Sunday, October 14, 2012

The nuclear lobby in India has been pushing nuclear energy as safe, clean and a solution to the country’s energy requirements. Now, going even a step further, it is undermining the potential India’s renewable energy sources which is alarming and unacceptable.
The news about Dr. Anil Kakodkar (Ex-Chairman, Dept. of Atomic Energy) heading India’s solar missions is disturbing and flies in the face of democracy and fair policy-making. Renewable energy sources are the main competitor to nuclear power. Even today, the total energy produced through renewables is much higher than nuclear, despite the miniscule R&D budget and subsidies that it receives in comparison to nuclear energy. Dr. Kakodkar, in particular, is known for his discouraging views on solar energy.
The recent issue of the Current Science journal has published an article by S P Sukhatme, Ex-Chairman of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, titled Meeting India’s future needs of electricity through renewable energy sources. Without mentioning the author’s nuclear links, the article first charts outs an inflated energy requirement for the country, then underestimates the potentials of renewable energy and concludes with strongly supporting nuclear energy !
Here is a rigorous rejoinder by Shri Shankar Sharma, a leading energy policy analyst, demonstrating how renewable energy sources, in a decentralised energy environment, are best quipped to provide a reliable, safe and more equitable solution to India’s real energy requirements.

Future electricity demand and the critical role of renewable energy sources

Shankar Sharma
Power Policy Analyst
Many attempts have been made to project future electricity demand in the country. One such recent effort in the article “Meeting India’s future needs of electricity through renewable energy sources” by Dr. S. P. Sukhatme of Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay is based on many assumptions, which appear to be unrealistic. The weakness with many of such articles is that they tend to base their inferences on just the dry statistics without really appreciating the context/message behind those numbers.
Assumptions/ inferences in this article, which seem to defy sound logic are:
  • the assumption that a projected per capita electricity consumption of 2,000 kWH/annum for India is very frugal;
  • the assumption that a per capita consumption of 2,000 kWH/annum would be needed to ensure adequate level of Human Development Index (HDI) in the country;
  • the inference that the projected total electricity production requirement of 3,400 Billion Units (or TWH) by 2070;

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