Renewal Energy have started the drive, the situation is bound to change. Let us hope it is sooner than later.
Increased Carbon Footprint
In India as mentioned above, we still have large number of people using bio-mass for their day to day power requirement. We still have coal and oil/gas fired power stations belching out tones of carbon in the atmosphere. We still have ordinary Carbon filament or Incandescent lamps being used in more than 505 of the homes, our carbon footprint is enormous and increasing at an alarming rate.
Yes we are taking steps.
We are switching to CFLs.
We are trying to reduce the burning of wood for cooking
We are trying to increase the green cover in our urban land
We are learning to develop and use renewable energy systems
But we have a long way to go.
Sustainability of Current Power Resources
63% of our energy needs our met by thermal power (generated by coal), 25% by hydro-electric (river dams), 9 % by other renewable like Wind or Solar and 3% by nuclear power. Of these only hydro electricity can be labeled as sustainable energy. Nuclear power while being highly detrimental to the environment, cannot be considered sustainable due to limited reserves of the radioactive material. Our current reserves of coal and nuclear fuel will slowly start dwindling and this would lead to rise in the cost of energy. If we want to continue meeting the energy demands of our country in future, we will have to start switching to alternative sources of energy which are sustainable.
Inefficiencies and Losses in MS & U
There are several reasons of Losses and inefficiencies.
>) Aging of the plants
>) Transmission losses over long distances
>) Theft in rural as well as urban areas
>) Unregulated subsidies