Zero carbon renewables is the eventual goal, but in the foreseeable future coal seems to be the only option for reliable 24×7 power at low price in India. Comment.

Zero carbon renewables is the eventual goal, but in the foreseeable future coal seems to be the only option for reliable 24×7 power at low price in India. Comment.
Approach:
  • Briefly introduce about the energy need in India.
  • Discuss the constraints to renewables.
  • Then explain why coal is the only viable option for 24X7 power.
  • Conclude appropriately.
Model Answer :
India’s electricity sector is dominated by fossil fuels, and in particular coal, which in 2016 produced about two thirds of all electricity. Also, India is the world’s third largest producer and fourth largest consumer of electricity. To meet the growing demand of power at reasonable price in foreseeable future, coal seems a viable option.
Constraints to renewables:
  • High Initial Cost- While development of a coal based power plant requires around Rs 4 crore per MW, the investment required for wind and solar power-based plants is significantly higher.
  • Shortage of capacity- The current renewable energy generation capacity falls far short of meeting India’s electricity demands.
  • The Weather factor- Most Renewable energy systems are weather dependent; thus, factors like number of sunny days, wind condition, monsoon, tide level, supply of biomass, etc. play an important role in feasibility of the system.
  • Low social acceptance- Despite heavy subsidy being provided by the government for installation of solar water-heaters and lighting systems, its penetration is still very low.
  • Shortage of trained manpower- Skill upgradation of the existing manpower and training of new professionals are essential to achieve the goal of “power to all” by 2012.
Advantages of Coal over Renewables:
  • The already installed power generation capacity of coal-powered plants is large.
  • It is an affordable energy resource because of its low price as compared to other renewable energy resources.
  • Relatively low capital investment as compared to the other energy sources like nuclear.
  • Abundance of coal reserves in India.
  • Coal produces much higher energy upon combustion.
  • Low carbon coal technologies like supercritical, ultra supercritical etc. can be used to reduce carbon content.
Although, coal is a viable option in the foreseeable future, the future of our energy needs lies in renewable energy resources. The use of these resources, rather than an increase in fossil fuel supplies, should be encouraged. Government of India’s push to have 175 GW of installed renewable capacity by 2022 is a welcome step in this regard.

Subjects : Geography

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