Sunday Anchor

‘Green’ shoots from the south

In April 2014, an expert group, set up by the Planning Commission to discuss low carbon strategies for inclusive growth, had suggested in its report that by 2030, the share of new and renewable energy – solar, wind and biomass – in electricity supply be tripled to 18 per cent in India. Recent investments in ‘green’ energy made by the states of Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu are a step in that direction.

Power for All in AP

Following intense lobbying by the Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister, N. Chandrababu Naidu, Andhra Pradesh was selected by the central government for implementation of the Power for All (PFA) programme, with active support from central government. The programme aims to supply 24 x 7 quality, reliable and affordable power to all domestic, commercial and industries consumers. PFA is being launched in Andhra Pradesh (AP) on October 2. Under the plan, all electrified households would be extended round-the-clock power supply by October 2016. Households without electricity connections would be covered by March 2017.

Under the PFA programme the government plans to achieve cent percent electrification to meet the entire power demand, through ideal mix of generation sources and fuel security; ensure reliable transmission network with lowest losses; harness green energy; and vigorously pursue energy efficiency and conservation measures.

Andhra Pradesh has already wiped out its deficit of 22 million units a day after the new government took over on June 8. There are no more power cuts in the state. Leveraging its relationship with the BJP- led NDA government; Andhra Pradesh government has drawn ambitious renewable energy plans, targeting 5030 MW of solar and 4,150 MW of wind in the next five years.

Union Minister of Power and Coal, Piyush Goyal who was in Hyderabad on September 15 for signing of joint document on Power For All initiative, has announced that the “world’s largest” ultra mega solar power park (UMSPP) to generate 2,500 MW would come up in Andhra Pradesh.

Outside the ‘grid’

While Tamil Nadu is hardly a shining beacon amidst India's collection of power deficient states, a small panchayat in the State, with a population of 8, 000 people is planning to start supplying free power to all residents by 2015.

Odanthurai, a village 40 km north of Coimbatore, took the path towards energy self-reliance in 2005 – around the time Tamil Nadu's power situation was beginning to go downhill.

“We realized that 30 per cent of the panchayat’s budget went towards just paying the electricity bill,” says the then panchayat president R. Shamugam. “It is a huge burden for any government entity,” he says.

Odanthurai decided to invest in renewable energy. The panchayat obtained a bank loan and used the community's collective savings to set up a wind mill and a biomass plant.

In less than a decade, the tiny panchayat is selling power to the state's electricity board and will close the loan soon.

While Tamil Nadu focused on high-cost, large scale projects that involved massive grid capacity building, Odanthurai went in the opposite direction. That is why M. G. Devasahayam, a former head of the Haryana Electricity Board, says India's energy security depends on taking as many villages as possible outside the grid.

Strategic importance

Rajya Sabha member and former Union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh who wrote about Germany’s transition to green energy in The Hindu recently, said, “India has far greater comparative advantage in renewable energy than Germany which is a world leader today. Green energy is an area of strategic technological leadership for India to build up over the next decade and this will bring in many co-benefits as well, such as lesser pollution, lesser land degradation, etc.”

He further said, “While we cannot afford to abandon nuclear power it surely needs independent regulation and risk assessment. That is the crucial difference between Germany and India. What Germany has done is develop six million small producers of solar and wind power and that is what India should also be doing.”

(With additional reporting by Vidya Venkat in Chennai.)

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Printable version | May 13, 2022 3:53:25 pm |