By Yogesh Bhandari:
Drought hit parts of Maharashtra, floods in south and west Odisha, Uttarakhand floods, cyclone Phailin and Kashmir floods. These are some of the catastrophic events that have occurred in the recent past in India. The nexus of climate change (water, energy and food crisis) has behemoth India, especially in the last decade. And the local community is affected most by these disasters.
Under these circumstances, the need of the hour is not over ambitious solar targets, but a short-term goal with a time frame of five years. Short-term targets are paramount because these goals would alleviate greenhouse gases as well as climatic disasters, especially for India, being the 4th largest carbon emitter in the world. Following are some of the goals that India can undertake for reducing its energy crisis.
First, is the use of domestic resources instead of employing high-end technology. The etymology of domestic resources is the usage of local skill and innovation to meet the challenges of climate change, like, investment in proven integrated farming techniques practiced by small farmers which is being done in Edamalakudi, Kerala’s remotest panchayat. Further, they have lit up their home using solar PV installed by the community themselves.
Second, the need of the hour are programmes like government subsidies for off-grid generation via solar or other local resources for each and every village and hamlet. As a similar programme is being undertaken by Barefoot College under the leadership of Bunker Roy since 1982, which has electrified the Tilonia rural community in Rajasthan, at the same time creating local women self-help groups and entrepreneurs and increasing the literacy rate of the community. Furthermore, these programmes should be encouraged in other states because currently kerosene is being used as a source for lighting in rural areas, which costs anywhere between 16 -18 INR/litre. 73.5% of rural households in Bihar still use kerosene as a primary source of energy for lighting, followed by Uttar Pradesh (58.5%) and Assam (36.8%). This would alleviate the poverty and at the same time contribute towards India’s ambitious solar mission.
Third, is funding opportunities to nourish raw talent as there are many organizations which are using local resource adduce for this initiative. Ampere vehicles, D.E.S.I Power, are successful indigenous companies which are banking on local knowledge and justifying the term sustainable development by manufacturing electric vehicles for efficient transport. The latter is nurturing local talent by integrating power generation and energy services with agriculture, existing agro-processing industries and new village industries.
Fourth, is reviewing energy conversation and building codes. The task seems miniscule but relooking and making new amendments would bring considerable change. Badly designed buildings that trap heat are becoming energy intensive due to pressure on HVAC (Heating ventilation and air conditioner). In Delhi alone, per capita energy consumption is 43 units and the national average is 25. Further data from the Central Electricity Authority (CEA), depicts that Delhi has registered a peak demand of 6,006 MW in June 2014 which is higher than the combined highest peak demands of Mumbai, Chandigarh, and Kolkata. According to a report by Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), currently what is a 5 star rated air conditioner in India is equivalent to a 2.5 in Australia. Even though, the same company is manufacturing more energy efficient ACs in Australia, Europe or the USA, but in India, due lack of rigorous and comprehensive rating systems, they are not forced to sell energy efficient models. Furthermore, practices like adopting incentives for green building and mandatory energy audits for operational buildings should be performed and fixed standard for thermostats should also be set up.
In conclusion, sustainable development is not just making ambitious solar targets, it is a nexus of efficient transport, innovative green technology and new ways of cooling, adoption of organic farming techniques and inculcating the concept of saving energy among the youth. Offsetting carbon emissions and setting 2015 level as its peak, short-term goals should be targeted for the next five years.