“India will chart its own course of energy transition…”

Recently, in a free-wheeling interaction with Electrical India (EI) team, Dr Vivek Soni, Faculty of Management, PhD & MTech (IIT Delhi), and a Certified Independent Director -MoCA, Govt of India, revealed his observations and expectations from the ongoing developments in the Indian Power Sector. Here is the Part 2 of the interaction; remaining parts will appear in the next issues of EI…

Do you feel in a vast country like India with widely varied geographic conditions, micro- and mini-grids have a big role to play?

India has wide variety, we appreciate geographical location provide us to use different kinds of energy resources. Simultaneously they also provide the challenges. We have both urban and rural challenges, but Indian power sector’s potential exists mostly in rural areas. In this context, Mini Grids can play a key role in rural electrification efforts in areas that are not connected to the grid, and to complement the grid in under electrified areas. With the right policy and investor support, mini-grids can emerge as ‘rural utilities’ and help provide reliable and improved power supply. Many central sector scheme of the government are supporting efforts to develop a more enabling policy and regulatory environment for mini-grids, to facilitate mini-grid development and scale up.

In addition to the above, community-owned solar mini-grids are increasingly promoted to provide communities access to reliable electricity, empowering local population or local demand. However, early failures and difficulties in building local capacity based on macro and mini grids have raised questions regarding their long-term sustainability and ability to be replicated to provide socio-economic benefits to the communities. In this regard, effort of the Indian government is appreciable to achieve certain levels of sustainability in India, grids are operating over extensive periods of time using a policy framework to derive its conclusions in the sector.

Energy Transition
Image by Chris LeBoutillier from Pixabay

Can we really call the atomic energy ‘a clean energy’ just because of having a low carbon footprint?

Clean energy term is very important to understand. Most of the time, we hear this term in energy domain, in the discourse of wastes from energy technologies, sustainability, universal access of energy and sustainable development. It is the fact that most people immediately think of solar panels or wind turbines, but how many of you think of nuclear energy? Let us examine this.  Nuclear is often left out of the “clean energy” conversation despite it being the second largest source of low-carbon electricity in the world behind hydropower.

Solar Energy

Fundamentally, there are three basic reasons behind it.

Firstly, Nuclear energy protects air quality. Nuclear is also a zero-emission clean energy source. It generates power through fission, which is the process of splitting uranium atoms to produce energy. The heat released by fission is used to create steam that spins a turbine to generate electricity without the harmful byproducts emitted by fossil fuels.

We must refer an example, where Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) quoted that the United States avoided more than 476 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions in 2019. That’s the equivalent of removing 100 million cars from the road and more than all other clean energy sources combined. There are other reasons on environmental protection term, as nuclear energy also keeps the air clean by removing thousands of tons of harmful air pollutants each year that contribute to acid rain, smog, lung cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Wind Energy

Secondly, Nuclear energy’s land footprint is small. Despite producing massive amounts of carbon-free power, nuclear energy produces more electricity on less land than any other clean-air source. To give an interesting example, in terms of capacity addition, one would need more than 3 million solar panels to produce the same amount of power as a typical commercial reactor or more than 430 wind turbines if we don’t consider the capacity factor.

Lastly, the third reason is that Nuclear energy produces minimal waste as compared to other energy source generators. However, in terms of density, fuel is extremely dense.

It’s about 1 million times greater than that of other traditional energy sources and because of this, the amount of used nuclear fuel is not as big as you might think.  However, some advanced reactor designs are being developed that could operate on used fuel.

Next part of the interaction will appear in the next issue of EI…

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