Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Electricity Projects Must Include Adaptation Strategy in a Climate Risky World

The importance of energy for development is not a discovery and we all continue to come to a stand-still the moment our phone shuts down, or the lift in the office buildings stop. In urban areas, we are already surrounded by almost all services powered by electricity. Power blackouts and outages is yet a common phenomenon for anyone living in developing countries, in addition to 1.2 billion still deprived of electricity supply. Renewable energy adoption has grown, and continues to do so globally, but there are still challenges that are common to all forms of electricity generation models. This is to do with risks that all forms of energy systems are vulnerable to, and its importance can no longer be ignored given that there is a climate driven hazard or disaster each day whether we know it or not. 

Source: Extracted from WBCSD

The map below indicates only the natural catastrophic disasters in the year 2012 alone.  CLICK to see most recent disaster reported 24 hours a day. 

This means that building climate resilience is no more a matter of choice but one that must but a necessary step along with the risk associated to inter-dependencies of energy and water. Most electricity generation models require water, while pumping, treating and transporting water requires electricity. Potential climate change impacts for each energy resource derived from ADB gives a summary about potential impacts of climate related hazards, Impact of each hazard will vary by location and by event type itself.   

While the international and national bodies can enable a pathway for low carbon infrastructure and essential infrastructure services, energy companies need to put in place an adaptation mechanism in an increasingly hazard sensitive world. A well planned adaptive strategy is essential to prevent or reduce the catastrophic of an existing power plant, or one that you intend on building. Sustainable energy provision, as well as conventional power systems must now develop a comprehensive strategy to include risk, response and resilience approaches themselves.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

India-Japan Cooperation on Energy and Environment

Japan and India's symbiotic ties is not new, and goes back to about fifteen hundred years ago. The relationship that started with a spiritual foundation back then, has now taken the shape of a strong bilateral relationship which is both economically and strategically beneficial to the Indian economic development pathway, which demands technological innovation, adoption and financial assistance to do meet its goals.

While Japan and India have other trade partners which are commercially more lucrative, the cooperation of the two countries is holistically positioned with high confidence. More recently, Japan has modestly provided financial and technical support to several infrastructure projects in India which include Delhi Metro, industrial corridors, highways, transport channels and power-plants. Both nations have established a Special Economic Partnership Initiative (SEPI) as part of India-Japan Strategic and Global Partnership dated on July 23, 2014. In addition, the two nations also share a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) as on February 2011.

What is common to the development agenda for the two countries, is that both rely on imported fossil fuels which significantly makes the two economies volatile with its market prone to the political disturbances that may arise in oil exporting countries.

The India Japan Global Partnership has identified Environment and Energy for Sustainable Development as an important area to address, resulting in five key recommendations for the two nations:

1. To make Japan possible to use more renewable energy, investment in grids and much better interconnections in the country and probably in the future with Korea and Russia on a regional basis is necessary.         

2. We need more efficiency, more renewable bio-fuels, nuclear and carbon capture and storage, and a good combination of good energy market policy, together with technology can make the difference.

3. Collective Security in electricity supply or future energy supply is one of the solution which could be a good model not only for Europe but for East Asia, Japan, China, Korea, Russia, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan or ASEAN countries and this kind of international or global thinking is necessary for the energy security of the 21st century.

4. India is at an early stage of building infrastructure and this provides an opportunity to have low carbon technologies implemented in the commercial, industrial and other sectors of the Indian economy. One of the key challenges is enabling an institutional setup for the companies to come and invest in India. There is a need for balancing the pillars of sustainable economic development, social advancement and environmental improvement for the Japanese companies in India, apart from the companies which already exist.

5. India and Japan can work together in energy conservation apart from geothermal power and solar power and R&D to reduce the cost of solar power generation. Joint efforts in tapping wind energy have tremendous scope. There is need for good technologies to apply for power storage, either at a micro scale or a medium scale or a large scale.

Friday, 1 August 2014

Pico Hydro in Southern India's State of Karnataka

Karnataka’s hydropower resources are based on West Flowing River System with seven major hydrological basins, i.e. Godhavari basin, Krishna Basin, Cauvery Basin, North Mennar, South Pennar, Palar Basin and West Flowing.  Krishna river system covers up to 60% of drainage area amongst all river systems, while Krishna, Cauvery and West Flowing collectively account for around 80% of total drainage area in Karnataka. Most of the hydropower infrastructure is based on Krishna basin. With an overall hydro potential of 7750 MW, wherein small and mini hydro potential of 3000 MW has been endorsed by Karnataka’s State Nodal Agency (KREDL) of which KREDL only lists 699.658 MW of small hydro developed. This developed capacity gives no information on “Pico- scale Hydropower” and includes any plant (in range of MWs) having capacity up to 25 MW. Therefore there is no clear status information of pico-hydro, i.e. up-to 10 KW. Small hydropower (SHP) in Karnataka is governed by Renewable Energy Policy 2009-14, according to which the state aims on developing 600 MW with a cumulative capacity of 1016 MW by 2014.    

Several initiatives such as Indo-Norwegian Environment Programme (INEP) and Small Scale Sustainable Infrastructure Fund (S3IDF) have played roles of pilot projects development and filling the financing gap to help showcase installation of pico-systems. However barriers prevail in accelerating its deployment. Such pico-systems are generally installed in very remote areas, for example in the hilly regions of Malnad (Chikmagalur, Hassan and Kodagu) and coastal areas of Udupi, Dakshin Kannada, where the terrain conditions either make electricity supply inaccessible or unreliable. However these sites provide ideal sites for pico-systems mainly for household usage.  Pico-systems entirely rely on the “Watermills Scheme” as a means to financing the pico-hydro plant using a subsidy release of INR 1,10,000 for any plant up-to 5 KW. While subsidy acts as an enabler, it also acts an impediment wherein the plant owners are not willing to go ahead with installing a pico-system without subsidy. Pico-scale hydropower has little mention in the policy and no specific regulatory support is available. The thought process of grid connectivity and regulatory support for such systems is missing, inspite of its large potential, alleviating poverty and ability to lead a higher Human Development Index; the importance of pico-scale hydro systems is undervalued at the policy making level. Pico-systems restricts the broad discussion of small scale hydropower, for ex. ~50 KW of total SHP capacity could be connected to distribution network, as and when the network arrives in the region. In the case of solar, rooftop PV plants are being connected to the grid which is not the case in hydro systems mainly because it is understood that these systems are in areas where grid is not available. However, policy and regulatory support is must for its acceptance at larger level. Grid-interconnection can also be one way to reduce on subsidy dependence. Like solar, pico-hydro does not have any mention of Channel Partners.   

 Source: ISRO (Gateway to Indian Earth Observation) 
With the Karnataka Government’s ban on SHP projects in forest areas of Western Ghats, the only scope of utilizing the hydro potential is to develop pico-scale systems. This ban does not include projects in the range of KWs. Pico-hydro developers such as Prakruti Hydro have installed more than 500 units of 1-2 KW capacity in the State. Others in the industry include Nisarga Environment Technologies which has installed 300 (1 KW) systems in Western Ghats and Mr. G. K. Ratnakar have set up 21 systems of 1-2 KW capacity.  However the complete understanding of pico systems deployment is Western Ghats and Karnataka in particular is largely a secluded field of study with little intervention of government support, due to which there is a not a very big manufacturing market of pico-hydro systems.