By Ignatius Joseph:
Summer is almost here and the solution to Delhi’s power crisis is still unclear. With this in mind, Greenpeace India activists put up a satirical caricature in front of the Vidhan Sabha in Delhi, questioning Chief Minister Shiela Dixit’s power strategy. The caricature said ‘ab ki bar bijli lagathar’ (uninterrupted power from now on) playing on the CM’s assurance of uninterrupted electricity this summer.
In about half an hour, the police removed the caricature. They also noted down all the details of the activists who were just peacefully protesting to prove a point about the power crisis in Delhi.The protest was staged during the on-going budget session to remind the Delhi government and legislature about the impending electricity crisis during the fast approaching summer. The shortage of electricity can be squarely attributed to the state’s over dependence on coal. Just at the beginning of summer, many parts of the capital are already witnessing long unscheduled power cuts.
The massive grid failure and blackout in July 2012 has proved that energy from coal and other fossil fuels is not reliable. The severe electricity shortage in Delhi was due to the lack of coal supply to the National Thermal Power Corporation’s (NTPC) five major power plants which supply one-third of the electricity to the city. These events clearly depict that dependence on fossil fuels for electricity is not the way forward.
Abhishek Pratap, Senior Energy Campaigner, Greenpeace India says, “The Delhi government and in particular the CM, who is standing for election later this year, to seek an unprecedented fourth term, should understand that the solution to the power crisis in Delhi does not lie in being over dependent on technologies based on coal which is becoming expensive, but in increasing investment in renewable energy like solar and biomass to create a sustainable future and long-lasting energy infrastructure for the state.”
More than 75% of Delhi’s electricity comes from coal-based thermal power plants which are mostly situated in other states. In 2012, 32 major thermal power plants, including five major ones that supply power to Delhi, faced a severe shortage of coal. This was caused by the rising cost of coal both in the domestic and international markets and it led to a deficit of 8,000 MW of electricity generation. On the other hand, the country saw an increase in electricity generation from solar and wind power.
Unfortunately, Delhi is one of the few states in the country that does not have any policy for alternate sources of energy like wind, solar and biomass. Last year, in the absence of a policy and roadmap, the state failed to tap into solar and bio-mass energy, especially during the periods of peak demand. The same scenario is likely to be played out this year as well.
Pratap adds, “It is a fallacy under which the CM and her power advisors live and they have not learnt from last year’s electricity crisis. Instead of waiting for another crisis to unfold, the State government should develop a concrete energy plan based on alternate energy sources to infuse confidence among the people.”
Even the 12th Five Year Plan of the Delhi Government does not have any provision for the energy sector. In fact, despite Delhi reeling under a severe power shortage, the budget presented by the CM does not provide any assurances to the people of the state that a similar power crisis will not occur in the summer of 2013. While no plans for harnessing alternative energy sources were unveiled, the overall energy budget was also reduced in half. Apart from dwindling coal supplies and rising costs, coal mining is creating so much more damage than what it’s worth. Central Indian forests, home to the tiger, other species and forest dependent communities, are being destroyed for coal.
According to a Greenpeace India report , coal mining threatens over 1.1 million hectares of forest in just 13 coalfields among over 40 in Central India. Another recent study by Urban Emissions, found that emissions from coal fired power stations in India have been responsible for premature deaths of upto 1,15,000 people between 2011 and 2012.
Considering these figures and the unreliability of coal supply and rising costs, more mining and thermal power plants is just not the answer to Delhi’s power woes. Renewable energy can reduce our dependency on coal and ensure a sustainable future, protecting our last remaining forests and the health and lives of our people.