There is a sharp contrast in how electricity is generated, transported and utilized in affluent countries as compared to that of so called third world countries.
Some of the western countries switching rapidly to renewable energy sources from nuclear and thermal power to solar, wind and hydropower. Countries such as denmark are putting more emphasis on capacity generation of renewable energy and have target to achieve 100% reliance on renewable energy by 2050. Whereas, in developing country such as India, governments are struggling to provide 3 phase supply for 24 hours a day throughout the year. What is more interesting is that india has a potential to become a energy surplus nation but it fails to do so.
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The importance of continuous supply of energy and its impact in driving industrial growth cannot be debated. In Spite of having abundance of nonrenewable and renewable energy sources, India struggles to provide last mile energy connectivity and 24 hour supply to over 300 million people. The reasons are many – 1. Lack of infrastructure – Government’s lack of priority on infrastructure development has taken a toll on india’s growth story. India has required finances, human capital, technology and skilled workforce with increasing domestic demand.
But unavailability of smart grids and efficient transmission lines coupled with underdeveloped of water resources and coal deposits makes it hard for power plants to run on a 100% capacity. 2. Cost of transmission – There are two aspects to this problem, operational and technical. Operational- In 2015, India achieved the goal of one grid one nation.
A single grid that enables power generation companies to merge the additional power and share the load thereby reducing the cost of the electricity. In spite of having single grid network, power distribution companies are trapped in unending cycle of losses. The reason lies in electricity theft, operational inefficiency and to some extent political meddling are major concerns. Most of the distribution companies are government run entities.
Political leaders, to achieve easy and tangible short term gain, often resorts to public appeasement activities such as electricity bill waiver and low tariffs. This adversely impacts the profit margins of distribution companies. More than often, such an interference has left distributors with no to little cash in their hand. Meager cash availability has taken a toll on building new and effective transmission infrastructure. Now coming to a technical aspect – Power stations are often located at a distant place from where the electricity is consumed. Transmission lines are used to carry the electricity from power stations to consumer. Resistance of the transmission lines increases with increase in distance.
This leads to the generation of heat and loss of power. Usually, high voltages with small current helps minimize the transmission losses but even with these measures, power losses occurring at power station to step up transformer, transfotmers to distribution lines, distribution lines to step down transformers can’t be brought down below 10%. 3. Underdeveloped water reservoirs- Thermal power stations consumes large amount water. Situations gets tougher in the summer seasons when the rivers are all dried up and reservoirs water is not made available for power plants. Incidences of plant shutdown because of water scarcity are not new to Indian populous.
For various political reasons, the capacity enhancement of these reservoirs has been neglected for most of the time. Thermal power stations situated anywhere on the mainland are always at the risk of shutdown because of shortage of water. 4.
Coal availability- close to 66% of energy produced in India comes from coal based thermal power stations. India has large reserves of coal deposits but most of these reserves comes under environmentally sensitive areas where deforestation can cause irreparable damage. The imported coal from China may provide short term relief but such a dependency can be exploited by rival countries to gain strategic upper hand. Another major factor is the pollution that comes with coal electricity. Coal is not a clean energy and in order to fulfill the commitments of Paris climate accord, india has no option but to look for alternatives such as nuclear power plants. 5.
Nuclear energy- Nuclear energy accounts for roughly 2% of India’s total electricity generation. India has started investing in nuclear energy from as early as 1960 but subsequent test of atomic weapons resulted in sanctions by western countries and greatly affected India’s power generation capacity. India has limited source of uranium and thus dependent on imports from France and Russia. After Fukushima incident, there have been protest mainly instigated by political parties and against the new nuclear installations that are coming up. This has slowed down a pace of work of nuclear plants Jaitapur and Kudnakulam.
In conclusion, the energy crisis in India is self inflicted. India has all the remedies at her disposal. It will be interesting to see how Indian energy markets evolve in the upcoming years. The current situation favors the renewable energy sources but is India with its slow moving red tape democracy, ready for the energy transformation?