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Renewable Energy Act: To meet India's future needs
India with 17 per cent of the world population and just 0.8 per cent of known oil and natural gas resources is going to face serious energy challenges in the coming decades. The draft law prepared by WISE charts a road map for energy independence.

INDIA IS ALL SET to formulate a Renewable Energy Act with the target to meet 20 per cent of country’s energy requirements from this sector by 2020. The Pune-based, non-profit and non-governmental institute, The World Institute of Sustainable Energy (WISE) has drafted a model act.

A delegation led by Dr Pramod Deo, Chairman, Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission and G.M. Pillai, the Founder Director General, WISE, has submitted the Model Renewable Energy Law to Vilas Muttemwar, Minister for New and Renewable Energy, Govt. of India, last month. The Minister has promised to process the same for Parliament’s approval.

The WISE, which has been working for a transition to a green, clean and sustainable energy sector in the country, has declared 2007 as the ‘Year of the Renewable Energy Law for India’. A nation-wide media advocacy campaign is being launched.

The urgent need of the law was felt in view of the deepening energy crisis. Availability of adequate amounts of energy and water at affordable prices and equitable access to them for all sections of society will be a defining characteristic of life in the 21st century.

India with 17 per cent of the world population and just 0.8 per cent of the world’s known oil and natural gas resources is going to face serious energy challenges in the coming decades.  Former President APJ Abdul Kalam talked of the need for ‘energy security’ as a transition to total ‘energy independence’. The draft law prepared by WISE charts a road map for such energy independence.

Besides energy independence, the devastating impact of climate change has become an issue of critical importance. Energy production using fossil fuels is the major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. Hence, transition to a low-carbon energy economy is the real solution for mitigating the impact of climate change.

According to Pillai, India has huge potential for producing electricity from renewable sources. Our achievement so far is about 10406.69 MW, as against global installed capacity of approximately 200000 MW of renewable electricity generation. While India’s achievement is commendable, it is necessary for us to keep pace with the fast growth in developed countries.

There are three imperatives that necessitate a transition to a sustainable energy system in the 21st century: They are Climate change and its potentially disastrous consequences,

Peaking of production, depletion and extinction of fossil fuels and Energy Autonomy/ Independence.

The single biggest reason for global warming is the burning of fossil fuels. So the solution lies in effecting an accelerated transition to a low carbon energy economy, which means large scale development of renewable energy. Fortunately there are several emerging technologies that will facilitate this.

Peaking of production of all fossil fuels (viz. oil, gas and coal) in the next two decades and gradual extinction of these resources is an accepted scientific fact. Even assuming that they would be available, India, which is already dependent on their import, would become more and more import dependent. The financial implications of large scale imports would destroy our economy and necessitate strategies to move towards energy autonomy or independence.

Pillai said that the Electricity Act, 2003 addresses issues related to renewable power only marginally and is not at all effective in facilitating the much needed transition to a sustainable energy system. The barriers to the development of renewable energy run across a wide spectrum. A comprehensive legislation aimed at removing these barriers and accelerating the development of renewable energy technologies is thus necessary, he added.

Even though the government has been favourable towards renewables, the efforts so far are not backed by legislation. Legislation is a proven instrument of change in this field, as seen in many countries across the world. It was this conviction and the institutional philosophy of striving for concrete action that spurred WISE to undertake the task of preparing a Model Renewable Energy Law for India, and pursue it to its logical conclusion viz. adoption by the Indian Parliament.

The draft law proposes to increase the target for electricity generation from renewables to 10 per cent by 2010 (as against 2012 currently) and 20 per cent by 2020, of the total electricity generated in the country (and not as a percentage of installed capacity). The draft law also seeks to remove some ambiguities or amplify some provisions in the Electricity Act, 2003, relating to provisions dealing with renewable electricity generation.

Such clarifications and amplifications deal with issues of access to the grid, grid expansion costs, charges for access to the grid network and tariff setting. In all these areas, preferential and priority treatment to renewables has been proposed to hasten its growth.

To address the energy problems faced by the rural areas and to facilitate faster growth of grid-independent distributed and small-scale (micro) generation, numerous provisions have been included in the draft law. Special provisions for meeting dispersed pumping energy needs of the agricultural sector using modern technologies have been included.

Other advanced provisions relating to renewable stand-alone and micro systems are as follows:

  • Solar water heating to be made mandatory throughout the urban areas of the country by 2012, in a phased manner.
A time-bound programme of demonstration of solar rooftop lighting systems in 10,000 government buildings by 2010, also incorporating building integrated photo-voltaics.
  • Conversion of fossil fuel based industrial heating to solar thermal heating using new solar concentrator technology or its hybrids.
  • India has at present about 30,000 MW captive generating units (industrial units), of which about 18,000 MW are diesel based. The draft law proposes time-bound conversion of these captive units to bio fuel based generation. This will save large amounts of diesel.
  • Provision for small biomass based energy systems for rural areas.
  • Indigenous development of small wind power systems upto 25 kW (and hybrids) for stand-alone applications.
  • Widespread application of co-generation concepts (heat and power) for lighting, heating and cooling.
  • A separate chapter of the law deals with accelerating bio fuel development and transportation energy to displace fossil fuels. A time-bound Renewable Fuel programme covering ethanol and bio diesel has been proposed. Backward and forward linkages of the programme to facilitate employment and rural livelihood improvements are also included.

    Time-bound programmes for bio diesel engine production, introduction of hybrid vehicles, fuel cell bus demonstration, increasing railroad efficiency and development of ultra-efficient aircraft technology have been proposed. Most importantly, modern concepts of Renewable Transport Fuel Obligations have been proposed.

    A very futuristic provision made in the proposed law, is a definite road map for developing a hydrogen and fuel cell economy. Hydrogen has extremely varied applications, from electricity storage, as transportation fuel, in fuel cells, which can power all imaginable devices as well as huge multi-storeyed buildings. Care has been taken to include safety and environmental protection safeguards while developing a futuristic hydrogen energy infrastructure.

    Three separate time-bound Technology Missions have been proposed, to begin with, to achieve the objectives of energy independence. Such technology missions are to be established in the areas of: Solar Energy, Bio fuels and Hydrogen.

    All the growth and development is to be achieved through introduction of innovative market-based policies and instruments. WISE has done extensive documentation of over 4000 pages of such international practices. Some of them are renewable energy certificates, renewable rebate programmes, etc. Their introduction would facilitate market growth, without government subsidies. Government participation would, however be necessary in research and development and infrastructure improvements. Establishment of Renewable Energy Development Funds in all states (on the pattern of Maharashtra) has also been proposed.

    Involvement of all National Research Laboratories, IITs, Universities, Industry, Specialist, Non-Government Institutions and User Groups has been proposed. Participatory approaches have become most important in sustaining our development.

    To guide and advice comprehensive achievement of the objectives of the Act, a national level apex body called the Renewable Energy Council with the Central Minister for Non-conventional Energy Sources as its Chairman has been proposed. The Council shall have 15 members drawn from the Government (only 5), Industry, Academia, Non-Government Institutions, Researchers and User-Groups.

     

     

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