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Opinion: It's time to turn to solar power to end power woes

Solar power has the potential to light up young India's sky-high aspirations and add muscle to the government's 24x7 electricity-supply promise.

twitter-logoAmit Kumar | June 11, 2014 | Updated 20:20 IST
Solar Power: Fighting fire with fire
A worker cleans photovoltaic solar panels inside a solar power plant at Raisan village near Gandhinagar, Gujarat. PHOTO: Reuters

Amit Kumar, Adjunct Professor - Sustainable Energy, TERI University
India sweats through yet another sweltering summer day. And, there's no respite from the scorching sun, with the mercury scaling to a 62-year-high at 47.8»C on June 9, and the crippling power cuts. However, this very source of "our-skin-is-on-flames" woes - the glowing ball of fire - can help the Central government power its energy security needs and also prevent the sizzling hot electricity bills from burning a hole in your pocket.

Today, urban India has learnt to dream big, but its progress has been cut short by the country's flagging power generation capacity. But, amid all the gloom, there's always a ray of sunshine.

Solar power has the potential to light up young India's sky-high aspirations and add muscle to the government's 24x7 electricity-supply promise by the time the nation celebrates 75 years of its Independence - an independence also from the conventional sources of energy that have fueled the perils of climate change and rising temperatures across the globe.

The use of solar rooftop systems is much more relevant in the present scenario considering the peak electricity demand in summer. Unlike other land-intensive power plants that require large tracts of land to be acquired for the purpose - an exercise that is becoming fraught with more delays, especially on account of the new land acquisition act -  solar rooftop systems can be installed on the roofs of residential, commercial, and industrial establishments. These smaller, decentralized power plants then can be used by the entities to meet not only their own electricity demands but also to feed surplus power to the grid.

One does not have to invest in resource-intensive evacuation facilities to take advantage of these distributed power generation plants unlike mega-scale centralised power plants. And with the rapid cost reduction in solar photovoltaic modules over past few years, the price of electricity from solar rooftop systems at around Rs 7.25/kWh is already competitive with the upper slabs of consumer tariff.

With continuous technological development and economies of scale, the price of solar power is likely to come down further in contrast to conventional electricity where only upwards trends are foreseen on account of rising coal and gas prices.

And that is why the total absence of such options around India's electricity scenario is not only puzzling, but actually disappointing.

One fails to understand why, even after the Central government trying its best to ensure energy security by augmenting electricity generation capacity through judicious mix of conventional and non-conventional sources, matters are not taken forward. For the country to prosper and exploit its vast potential there is no other way but to transcend such artificially created compartments. It is time that renewable energy is truly and fully integrated into India's energy policy as one of its cornerstones.

(The writer is Adjunct Professor - Sustainable Energy, TERI University)

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