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Big Ideas for India Contest: Question 7: What should India’s energy focus be?

April 7th, 2011 · 9 Comments

It is a shocking fact that apart from a few notable exceptions, India does not have adequate uninterrupted electrical power supply. Our energy policies seem to be a decade or more behind our needs. And with oil prices staying in the $100+ per barrel range, energy availability  becomes a key issue that has the potential to constrain, if no derail, growth. Economic growth is impossible without greater energy supplies, and economic growth itself induces increased demand for energy. Cutting back on energy consumption as we develop is an impossibility.

China realised this over a decade ago, and has made huge investments in Africa and other regions. It has also made clean energy, especially solar, a key foundation for the future. India has still not woken up to the challenges ahead.

What are the big ideas that India needs in its energy policy? If resources (investment money) were no constraints, what would we do?

Contest Overview.

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9 responses so far ↓

  • 1 FirstBallSix // Apr 7, 2011 at 9:17 am

    India needs to evaluate Clean Energy in a much more detailed way and assess the pros and cons for our country. Moving away from oil dependence is a key energy goal for many developed countries and we should not be left behind.

    The real trick is to get the energy users move together with this. That might be possible with appropriate incentive structures.

  • 2 Rakesh Babu G R // Apr 7, 2011 at 2:03 pm

    Make users pay more for using electricity at peak time.
    Give incentives for solar energy.

  • 3 RC // Apr 7, 2011 at 8:01 pm

    It would be a mistake to turn backs to Nuclear power just on the basis of the disaster in Japan. Nuclear energy should be embraced with lessons learned from the Japan disaster.
    The amount of power generation that India needs can not come from Solar or Wind from existing technologies.

    Per capita use of power is DIRECTLY proportional of per capita GDP.

    Even metros like Pune cannot have reliable power. That shows how much power generation is needed. Utopian thoughts about achieving this power gap solely by alternative energy needs will push our development that much back.

  • 4 Mahindra // Apr 7, 2011 at 11:00 pm

    Govt of the day do not have concrete plan for energy policies . Country like USA already spending billions of dollars in research for finding cheap source of energy. Technical it is possible to get very cheap crude oil by pipe from mid west Asian countries to India, but bigger problem is our immediate neighbor country. This is being exploring big way by China for its advantage.
    Also should work on under ground sea pipes from Arabian countries to India. In longer term this is going to be cheap and reliable.

    On the other hand govt is collecting lot of tax money per litter of Petrol/Diesel. Even if they spend 10 paisa /liter towards R&D for finding future energy sources like Solar , Wind , Ocean waves will help a lot. This money should be distributed to entrepreneur who are interested in finding the cheap , green and reliable energy.

  • 5 Sanjay // Apr 9, 2011 at 8:56 pm

    Point 1: Quite inappropriate to compare a 30:70 urban:rural mix – today’s India – with the 80:20 mix of the West.

    - privately owned rural farms are highly unstable due to inter-generational fragmentation –> internecine conflicts; bad business model –> farmer suicides
    - cannot compare with China as the state owns all farmland –> avoids conflicts due to fragmentation –> keeps Chinese peasants on the farm, avoids overburdening cities –> ease 0f land acquisition for development projects
    - India cannot follow Chinese model of state land ownership –> real estate investment trust may be viable model

    Point 2: Not sure what is the definition of “big” idea. Culmination of 60 years of research and protoyping – past couple of years, Department of Atomic Energy India has unveiled the design of two reactors AHWR and AHWR-LEU, both in the mid size (300 MWE) range.

    The AHWR is mainly a thorium-fueled reactor meant for internal use, not for export. It represents a stage 3 reactor i.e. it uses as input the U 233 output produced from Th 232 (stage 2 fast breeders) and should be situated in relative geographic proximity of the Stage 2 Fast Breeders. It has been designed, developed, validated and currently in production with a target of 2012.

    The basic design of the AHWR-LEU was revealed domestically in 2008 and to the international community at Vienna in Sept 2009. It runs on a unique 20:80 fuel mix that combines the features of all three stages i.e. low enriched Uranium (stage 1), in-situ conversion of Th to U (it breeds U 233 from Th, a stage 2 process. Howver, because this is a once-through process, some have labeled it a “passive breeder” reactor) and also uses the Th converted U as fuel (stage 3). The AHWR-LEU promises a host of safety, waste management and anti-proliferation features, a design life of 100 years with “plug and play” convenience. This is the reactor meant for export and it is said to be in “development and validation” phase at the BARC with a hard stop of 2020 for achieving complete commercial viability.

  • 6 Prakash // Apr 13, 2011 at 4:44 pm

    Since our main focus should be India centric resources, I would say we have to research into molten salt thorium reactors.

    Also, indian scientists seem to be amongst a very small minority of scientists who acknowledge LENR (Low energy nuclear reactions). Some research into that might prove useful.

    Also, two points about energy use, rather than energy production.

    1. Charge market rates, for electricity and fuel. Crackdown on theft of electricity.
    2. Boost infrastructure investment into electric rail, intercity and intracity (metros and trams). The less we depend on diesel, the better for us.

  • 7 Umang Saini // Apr 15, 2011 at 3:25 pm

    Reliability -
    There is huge potential in smart micro-grids which will match demand with supply in a more efficient manner. Standard demand-response techniques which create Negawatts will thus ensure more reliability.

    Generation –
    Good potential for Micro-power generation plants – 100kW to 2MW in Gas, Nuclear, Solar and Wind. Bloom Energy Box being a good example of innovation in micro clean energy generation.

    Distribution -
    Electricity act 2005 allows to break distribution monopoly enjoyed in cities, a fixed last-mile distribution tariff, say 0.40p per unit kWh will ensure that theft will automatically come into check and systems/services/reliability will improve.

  • 8 Sushil // Apr 19, 2011 at 12:24 pm

    If resources were no constraint, We should convert the ENTIRE dessert into the biggest power source ever :)

    Power needs cannot be fulfilled with a few nuclear power generators.
    So far the policy has always been to depend on Fossil Fuels for power generation. With international prices for these commodities going up, we are sure to be paying way more for power in the near future.

    Power generation has to be focused on renewal energy sources. For a country like India where we have sunlight for 10 months of the year, we have been extremely poor in investments for research in Solar Energy. The government needs to come about with revolutionary investments and incentives to make solar energy attractive for the common man and not just a Tax Deduction for the wealthy few.

    The distribution system in most places needs to be privatised to reduce losses and to encourage investments in technology that will reduce it further.

  • 9 Rohit // Apr 24, 2011 at 11:59 am

    1) Huge investments in cheap power. Though coal is in limited quantity , its still one the cheapest source. We shall use all such cheap sources available till we have better alternatives.

    2) Huge investment in renewable energy mainly solar/wind/hydro/nuclear. We must learn from some EU countries about this investment. We need to have aggressive targets like by 2030, 50 % energy from renewable energy sources.

    3) While cutting back is certainly not an option, anything that reduces the consumption must be encouraged. e.g. public transportation /cycling /energy efficient.

    4) We don’t need few big projects but we need many small projects distributed all across the country to reduce the loss and cost of energy transport. Fortunately most parts in India has easy access to solar and wind energy.

    5) High investment/high incentives for any device/process which improves energy efficiency
    of the any product. Tough regulation around energy ratings of the new products e.g. CA state in USA

    6) Immediate partnerships with developed nations investing in renewable energy to share knowledge and FDI.

    7) This sector must be made open to private players.

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