My dear friends,
Life on earth has been created on so many exacting conditions.
1. The earth rotates on its axis at one thousand miles an hour. If it turned at one hundred miles an hour, our days and nights, would be ten times as long as now, and the hot sun would then burn up our vegetation during each long day while in the long night any surviving sprout would freeze.
2. The slant of the earth, tilted at an angle of 23 degrees, gives us our seasons. If it had not been so tilted, vapors from the ocean would move north and south, piling up for us continents of ice.
3. The sun, the source of our life, has a surface temperature of 12,000o F and our earth is just far enough away so that this “eternal fire” warms us just enough and not too much. If the sun gave off only one half its present radiation, we would freeze, and if it gave half as much more, we would roast.
4. If our moon was, say, only 50 thousand miles away instead of its actual distance, our tides would be so enormous that twice a day all continents would be submerged.
5. Had the ocean been a few feet deeper, carbon di oxide and oxygen would have been absorbed and no vegetable life could exist.
6. Ozone layer protects the earth from ultraviolet rays of the sun and a well-designed greenhouse enveloping the earth maintains the right kind of warmth for living beings to survive.
The above exacting conditions necessary for life on earth could not possibly exist in proper relationship by chance. There is not one chance in millions that life on our planet is an accident. In fact, it appears to be a deliberately designed system to perfect equilibrium.
Sustainability of Human Intervention in Nature’s Equilibrium
Mahatma Gandhi said “There is enough in nature for everyone’s need but not enough for everyone’s greed”. With the evolution of human beings and their multiplying population together with their intelligence and aspirations to command the nature, the question arises as to how much intervention is possible in the universe, in such an exacting relationship as described above. For instance,
1. How much we can intercept locally the nature’s hydrological cycle for irrigation and power, with repercussions on local environment, even though carbon-free.
2. How much fossil fuel we can burn for power generation and other needs since it has a very serious repercussion on emissions of carbon di-oxide which according to an estimate, if not brought down to 60% of the current level, may cause major climatic shifts and submergence of low lying lands by 2050.
3. How much we can afford emission of Chlorofluorocarbons (CFC) which have already started disrupting the ozone layer which may cause skin cancer, blindness etc. The seasonal hole in the ozone layer during Sept’1998 covered an area of 25 million KM2 (about 2.5 times the area of Europe). According to one estimate 60% of GHG is attributed to energy Sector.
4. How much technological development we can afford so as not to disrupt the nature’s supportive equilibrium. At what rate resource consumption and growth of population is possible keeping intact the regenerative and self-recycling characteristics of the nature besides carrying capacity and assimilative capacity of the Eco-systems.
Human intervention needs value orientation in any sector of development. A 15-point charter of values is suggested below for power / energy sector.
1. Sense of Proportion: A respectable share of Hydro is a technical necessity of Power Grid. Present Hydro:Thermal mix of 20:80 should ideally shift to 40:60.
2. System Ethos: Voltage and frequency fluctuations causing heavy damage to power equipment and completely stalling the sensitive control equipment; speak poorly of power system ethos. Grid frequency is a critical aspect of power system operations and a function of demand and supply (when demand exceeds supply, frequency dips and vice versa). Grid frequency reflects the discipline and the stress in the system. The frequency variation for example should be brought down from 8% (48 Hz-52 Hz) at times to less than 1% (49.7 Hz-52.2 Hz) at all times. CERC now aims at 0.2%.
3. Techno-economic Sense: Techno-economically, Hydro proves several times favourable option compared to thermal keeping in view the life cycle cost, recurring fuel cost and its escalation, environmental cost and grid economy. Nuclear option exhausts our foreign currency reserves right from fuel (uranium) to technology.
4. Financial Acumen: Solar PV is the costliest option for a 50 MW scale, but it breaks even for a 50 kW plant and proves cheapest for an isolated 50 W system.
5. Sustainability: With the present rate of consumption, all oil and gas stocks would be completely exhausted in India before 2050. Fossil route cannot prime the growth which is sustainable.
6. Renewability: Ever renewed solar energy is radiating directly onto the earth, at the same time manifesting itself in several indirect forms such as wind, hydro, ocean thermal and bio-energy etc. This naturally recycled resource-base holds potential for perpetual power generation.
7. Energy Storage: Energy storage is complementary to intermittent renewables. With “Energy Storage” component, the load demand can be met much better, right from cyclic stability to daily demand pattern to even seasonal demands.
8. Environmental Compatibility: Environmental impacts net of mitigative measures place Hydro at 3 against 7 that of thermal on a 10-point scale. Carbon emissions of Hydro and Nuclear options are least compared to all other known options for power generation, considering the full energy chain. Their carbon emission compared to coal option is in the ratio of 5:270. Hydro:Thermal SO2 emission is in the ratio of 1:1000.
9. Interweaving of Technical and Commercial Values: Higher tariff for peaking power could be an attempt towards optimising technical and commercial values of power.
10. Security Concerns: Longevity of imported fossil fuels is extremely doubtful since globally the oil and gas stocks are going to exhaust fast with the rate of consumption growing with population and their aspirations. National energy security concerns call for indigenous and renewable options to be developed.
11. Optimizing Demand-Supply Gap: Present peaking power shortages in India could have been completely eliminated under the same MW installed (under the same investment) had the country gone for a judicious Hydro:Thermal mix. Demand side management and energy efficiency measures on utilization side can also narrow down the demand supply gap which at present is in the range of 2.1 % energy shortage and 2.6 % peaking shortage during 2015-16, in respect of present electricity connected consumers. 12. Smart Grid: A smart grid is an electrical grid which includes a variety of operational and energy measures including real time smart meters and other appliances, renewable energy resources, and energy efficiency measures. For instance, improvement of tail-end grid voltages can be achieved through Solar Panels. Computer intelligence & networking abilities and automation make it interactive right from generator to consumer. Optimization of energy use on real time basis with resultant economy and comfort are obvious benefits of smart grid which should soon be made available to all the electricity customers.
13. Decentralisation: It may be uneconomical to extend the grid to the remotest areas and therefore off-grid electrification with localised generation and distribution system viz. ‘mini-grid’ should be equally respected and encouraged. Stand-alone systems can also help in avoidance of transmittal of that much of power over long distance with attendant losses.
14. New Capacity Vs. Upgradation: Upgradation comprising renovation, retrofitting, uprating and modernisation is cheaper, faster and environmentally friendlier option for coping with the increasing demand than the new capacity addition and should therefore get priority in the power sector.
15. Conservation: We generate 4 units for ultimate utilization of just 1 unit of electricity, 25% being T&D losses and 66.7% being the end conversion losses in some crucial sectors like agricultural pump-sets. Energy efficiency measures should lead to conservation of precious energy resources.
Sustained Value Addition
R&D should expand to R&D3 meaning Research and “Development, Demonstration & Deployment”. Such a countenance would provide an orientation to take research activity right up to its logical end. R&D3 program would involve Research, Technology development, Engineering and Business Management strategies, all together with an integrated approach. India should see more and more innovations through the entire R&D3 chain in the 21st Century for maximization of indigenous value addition which would not only make the nation proud but would rapidly strengthen our economy.
Rather poor “Techno-Economic-Environmental-Operational ethos” of our Power System calls for value orientation- a conscious introspection linking the present ills and shortcomings to the values and ethos and strategic envisioning of corrective measures. Values chartered above for producing a credible blue print of a formulated vision for India’s Electrical Power Sector can be of generic importance applicable to other sectors of development also, with due modifications.
Let us appreciate that value based introspection and corrective action planning are crucial for development.
Best wishes and Regards,
BE(Hons), M.Tech., Ph.D., CBI-Scholar, D.Engg. (Calif.), FNAE, Hon.D.WRE (USA)
Chairman Emeritus, Great Lakes, Gurgaon, NCR, New Delhi, INDIA
Former Director General (NPTI & CPRI / REL), Ex. Director (REC) / Executive Director (IREDA)
No job is small or big, the way in which you do, makes it small or big (c)