Rajya Sabha TV In Depth – The Solar Age
As one of the fastest growing economies in the world today, India is facing an unprecedented demand for energy. Energy consumption has nearly doubled in India since 2000 and is expected to grow manifolds in the coming few decades. Realising the situation, the government has put in many efforts to increase its renewable energy production. At the inaugural International Solar Alliance Summit 2018 in Delhi PM Modi presented a 10-point action plan to promote solar energy.
- Energy comes by two sources:
- Non-renewable or conventional: Oil, gas and coal.
- Renewable or non-conventional: Solar, wind, water and biomass.
Today about 80% of world’s energy is produced from conventional sources.
- With rapid industrialisation and urbanisation, India’s energy needs are growing by the day. Rising thermal power production (which are coal or gas fired) is not a sustainable choice as it harms the environment. So, solar power can be a viable choice which is clean, environment friendly, cost effective and also sustainable.
- At the first summit of International Solar Alliance (ISA) 2018, PM of India Narendra Modi and French president Emmanuel Macron talked about promoting solar energy and expectations for the next decade.
- India’s electricity sectorhas one National Grid with an installed capacity of 334.40 GW as on 31 January 2018. Thermal power that comes at the heavy cost of the environment accounts for about 70% of it.
- India is a country which has very good availability of sun rays at many places. This can help in increasing its electricity generation.
- The International Solar Alliance can prove to be a major step in this direction.
- It is an alliance of more than 121 countries, most of them being ‘sunshine’ countries lying between tropic of cancer and Capricorn.
- It was launched in 2015 by PM of India Narendra Modi and then French president Francois Hollande.
- ISA countries have agreed to work together in the field of solar energy.
- It aims to provide affordable, clean, green and renewable energy to the member countries.
- Delhi ISA summit focussed on various such aspects and also on rural electrification, off-grid solar power and use of solar energy for irrigation, etc.
- ISA aims to reach the goal of producing over 1000GW of solar power by 2030. To achieve this target, it will need an investment of Rs.65 lakh crore for which it has entered into agreements with the World Bank, European Investment Bank and European Bank for reconstruction and development.
- The United Nations report on global trends in renewable energy investment report in 2016 ranks India among top 10 nations investing in renewable energy.
- India’s signing of 2015 Paris Climate agreement has given a push for its solar energy projects. In January 2015 the Indian government expanded its solar plans, targetingUS$100 billion in investment and 100 GW of solar capacity by 2022.
- The Paris Agreement is an agreement within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) dealing with greenhouse gas emissions mitigation, adaptation and finance starting in the year 2020. As of February 2018, 195 UNFCCC members have signed the agreement. It aims to keep global temperatures to below 2OC in this century, which otherwise can trigger rise in sea levels and cause droughts and fires.
- India’s solar power generation capacity has increased rapidly:
On 26 May 2014 = 2,650 MW
On 31 Jan 2018 = More than 20,000 MW (20GW) (It was initially targeted for 2022)
Target set to reach in 2022 = 1 lakh MW (100 GW)
- In Nov 2015 India and France signed international solar energy agreement aimed to reduce cost, boost technology and promote research of solar energy.
- India is leading several nations that are adversely affected by climate change and working on an alternative source of energy.
- To serve the energy needs of over 1 billion people is a huge task for any country or government. It is more for India when it is trying to make a place among developed countries in the world. India’s energy consumption is expected to grow 4.2%/year. So, solar energy is considered to be the best way to address its power shortage.
- The grid system in India still faces many structural problems like technical losses in the network and high level of non-payment of electricity.
- NITI Aayog has said a cumulative capacity target of 175 GW has been declared for the year 2022 for renewable energy.
- Government of India has been pushing forward the installation of solar power capacities. For example:
- India’s largest floating solar power plant was set up on the Banasura Sagar reservoirin Wayanad, Kerala.
- With a capacity of 1,000 MW, on beginning of 2017 Kurnool Ultra Mega solar park, Andhra Pradesh was the world’s largestsolar park.
- With a generating capacity of 648 MW at a single location, Kamuthi solar power project, Tamil Nadu is the world’s second largestsolar park .It was built in 2016-2017.
- States like Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Maharashtra, etc have been increasing their solar installation capacities rapidly.
- Photovoltaic solar panelsabsorb sunlight as a source of energy to generate electricity. A solar cell is an electrical device that converts the energy of light directly into electricity by the photovoltaic effect. A semiconductor material like Silicon is used for the purpose.
- The initial installation costs of solar energy panel are high. But, in long-term use the cost reduces significantly. The installations can be done on community level to share the installation costs and benefit all.
Energy is one of the fundamental requirements of the economic development, required for agriculture, industry, transportation, housing or trade. Proper use of energy needs to focus on its optimum use and distribution. Apart from efforts done by governments by their policies and programmes, the citizens in every area shall also be committed to use alternative sources of energy to maintain its sustainability.