07 April 2010

India before the low-carbon tipping point

By: Kaavya Nag
Renewable energy is now in fashion in India, and one of its biggest promoters is the government. That is undoubtedly a good thing, because so as far as reach goes, they beat anyone else. What with the power to make policies, issue policy directives, enact bills and create directed programmes such as the Remote Village Electrification Programme.

Apart from policy and programme related actions, the Union government has taken it upon itself to green the Parliament House, and to push for all government buildings to install solar panels on their premises. Then there is the very likely possibility of solar electricity getting subsidised by 30 percent for those who wish to install solar panels on their rooftops (grid connected). If states back this with more subsidy, home owners could get a total of 50 percent subsidy on power generation from solar panels.
A proposal by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy to mandate all mobile service providers to to get their power from solar panels rather than from diesel, could translate into a saving of 5 million tonnes of CO2 annually, and about 2 billion litres of diesel each year.
All of these initiatives are either part of or tie into, the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (JNNSM).

New Delhi, courtesy the Commonwealth Games has taken it upon itself to go greener. The Thyagaraja Stadium will be run on solar energy for the period of the games, following which the power it generates will go to the grid. Naveen Patnaik, Orissa's CM has pushed through rural electrification using solar power, for 3000 remote villages across the state. The Punjab government in collaboration with US companies are all set to create a network of solar power plants that are expected to generate 1000 MW of solar power.

Then there are the private and the public-private players. BHEL wants to re-enter the wind turbine manufacturing market. Suzlon just landed a massive deal to produce wind turbines for a company in Gujarat.

The list of announcements and projects in the pipeline goes on. Although India is a big country, the thought that comes to mind is, are we on the path to a game-changer? Are we at that tipping point that Malcom Gladwell so expertly enumerates in his book with the same title? Arguably India is a big country with a billion plus people, and clearly, we are still far from that tipping point. But just to preempt some thought, are the 'settings' right for us to get there there and beyond?

The government is trying to tweak settings across the board - the JNNSM and the NMEEE are two examples. Even hard core 'developmentalists' would agree that a move towards energy sources that ensure energy security are in any nation's best interests. And we have no dearth of people and networks who can potentially create a meme so powerful that it spreads like a virus.

So here's to a new hope and a new tipping point!

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