It is the mag of mod­ern era

Southasia - - COVER STORY -

Re­cov­ery and Rein­vest­ment Act of 2009 re­sult­ing in wind and so­lar energy be­ing pro­duced at a cost equiv­a­lent to con­ven­tional sources like coal and nat­u­ral gas. The US gov­ern­ment is light­ing the path to clean energy so­lu­tions at com­pat­i­ble rates for the world to fol­low.

Use of wind and so­lar energy for elec­tric­ity gen­er­a­tion around the world is rapidly grow­ing with the like­li­hood that it would dis­place hy­dro­car­bons in fif­teen to twenty years. In 2015, it is ex­pected that for the first time, Ger­many will gen­er­ate more elec­tric­ity via re­new­able sources like wind and so­lar than through its ag­ing set of 8 nu­clear re­ac­tors. Cost of elec­tric­ity in Ger­many is his­tor­i­cally low (half of what it is in Bri­tain) this year con­se­quent to wind and so­lar in­stal­la­tions in the coun­try.

China added 5 gi­gawatts of new so­lar ca­pac­ity in the first three months of 2015! That is nearly equiv­a­lent to all the so­lar in­stal­la­tions ever built in Spain. China is go­ing for 17 gi­gawatts of new so­lar ca­pac­ity in 2015, ty­ing it up with Ger­many, cur­rently the lead­ing so­lar power in the world, with 33 gi­gawatts of in­stalled ca­pac­ity.

The In­dian state of Ma­ha­rash­tra has an­nounced a plan to nearly dou­ble its power gen­er­a­tion from re­new­able energy over the next five years, with 7.5 gi­gawatts of so­lar energy and 5 gi­gawatts of wind by 2020. At the mo­ment, 9% of the State’s energy comes from re­new­able sources and this plan would bring the to­tal to 15%.

The United Arab Emi­rates plans to add 100 megawatts of new so­lar PV ca­pac­ity soon. By 2017 the largest so­lar plant in the Mid­dle East will open there with a ca­pac­ity of 200 megawatts. By 2021, the UAE plans to get 24% of its elec­tric­ity from re­new­able sources.

All this is hap­pen­ing be­cause so­lar power and wind power are com­pet­ing with hy­dro­car­bons. Their real price is rapidly fall­ing. There are other ad­van­tages - like end to pol­lu­tion, which econ­o­mists sel­dom fig­ure into their for­mu­las for prof­itabil­ity. If we con­sid­ered this, coal, gas and oil would be the least pre­ferred choices. There is thus an ur­gent need that SAARC mem­bers think on the same lines — they have im­mense po­ten­tial which is ly­ing un­tapped. The ex­ist­ing in­tra-re­gional energy trade is re­stricted to elec­tric­ity be­tween In­dia and Bhutan and In­dia and Nepal. The fo­cus on shar­ing ex­pe­ri­ences in re­new­able energy so­lu­tions is still miss­ing.

Some of the SAARC mem­ber states have con­sid­er­able ex­pe­ri­ence in us­ing en­vi­ron­ment-friendly re­new­able energy. Ex­am­ples in­clude wind, so­lar and bio­gas plants in In­dia, mi­cro-hy­dro plants in Nepal, mi­cro-fi­nanced ru­ral energy in Bangladesh, grid con­nected small hy­dro in­stal­la­tions in Sri Lanka, and hy­dro/so­lar plants in Pak­istan. Poli­cies for shar­ing such tech­nolo­gies and ex­pe­ri­ences within the SAARC re­gion could play a pos­i­tive role in re­duc­ing energy im­ports and air pol­lu­tion and could be in­cor­po­rated in poli­cies for sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment, en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion and im­prove­ment in public health.

The ge­o­graph­i­cal fea­tures of all South Asian coun­tries, com­pris­ing a vast land mass, sea waves, bio-fuel, coal, rivers, strong winds, woods, moun­tains and other nat­u­ral means boast of high po­ten­tial for most al­ter­na­tives. The cur­rent level of al­ter­nate energy use (con­tribut­ing up to 12.9% of the to­tal pri­mary energy sup­ply in the re­gion) is lim­ited and the pri­vate en­ter­prises are ex­plor­ing com­mer­cial vi­a­bil­ity. Re­new­able energy sup­ply is es­ti­mated at 43% and 77% of the de­mand by the years 2030 and 2050, re­spec­tively that would help in Green House Gas (GHS) sav­ings up to 560 Gi­ga­tons of CO2e.

The SAARC re­gion is home to 23% of the to­tal world pop­u­la­tion with a large pro­por­tion liv­ing be­low the poverty line. There is a wide va­ri­ety in its energy re­source en­dow­ments, par­tic­u­larly in re­la­tion to hy­del, wind, so­lar, tidal, fos­sil, and other energy op­tions in­clud­ing bioen­ergy so as to meet the re­quire­ments in dif­fer­ent walks of life, eco­nomic ac­tiv­i­ties and meet­ing a large por­tion of house­hold energy de­mand across the re­gion. The energy de­mand in the re­gion is ex­pected to grow at an an­nual rate of 5%, with the house­hold and in­dus­trial sec­tors as the main con­trib­u­tors whereas the po­ten­tial is far be­yond the present and fu­ture needs of the re­gion.

The clean energy po­ten­tial is yet to be ex­ploited as the coun­tries ei­ther re­main energy de­fi­cient or are not able to op­ti­mally har­ness & uti­lize their re­sources like Nepal, Bhutan and Pak­istan. The fos­sil fuel im­port de­pen­dence en­vis­ages diver­si­fi­ca­tion, es­pe­cially for re­new­ables. South Asia is ranked as one of the re­gions with low­est per capita con­sump­tion of energy par­tic­u­larly in the form of elec­tric­ity even though the re­gion is blessed with tremen­dous energy po­ten­tial for gen­er­at­ing enor­mous amount of elec­tric­ity.

Elec­tric­ity pro­duced by South Asian coun­tries is less than 50% of their avail­able po­ten­tial. Presently, amongst eight SAARC na­tions, In­dia, Pak­istan, Nepal and Bangladesh are faced with an acute short­age of elec­tric­ity which amounts to the tune of 40000 MW. They ap­ply var­i­ous energy mixes pre­dom­i­nantly us­ing im­ported oil, which in turn is per­sis­tently in­creas­ing their im­port bill. Due to 8-12 hours power cuts, the com­mer­cial busi­nesses have to pay 35% ex­tra by us­ing diesel and oil gen­er­a­tors, thus adding to their op­er­a­tional costs. Thus, the need of the hour is to co­or­di­nate, es­tab­lish a re­gional pool of in­for­ma­tion and ex­per­tise and a clear roadmap by es­tab­lish­ing the SAARC Energy Grid, wherein sur­plus energy could be pooled and trans­mit­ted to the coun­try fac­ing elec­tric­ity short­age — Sus­tain­able Energy for All in South Asia: Po­ten­tial, Chal­lenges, and So­lu­tions (Pol­icy Pa­per No. 151 by Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment Pol­icy In­sti­tute (SDPI), Is­lam­abad, Pak­istan). For this South Asian na­tions will have to ex­hibit greater will for pro­vid­ing an en­abling en­vi­ron­ment to en­cour­age pro­duc­tion, trade and dis­tri­bu­tion of elec­tric­ity through an ef­fi­cient and fair mech­a­nism. The writ­ers, au­thors of many books and part­ners in HUZA­IMA IKRAM & IJAZ, are Ad­junct Fac­ulty Mem­bers at La­hore Univer­sity of Man­age­ment Sciences (LUMS).

The SAARC re­gion is home to 23% of the to­tal world pop­u­la­tion with a large pro­por­tion liv­ing be­low the poverty line.

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