Intro : India is entering the Industrialisation phase quite late, and by learning from the accumulated wisdom, we too can leapfrog.
Like the first-movers, the late comers too have some advantage. They can learn from the mistakes and experiences of their predecessors. That’s how China could leapfrog to industrialisation in 10 years to what the developed nations had achieved in 150 years.
These observations are particularly valid when it comes to energy conservation, especially when India is entering the industrialisation phase quite late. It is believed by learning right lessons from the accumulated wisdom, India too can leapfrog.
It hardly needs repetition that two third of the energy contained in the primary sources like the fossil fuels is lost during conversion first to the energy carriers like electricity or hydrogen and second from electricity into useful energy like heat and light. All energy dissipates ultimately into heat. Thus by reducing wastage of energy at all these levels we can derive more convenience and greater comfort with the same amount of energy and same cost.
We are using energy for transport by burning petroleum in internal combustion engines or gas turbines. The vehicles that carry the payload of passengers, luggage and freight, have their own weight to carry. To put things in some perspective a car weighing 10 quintals with 10 per cent fuel efficiency carries a payload of 1 quintal thereby reducing the efficiency to just 1 per cent in terms of the payload. We can improve upon this by reducing the size and weight of the vehicle, increasing efficiency of engine and transmission, reducing friction and drag. This is being done. But showmanship takes away the advantage by preference for upgrading to bigger and faster cars as if the city roads were formula one racing tracks. As a solution why not have different cars for cities and highways.
It is also time to encourage manufacturing and use of really compact cars. Let there be steep rise in tax, parking charges and fuel tax on larger, heavier and faster vehicles. Simultaneously encourage cars that run on an alternative fuels like gas, battery and fuel cells, generally in combination with petrol. Better tires, exhausts that capture particulates and green house gases, battery charging, efficient airconditioning, better roads, better traffic control are some other ways of saving fuels and emissions.
Similar economies can be effected in the use of electricity also. New refrigerators and air conditioners consume one fourth of energy as compared to the early models. LED bulbs last a life time and consume so little power. LED screens and computers too are energy saving. Using air conditioners in buildings that have proper insulation and double paned windows with external louvers for shade will make a lot of difference in power consumption.
Open terraces also contribute to heating. We can use solar panels or plants to cover them. Perhaps our building regulations need to be amended so as to make it obligatory to comply with the best energy and pollution saving norms, retrofitting buildings wherever required.
Diesel is subsidised by the government and ultimately the cost is borne by the tax payers. But even a murmur to cut down subsidy will raise strong political opposition. Promise free electricity and water to reap political dividend. Then pass the buck to others for shortage.
Modern technology has made it possible to match supply with the demand, thus to avoid misuse and consequent shortage. We have occupancy sensors, digital climate regulators and all other sensors that facilitate adjustment of supply to light and occupancy levels. So power is automatically dimmed or put off when and wherever not required be it in homes, offices, factories or roads. Aggregate Technical and Commercial Losses (AT&C) which include losses in transmission and distribution as also due to pilferage and theft can be controlled with the use of smart grid. Working on information and communication technology a smart grid can not only read meters and detect and heal faults automatically, it can also prevent thefts, allow reverse flow from distributed generation and bargain with the consumers at the peak demand either to shut off or pay hefty charges for using their air conditioner etc. So let the market forces decide electricity pricing. It is not enough to manage the supply side. Demand management is equally important particularly at the peak load.
JP Dubey (The writer is a senior columnist having expertise on development issues)