Going green is no longer just an option; it’s a necessity. The problem, of course, is that we already have used up a majority of our fossil fuels, and are reluctant to switch to environment-friendly resources. The need of the hour is to come up with a convenient and green resource to replace fossil fuels.
It was a quality risk management workshop. The audience were asked a question — Could an organisation be compared with humans? There was murmuring when suddenly, a hand was raised. The person explained — like the human body is controlled by the mind, the organisation has a CEO or a Managing Director. There are department heads as well, he continued. Like the human body has a heart, lungs and liver, an organisation also has operation/production, accounts, maintenance, purchase and store as key functions. For a body to function, all organs should function smoothly and in co-ordination. Same is the case with organisations. If one organ fails or starts deteriorating, the entire body feels the pinch and if the situation worsens, the body gives up. Same is the case with an organisation where the inability of one department or departments jeopardises the growth of the organisation.
Taking a cue from this rationality, no organisation should be a heartless cruel mean machine. Instead, it should be organic and people-oriented. If noxious gasses, smog or pollution are fatal for humans, the same is applicable for organisations. Residents of Delhi or Beijing bear testimony to early morning smog, especially during the onset of the winter. Most affected residents admit that the experience is nothing short of killing.
The fallout is manifold that includes wearing a mask, stoppage of burning of the agricultural wastes/residues, plying of odd or even number vehicles on the road on alternate days, closing of the schools. In a compelling sense economic activities may wait, but environ or our source of sustenance must prevail. Often, there is more than one solution to address a problem. Emphasis should be on applications versus theoretical treatments and complex statistical analyses which are seldom used in real world situations.
Since Industrialisation, the average surface temperature of Earth has amplified about 2°C. The heat-trapping nature or glass house effect of carbon dioxide and other gases was established in the mid-19th century. There is no doubt that compounded levels of greenhouse gases caused the Earth to warm. A large amount of the warming occurred in the later part of the 20th century and the first part of the present century.
As per NASA, the year 2016 was the hottest one on record. Notably, the 2017 heat index is no mean feat either, it being the second warmest. Mass human death due to an erratic climate is no longer uncommon as this now happens regularly in northern India at the height of winter. In Europe, high temperature deaths are growing. Flood devastations have become more common in the UK, Germany and France, to name a few.
It is also notable that a significant amount of soot, asbestos or nicotine (from tobacco) in the lungs can cause cancer. In the same way, by generating significant amount of noxious polluting gasses, organisations are also chocking the lungs of the Earth which is no doubt panting for the fresh air. It’s true in the same reasoning, as Earth is also an organic living being. This is more right in the age of rapid deforestation, especially the gradual wiping out of rainforests.
Deforestation in Indonesia or in Brazil is not only devastating the carbon sink, but exploding the CO2 ratio to a large extent and as less number of trees are available, less proportionate of O2 is being converted from CO2 by the process of photosynthesis. It would definitely have a boomerang effect. For the sake of our livelihood, forests are cleared and in that process a humongous repository of the medicinal plants are getting extinct; some of them have huge malignant treating properties. Most of this traditional knowledge is yet to be captured by the so called modern world. It’s an alarming situation, as we are yet to learn to live in harmony with the nature!
Days are not far behind when the fossil fuels burning will be automatically stopped. By a conservative estimate based on the present reserve and consumption ratio the resource scenario is that coal will last little over 100 years, gas reserve for 55 years and crude oil is just 56 years, says World Energy Resources Survey 2013.
There is the terminology commonly used — Strategic Point of Inflexion (SIP) in the business world. They say the profit/growth if upwardly moving can reach up to a certain point and then reach the valley of death from where the downfall begins. Those who are the leaders take action at this point to prevent the downfall. In simple words, they should take the corrective action to prevent the failure. When a company reaches a strategic inflexion point a strategy would be needed to pull itself out of a downward spiral. Most major industries have experienced this condition at some time or another. This SIP also can be understood by visualising the Sin X or the Cos X curve in Trigonometry or in Physics. The curve which is going up eventually comes down.
Pulling out of the valley of death can be done through curbing confusion and complacency, experimenting with new designs and concepts, listening to clean energy specialist Cassandra Sweet’s green opinions, articulating new direction and redeploying resources when the going is good. This analogy is now applicable for all these oil or gas reserves. Eventually all these reserves will reach the valley of death. So what is the way out? Obviously, none other than the clean energy or green energy can fit the bill. Days are not far behind when all fossil fuel-driven vehicles will be out of the road. Electric cars are no more a farfetched idea but a reality. Electric cars abound in the US and Europe. Minister for Road Transport & Highways, Shipping and Water Resources, River Development & Ganga Rejuvenation, Nitin Gadkari, has given a go-ahead for electric cars. Several hybrid and electric cars are plying already.
There might be a problem in adopting a total carbon-free economy. Governments and industries need to adjust and be forward looking. The carbon lobby will surely try to extend the fossil fuel deadline. Through more pollution controls norms, their pleas may be accommodated. In that way the deadline of carbon will be extended for another few years, but let’s accept that fact that carbon is no more the future. Industries need to invest in the clean energy. If not megawatt MW, then kilowatt (KW) based industries can easily switch to clean energy.
Abundance of solar energy and its utilisation is crucial. Storing of the solar energy concern though needs to be addressed. Sceptics talk of reliability, but Kochi Airport is now fully run by 12 MW solar power. Now a Union Territory, Diu is fully solar.
It’s generating 13 MW solar electricity which far more than what is required. Interestingly, it has a small land mass; still it fitted its solar panels well. In the middle-east, UAE is building MG capacities solar parks. In 2014, China made the largest financing in renewable energy sources estimated at $83.3 billion. China had ramped up solar-cell production from 50 MW of generation capacity in 2004 to 23,000 MW in 2012.
Benefiting from a shift towards shale gas and a turnaround of previous emissions trends former President of the US Barack Obama used regulatory authorities to shift energy production away from coal. In November 2014, the US and China, the principal emitters of GHGs, authorised a joint agreement on climate change. Though present US position is somehow dubious, but the world has find out its way and means.
The Indian Government deliberated to outdo the renewable energy goals set in Paris by almost three-and-a-half years before the schedule.
A draft 10-year energy blueprint envisaged that 57 per cent of India’s aggregate electricity capacity will derive from non-fossil fuel supplies by 2027. By 2022 India plans to have 1 lakh MW solar power generating capacity and this is the second year in a row when India is meeting the annual target of generating power from 20 GW solar projects. India invested $6.7 billion in the solar energy in 2017 where as $4 billion in the wind energy. For the record, the renewable target of India by 2022 is 1.75 lakh MW.
In the UAE, a 700 MW concentrated solar power is being constructed at Dubai. Abu Dhabi is also in the process of building a solar power plant of 1,177 MW capacity by 2019. In India, Gujarat is setting up a 5,000 MW solar park at Dholera Special Investment Region which is supposed to be the largest in the world constructed over 11,000 hectares of land. The project can offset some of the unemployment and manufacturing issues.
New Delhi is now home to the International Solar Alliance — a forum envisioned to facilitate finance solar missions in some of the Earth’s sunniest and impoverished nations. No doubt it’s a big step in moving forward while leading in the field of the solar energy.
A group of 62 countries can now aggregate their solar projects for a bigger tender which will help developers in their economics. As per a UN report — Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2018 — released by UN Environment, the Frankfurt School-UNEP Collaborating Centre and Bloomberg New Energy Finance, developing economies, including India, Brazil and China, committed $177 billion in renewables in 2017, whereas the developed world committed $103 billion in renewables. The share of the developing world increased to 20 per cent, whereas the share of the developed world is down to 19 per cent. In the championship of the green/clean energy, it’s a clear win of the developing world. India, Brazil and China are accounted for over half of global renewable investments. The report also praises the astonishing outpouring in solar investments globally.
Though solar panels are nicer options of generating clean power, size does matter and cleaning of panels needs to be cost effective. As in Kochi and also in Masdar (Dubai), main solar panels are fitted at the ground level for the cleaning solution. Just for visualising the effect — this Dubai solar park has 77 sq km area which is roughly a 9,166 football grounds inside. As India has vast desert areas, managing phenomenal ground panels should not pose a problem.
However, standardisation of the quality of power connected to the grid matters, and some degree of standardisation on the rooftop panels may also be the need of the hour. The Government is asking industries to follow the Bureau of Indian Standards norms when it comes to manufacturers and sellers of PV panels. Don’t forget though that we still need to send electricity to 300 million-odd cold and deprived homes.
The Clean Power Plan
The fastest renewables’ growth is in emerging economies: China has now surpassed the US as the biggest investor in renewable energy, accounting for $102.9 billion in 2015, over twice that of any other country.
The US invested $44.1 billion in 2015. It was the first year that developing countries invested more in clean energy, excluding hydroelectric power than developed economies.
In 2015, developing economies, including China, India and Brazil, invested $156 billion in renewables – 19% more than in 2014 and 17 times more than in 2004. Developed countries invested $130 billion, according to UNEP. A large amount of this turnaround was due to China, which invested $102.9 billion in non-hydro renewables in 2015, 17% more than 2014.
58 countries across Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia and Africa installed 70GW of clean energy in 2015. Countries based in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development installed 59GW. In five years (2008-2013), the amount of renewable power in developing countries grew by 143%. During the same period, the amount of renewables in developed countries grew by 84%.
The Clean Power Plan (CPP) is the first ever US-wide policy to set a limit on carbon emissions from the power sector. The plan was developed under the Clean Air Act — an act of the Congress that requires the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reduce air pollution that harms the public’s health.
The CPP, unveiled by former President Barack Obama in August 2015, aims to reduce nationwide power sector emissions by 32% from 2005 levels by 2030. It establishes specific emission limits for each State, which taken together add up to the overall target. While individual States are required to meet the targets laid out by the CPP, each State is free to determine by what means those standards will be met (e.g. efficiency improvements, substituting coal generation with natural gas, substituting fossil fuel generation with renewable sources, collaborating/trading between states).
The EPA’s own analysis indicates that the CPP would deliver many other benefits to US citizens if fully implemented. India can take a leaf out of this and implement it as well.
Health benefits: A 25% reduction in polluting particulates, meaning that each year 2,700-6,600 premature deaths and 1,40,000-1,50,000 asthma attacks in children would be prevented.
Consumer savings: Electricity bills — 8% lower in 2030 than they would be without the CPP, saving every American an average of $100 from their annual electricity bill. At a national level, this amounts to a $155 billion saving from 2020-2030.
Value on investment: Overall climate and health benefits in 2030 worth an estimated $55-$93 billion per year, while only costing $7.3-$8.8 billion per year to implement.
Writer: Bhaskar Sinha
Courtesy: The Pioneer