Tag Archives: electricity

Making electricity uses up the most water!

The power sector has a large impact on the amount of water consumed.

ElectricityCertain processes in coal power plants require large amounts of water. In India, most of these power plants are installed in coastal areas. These plants draw ocean water, desalinate it and bring it to the required quality of water for the turbines and then re-use it.  The wastewater that exits the plant is supposed to be taken far into the ocean, (around 2km from the edge and very deep), so that the water can mix in easily over a period of time. Unless we manage the exit water very carefully, it can result in extensive pollution and have a detrimental impact on marine life.

When a large coal power plant or a nuclear power plant is set up, a prerequisite is providing a large amount of water round the clock, year after year. This lessens the availability of natural water resources to those who are dependent on it. Governments and engineers don’t warn us that if human beings start using large quantities of water, the other species of the animal kingdom that are dependent on water will be deprived of it. There is a slew of both nuclear and coal power plants coming up, with no protest on this threat that is real.

Current scenario in the Power sector

About 700,000 MW of new power project proposals are in various stages of application at the Ministry of Environment.  Prayas, an organization working on initiatives in Energy, has calculated that the total amount of additional water required for these new projects, if they are created, can provide fresh water for around 150 million Indians and can meet 9-10% of agricultural requirements or about 25 million tonnes of food grains annually in India. India is already water stressed. So the question is:Should we continue building these large power plants?Or should we look for alternatives to meet these energy needs?

The InstalledHow do we first understand the ‘demand for electricity’ that is projected by the Government?These are based on date from the past, estimates of the deficits of the present and extrapolations into the future.How legitimate are these projections? Can decisions involving money at a million dollars to a mere MW and with incalculable damage that each such MW wreaks as havoc ecologically, be permitted to be made without public consultation? Can the brutality of closed-door decision-making inside government corridors be continued any more?  The needs for a common man are basically for lighting or probably charging his cell phone, or for a mixer/ grinder in the kitchen. There is no legislation to stop homes in Gurgaon that are now centrally air-conditioned. Night-time sports, 24-hour shopping malls … can we continue the insanity?

The GovernmentIndia’s efficiency is one of the worst in the power sector with respect to international practices. Power Ministry and Planning Commission data show that if India’s efficiency was maintained at the power sector’s international best practice level, it can give virtually about 35-40% more power within the existing infrastructure.

There is really no shortage of power at the moment. By taking the efficiency to the international best practice level, you will indirectly reduce the additional demand for electricity and in turn reduce the number of power plants required.

What are the alternatives currently available?

Sunlight is one of the best sources of renewable energy available. If sunlight is tapped in the most effective way, it will not require any water. The water footprint of technologies such as biomass and wind energy is minimal. And India being a tropical country, there is a huge potential.

What is the solution?

First, we need the right to information on how we can manage our requirement of energy without having an impact on these natural resources. We urgently need to transform our thinking. Efficiency improvement, energy conservation and demand-side management are the three major areas that need focus.

More professional groups should be involved in the energy movement.Authorities and government officials and policy makers usually detest any such public engagement and discussion. And individuals would not have the perseverance without the support of groups aligned and committed. How can organizations rally behind such a struggle to keep the balance between natural resources and energy footprint?

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This Century waits for this big innovation

In the 1890s two major inventions came about, both of which we cannot do without every day. One is the telephone and the second is electricity. A hundred twenty years later we still continue to use these products. The phone changed to become wireless and the world has saved many million tons of copper that went into making millions of miles of telephone cables in the earlier days. Although, we continue to have landlines and optic fiber cabling, the quantum of such cabling has come down very dramatically. Can the same happen for electricity where it goes wireless? The next big game changer in the world after wireless telephones, will be wireless power. Who will be that inventor who will make $1 billion on this invention?


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The power within: how people of Balua in Kathmandu got electricity to their village

Electricity pillar

About seven years ago, the people in Balua were fed up waiting for electricity to reach the village. They were no more than 60 km from Kathmandu. It took 17 years for the government to cover 400 households. They were determined to prevent such delays.

The village desperately needed electricity to irrigate the fertile valley’s famed garlic fields. The grid was just 5 km away; they knew they could do better. They heard of a scheme that could speed up the process. Any registered body could extend the grid on its own by a-20 per cent contribution of the cost.

In 2004 they formed a committee and applied for extension of the grid. They mobilized the community to contribute money for the 20-per cent cost. In less than three years, the committee succeeded. They got 400 households electrified. The running of the substation seemed a challenge initially. It involved managing the 11 KVA transmission poles, household wiring, repair and maintenance of the 150 and 300 KVA transformers, installing meters and taking on the full basket of customer service functions such as meter reading, billing, repair and accounts.

All this in a community with no trained manager or electrical engineer. Today the committee has four employees, two technical staff who learnt the trade hands-on when they worked with the contractor, an accountant and one biller who doubles as an office assistant.

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