The Odyssey of ELECTRICITY Part 2

Here is a brief history of development of electric power generation. The authors have very creatively sailed from the beginning to today’s status quo – and highlighted the present-day challenges and hinted towards some possible solutions…

The expediency of providing free electricity to woo voters also creates further complications. One of the steps taken by the government is the introduction of mechanisms enabling a degree of open market for trade of electricity through market determined prices in its Electricity act of 2003. This has enabled the setup of power exchanges such as IEX (Indian energy exchange). Currently, 10-12% of the total electricity produced is sold through this exchange mechanism.

It is expected that the policymakers may allow the margin to reach higher levels of around 20%. This move is anticipated to help system operators schedule dispatches on the basis of all India level merit order of energy prices and Market Clearing Price (MCP) is expected to stimulate efficient plants and penalise the inefficient ones. India is trading electricity through its grid connection with Bhutan, Nepal and Bangladesh. As of now, India is the world’s third largest power consumer country.

Electricity boon or bane

Since the 1960s, the berserk use of natural resources started receiving special attention as the potential environmental hazards, which were being ignored started showing up. In addition to ash contamination of river water, heating of water bodies, suspended particulate matter etc., which were somewhat redeemed by Ash utilisation in manufacturing cement and other purposes, by use of cooling towers and by going for Electro Static Precipitators or emission of SOx and  NOx, which are currently addressed through Flue Gas Desulphurisation and Low NOx burners, phenomena of global warming due to the entrapment of low frequency radiation by the Green House Gases from constant combustion and emission of Carbon dioxide. The ice sheet in the poles began reducing leading to sea level rise. There has been a rise in the global temperature of the atmosphere and the sea, causing a climate change, which poses a massive risk towards life on this planet.

To mitigate these problems, the governments were forced to sit together and formulate certain laws, which would be governing industrial operations and standardise consumer goods that pose a risk of GHG emissions. The Kyoto protocol, which extended the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change was signed by some of countries in 1997 to tackle the problems of climate change through reduction of GHG emission. Countries (41 developed countries listed in Annex I) were legally bound to reduce man-made GHG emissions by approximately 5.2%. Major economies like USA, Canada, Russia refused to agree. Thus, at Paris it was agreed that every country would set a target for itself and meet it.

Electricity in view of the net zero perspective

Although India is ranked 5th in total GHG emissions, its emission per capita remains low and is thus not bound to reduce its GHG emission, India is committed to make some bold and impressive commitments to cut down its net GHG emissions to zero by 2070. The route to this feat is through extensive foray into renewable sources of energy, storage of energy, cutting down dependency on thermal power generation and carbon sequestration projects. As discussed, there are various sources of generating power such as solar power, hydroelectricity, nuclear power, biomass, biofuel etc.

As of 2021, 38% of India’s power installation capacity is based on nuclear, hydro and renewable energy. The cost of solar power is significantly decreasing, thus rendering it a massive potential to be a major alternative for fossil fuels. The installed solar energy capacity has increased by over 15 times and stands at 41.09 GW. India has a large untapped resource of hydropower. Its share of total installed capacity stands at 12%. It is important to appreciate that dams often result in inundation of adjoining areas and pose a grave risk, besides the risk of earthquake in the sensitive seismic zone of North India. Rehabilitation of the displaced people, maintenance of aquatic life and proper care of geological factors are often neglected that often results in tempestuous floods. A lot of such incidents have been reported since the first projects and they continue to come.

Thus, the emergence of green hydropower projects with proper monitoring by central and state environmental board is the way towards a sustainable production process of power. Innovations, such as cascading style of water holding by dams in the downstream, could become one of the ways of pursuing hydro projects in an ecologically sensitive country like India. Nuclear power is also an area of exploration and expansion.

India has found one of the largest reserves of uranium in Tummalapalle uranium mine and it can ensure a large amount of clean energy. Although nuclear power accidents have unleashed a lot of public resentment toward it, a properly monitored, regulated and transparent management of nuclear projects can be one of the ultimate solutions for clean power in the future.

Recently, hydrogen has been harnessed and being used as a fuel for vehicles and producing power.  Currently, almost all of the hydrogen is amassed from fossil fuels. There are efforts for combining hydrogen with fossil fuels to make the combustion cleaner and efficient. Indian oil is planning to generate hydrogen from electrolysis powered by wind turbines. It is the cleanest alternative and has a high yield of energy. However, the process of extracting hydrogen is expensive although the cost could come down with economies of scale. Germany has provided 700 million euros to firms working on green hydrogen projects alone. Biomass is another alternative source of fuel for combustion. Tidal and geothermal power are also avenues that needs to be properly explored for power generation.


India has a lot of complexities that must be dealt with carefully for its progress into sustainable power generation. The concept of carbon crediting, joint implementation, Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) and emission trading must be adopted and enforced properly.

Super critical technology, renovation and modernisation, fuel switch and combined cycle gas plants are some of the domains of carbon credits India is concerned about for availing CDM.

The biggest challenge that India is facing is redeeming electricity through its carbon footprint. Electricity brought in a lot of developments in mechanisation and in the creation of technology. It has provided the fuel to drive the wheels of the Indian economy and of human welfare development directly and indirectly. India has a long way still to fare and it must invest heavily in human capital as well for bringing in skilled and knowledgeable human resources in the energy sector – who would usher in new developments in the financial and technological arenas and ultimately result in the growth of economy and welfare of present and future generations.





Rwitorshi Probho Roy is an under graduate student in Economics in Calcutta University, he has wide interest in Socio-Economic issues.




Dr. Bibhu Prasad Rath a graduate in Mechanical Engineering with Intermediate course work from ICWA and M.Tech from IIT Delhi. He has also done PhD (in Business Administration) from Aligarh Muslim University. He is currently holding the post of Additional General Manager in Engineering Division of NTPC Ltd.

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