Varied interests in the energy and power sector viz., CDM, carbon rating, Monitoring & Evaluation, Energy Management, Rural Development; Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy related matters; Demand Side Management (DSM), Energy Audits, Distributed Power Generation (Biomass, Wind,Solar and Small Hydro), Participatory Management.

Wednesday, October 07, 2015


Tuesday, January 08, 2013


Power Crisis - 2013

POWER CRISIS - 2013 (A general analysis and suggestions) Frederick T Morse, in his book on “Power Plant Engineering” states that, “Both the historical and present day civilisation of mankind are closely interwoven with energy, and there is little reason to doubt, that, in the future, our existence will be ever more dependent upon this thing called Energy.” World Bank Development Report states that, “Economic development and sound Environmental management are complimentary aspects of the same agenda. Without adequate environmental protection, development will be undermined; without development, environmental protection will fail.” The Prime Minister Mr; Manmohan Singh announced on Tuesday, the 9th of October 2012 in an international seminar on ‘Energy’, in New Delhi that, “providing fuel at fair and affordable prices to power generation plants is the main challenge all over the world.” He also said that, “it is the endeavour of his government, to provide affordable electricity for 24 hours a day to all the villages in the country.” There are 5,60,000 villages in India. He called upon “all the governments and industrialists all over the world to co-operate and join hands together to provide cheap and un-interrupted power to all the economically weaker sections of the society’’ This is indeed a grand and welcome statement. It is true that, there is a great demand for power all over the country and the demand is increasing by the day, be it in the domestic, commercial, industrial or agricultural sector. This phenomenal increase in demand is putting a harsh strain on the economic development of the country, in the last few decades. We have never been able to generate that much of electricity to meet the demand successfully. There is always a great void between SUPPLY and DEMAND. THE 11TH FIVE YEAR PLAN: • In the 11th five year plan, the government fixed a target for power generation at 72,000 MW. • Due to various reasons, it was scaled down to 62,000MW. • It was, unfortunately, further scaled down to 58,000M.W. The reasons given by the power ministry was that, it was due to shortage of gas and coal linkages problems. But this is not all. There are many more reasons which will be discussed at a later stage in this article. The 12th five year plan: • In the 12th five year plan, the government had set an ambitious target of generating 1 lake M.W. of power. Once again, due to various reasons given earlier, the power ministry has brought down the target to 88,000 M.W. They plan to achieve this target by a concerted effort by various state owned and private sector power plants as well as a highly ambitious ultra-mega power plants initiated by the central government. Fuel source for Power generation at present; Coal 61% Hydro 25% Gas 10% Nuclear 2.3% Renewable 1.7% It is quite evident from the above chart that power generated by using coal (61%) as the fuel is the largest electricity producer. It is also true that along with gas (10%) it is also the largest producer of polluted gas. It looks that there is no choice at present, but to continue with the generation electricity by using Coal and Gas as the fuel as the other modes of generation of electricity like Nuclear, Renewable, etc. are still in the infant stage due to various reasons and have not yet reached a stage when they can replace the thermal mode or even bring down the generation by this mode to the desired level so that the pollution level is brought down considerably. In the Indian thermal power generation scenario, there are innumerable power plants of different capacities, like, 15M.W, 25M.W; 100M.W.210 M.W and 500M.W.which consumes a huge quantity of coal. On 23rd march 2011, the then minister of energy in his report to PMO stated that” if Coal India Ltd fails to the meet supply target as mentioned above, then he will have to scale down the targets further. At present, the CIL has to increase its production by 20% which is a tall order. It is observed that the present shortage of 60 million tons of coal is expected to increase to 85 million tons in 2011-12. As per the report by the ministry’s working group on power, the fuel requirement for the year 2011-12, is as follows: Fuel Requirement Availability Coal 545 mt 482mt Lignite 33mt 33mt Gas/LNG 89 MMScmd 36 MMScmd (MMScmd------- million standard cubic meters per day) Keeping in view, the power minister’s statement that, the reason for failure to meet the target of power generation in succeeding five year plans is due to shortage of gas and coal linkage, it is evident that the government should make more concerted efforts, working closely with the ministries of power, coal and transportation and decide: • The location of sites for future thermal plants after taking all technical specifications into consideration.(Pit head and away from the pit head) • Determine the quantity of coal required by each thermal plant after a thorough study by competitive authorities. • Ensure that the Railways and Surface transport authorities make all the efforts to deliver the committed quantity of coal to different power plants in the designated time. • Ensure that the power plants are delivered quality coal to assure a smooth operation of the Boilers. That means wet, impure coal, and Shale coal is to be strictly avoided. • To make sure that an ideal environment is created in the Coal Fields: That is, all the proper infrastructure like roads, housing, schools and hospitals etc are built for the Coal miners so that there is a good rapport between the authorities and the coal miners. A. AVAILABILITY OF COAL. India is the third largest coal producer in the world. As per the 2010 BP Statistical Energy survey, we have a coal reserve of 58,6000mt. But, unfortunately, it is true that the power plants in India have reached an alarming stage due to the non-availability of quality of coal. 61% of the power generation is through Thermal power plants, which consumes a huge quantity of coal. Even though, it is possible to improve the supply of domestically produced quality coal to the different power plants by proper management of coal production, it has become imperative to import coal. The secretary to the ministry of power, has announced last year, that it is likely to import 60 million tons of coal during this financial year and in the next financial year, more than 60 million tons.(during 2013) It is important to note that, even though the government imports coal at different rates from different countries, the supply rate of this coal to all the power plants must be same. The government should also be more liberal to the private sector and assist them in importing coal for their power plants. Earnest efforts should be made by CIL to see that both the Public sector and the Private sectors are treated on par regarding the supply of coal to their power plants, as some of the Private sector power plants are not happy with the same.(reg; FSA) B. THERMAL POWER PLANTS: The Ministry of power, as observed, had an ambitious plan of generating 88,000.M.W of power during the 12th five year plan. (revised target) There are power plants of different capacities ranging from 15 M.W. to 600 M.W. that is the Ultra mega power plants. To make a simple calculation, we have to achieve this target of 88,000M.W. in a span of 5 years. That is at an average of 16,600M.W.per year. B.H.E.L, which is a reputed public sector undertaking company, is the only manufacturing unit in India, which has the capacity of manufacturing such large capacity power plants and supply to different agencies. That means, it will be the responsibility of BHEL to manufacture and supply power plant equipment with various capacities. B.H.E.L, is already engaged in manufacturing and supply of plant equipment to different agencies to meet their targets for the 11th five year plan. The additional target of the 12th five year plan which is awarded to them may be a tough ask to achieve.( including the backlog of the previous plan) C. ULTRA MEGA POWER PLANTS: The supply and demand gap is ever increasing as the days go by. It is increasing at an alarming rate. To bridge this gap, the power ministry has introduced an ambitious plan of constructing Ultra mega Power plants. The capacity of each UMPPS is around 4000 M.W., made out of 600 M.W. units. As per the report, the ministry had at one time envisaged 16 power projects, under this category, 12 companies were awarded the contracts. Out of these, Tatas were able to construct and commission one unit of 800 MW. Out of the remaining units, many of them are yet to start the work. They are stuck at various stages such as land acquisition, clearance from Ministry Environment, Coal availability from CIL, or problems pertaining to Import of Coal, and PPA to name a few. It is estimated that the country may fall short of Coal by 100 million tons by the time all these mega plants are erected commissioned and ready to start producing electricity. It is imperative, therefore, that the government should sit down with the concerned authorities in different ministries and chalk out a fool proof plan, so that the power projects are supplied the required quantity of Coal, and hence, they start the generation without any further delay. The Ministry of power has embarked on this ambitious mega project of installing “super critical power plants” hoping that the power crisis can be solved with in the shortest possible time. These power plants which are designed with the “state of the art technology”, are besieged with constraints such as, huge demand of Coal, and other stringent parameters to be met with, because of the SIZE of these plants. Because of above reasons, especially the non- availability of coal and that too in particular, the import of Coal, the UMPPs are facing a severe crisis, questioning the very decision of going for plants of such huge capacity at this juncture. And therefore, It is not too late, even now, and is JUSTIFIED, to look for alternatives for these super critical power plants. While It may be necessary, to go ahead with some of the super critical power plants, it is prudent to replace most of these planned huge plants by smaller plants with 210 M.W. capacities. Even though, one super critical plant generates, say, 600 M.W. of electricity in one go, it calls for a huge investment on raw materials (Coal) consumables etc. But, in case of a breakdown, 600 M.W. of electricity is lost in one shot. Instead of one 600M.W. unit, if we have 3 units of 200M.W.,then if one unit breaks down only 200 M.Ws. of electricity is lost, and 400M.W.s are still available. Relatively, the raw material and consumables that are used are proportionally less. In case, these smaller power plants are scattered all over the length and breadth of the country, keeping in view the technical viability of the site, a smooth and uninterrupted supply of electricity is achieved cutting down the transmission losses considerably. One notable feature in this proposal is that BHEL with its proven and established status, regarding design, manufacture, installation and commissioning of 210 M.W. power plants, can supply these units, if not most of these units to all the agencies at a short time. The simple calculation has shown us that to meet the target of 12th five year plan, it is crucial to install power plants at an average of 16,600M.W.s per year. That means if we choose to go for UMPPs, with each unit of 600M.W.s, then, around 26 units of 600 M.W. capacity power plants should be manufactured per year, by the domestic manufacturer. And if the unit capacity is of 210 M.Ws, then around 80 units of 210M.W.should be manufactured by the domestic manufacturer. HYDRO ELECTRIC POWER PLANTS: Central Electricity Authority has included 30,000 M.W.s in the 12th five year plan for generation. That means, thermal power sector will be relieved of that much of generation, provided the hydro projects obtains the necessary land clearance, forest clearance, and environmental clearance in time for the projects to complete the works and achieve the target without delay. It is to be noted that, even though, generation by the non-conventional energy sources is increasing, it is anticipated that it may not contribute much towards achieving the target of 88,000M.Ws in the 12th five year plan. This means, it is prudent to realise, that the government will have to • Increase the existing manufacturing capacity of 210 M.W. units of B.H.E.L. • Encourage Public sector/private sector enterprises to manufacture these 210 M.W. units. • Import 210 M.W. units without losing much time. India, which is still a developing nation with 30% of the population under the poverty line with a high rate of unemployment, should find this (of installing 210M.W.power plants) as a great opportunity in solving these problems, in particular in the rural areas. The other important aspect (benefit) of installing 210 M.W. plants, apart from creating employment is, there is a huge opportunity in developing more number of skilled Engineers, supervisors and Technicians in the power plants, which is known for their highly sophisticated erection operational procedures. The public and private sectors should create the environment to attract engineer’s supervisors and technicians to this field by offering lucrative emoluments and prevent them from moving towards the service sector. This way, the general standard of skilled Engineers, supervisors and Technicians will be upgraded in the country enormously, which will truly be an asset to the country. SHORTAGE OF SKILLED TECHNICIANS: In addition to the observations made above, another aspect, regarding erection and commissioning of power plant equipment especially the Boiler, Turbine, and the Generator units is the importance and the urgency of the need of highly skilled technicians such as, Millwright fitters, Equipment handlers,(riggers and khalasis) and High pressure welders. Unfortunately, the role played by these highly specialised technicians are not realised and are taken for granted, resulting in substandard workmanship and undue delay in commission the plants. It is needless to say that, without these technicians, it will be a paramount task to install the sophisticated equipment and commission successfully on time. D. TRANSMISSION AND DISTRIBUTION LOSSES: Power Grid, the Indian state owned electric utility co, has stated that they wheel 50% of the total power generated in India, and the inter regional capacity is about 28,000M.W. Officially declared, T&D losses are at 23%. But, independent agencies including TERI has set the losses as high as 50% in some states. These losses are caused due to energy dissipated in the conductors and equipment, pilferage, defective meters and even unmetered supply of energy according to Power Grid Corporation. A lot of research is going on to find a way, to reduce to transmission and distribution losses. DEMAND SIDE MANAGEMENT SYSTEM: Demand Side Management (DSM) is a concept, in which a power utility, such as a vertically integrated SEB or an unbundled distribution utility, manages the demand for power among some or all its customers to meet its current or future needs. This concept must be implemented at all levels, so that, the demand of power may be managed successfully. DISTRIBUTION LOSSES: Distribution losses account for the highest percentage of losses in this sector. In addition to the losses mentioned above, another major loss is due to the indiscriminate and haphazard way of usage of electricity in the urban and rural areas. DISTRIBUTION MANAGEMENT SYSTEM: Distribution Management System (DMS) is a concept, defined as a collection of applications designed to monitor the entire distribution network efficiently and reliably. This improves the reliability and quality of service in terms of reducing outages, minimising outage time, maintaining acceptable frequency and voltage levels. This concept plays a big role in bringing down these losses to a great extent. E. URBAN SECTOR: In the urban area, some of the major culprits are in the domestic, institutions, commercial, streetlights and industrial sectors. Energy losses, to begin with, can be effectively brought down by making some of the following measures mandatory: • Solar water heaters to be installed in every household and other places of work as mentioned above. • Solar pumps to be installed where ever feasible. • Water harvesting to be implemented in all the house hold and other utility areas. • Use of CFL/LED lamps instead of incandescent lamps. The Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) has come out with an ambitious programme to encourage and enforce many such energy saving applications that are made mandatory for the industries to implement. The Ministry is also working on a concept of SMART GRID SYSTEM on a pilot basis to bring down the T&D losses. Under this system, the success depends mainly on electricity consumption, grid flexibility and variable resource capacity value and electric / carbon intensity. F. Under above conditions, It is pertinent to study the role played by Electric Motors in the industries as well as in the Agricultural sector. Power Consumption by Electrical Equipments: The Electric motor is the single largest electricity using device in the world. THE INDUSTRIAL SECTOR is dependent on motors to drive pumps, fans, compressors, machine tools, and a diverse array of other equipment. The importance of electric motors to Indian industry is evident from the fact that motors account for an estimated 74% (72billion kwh) of all industrial electrical use . The other important motor using sector is the AGRICULTURAL SECTOR, where essentially 100% of electricity (an estimated 44billion kwh per year) is consumed in pumping irrigation water. (From: Technology menu for efficient energy use---- by National Productivity Council.) It is quite evident from the above, that, all the effort should be made to bring down the losses in running the electric motors, which is the root cause for all the losses and inefficiency of the Industrial and Agricultural sectors. RURAL SECTOR: It is the general practice to develop a carefully designed transmission network in taluk and district levels and transport electricity through 11kv/6.6kv/230volts to agriculturists in different villages to run their irrigation pump sets. It is observed that bulk of the electricity supplied to the rural sector is consumed by the agriculture pump sets followed by house hold and commercial and other institutions , street lights etc. That means, all the efforts should be made to see that the motors that run these pump sets should be in top order and perform with the highest efficiency. HUKKERI RURAL ELECTRIC CO-OPERATIVE SOCEITY LTD; This co-operative society was formed more than three decades ago in the district of Belgaum in Karnataka. This is the best example of an independent unit in distribution of electricity in the rural areas as in the case of Hukkeri. It borrows electricity from BESCOM, a unit of state electricity board and supplies to different consumers. This unit works without any subsidy from the Karnataka government as of date. This covers an area of30 sq.kms, with a population of above 4 lacs. It has already electrified 106 villages and hamlets and other institutions. They are supplying electricity to 14000 BPL families. The advantages of this system are; • Direct usage of electricity, no dependence of BESCOM, no grid problem hence no voltage fluctuation resulting in good voltage. • Involved in installations of HT lines, LT lines, Transformers and streetlights. • They are now supplying electricity to 17845 pump sets. Their other activities are; Manufacture and repair of transformers, Manufacture of cement poles, steel parts for transmission towers, etc. This co-operative society is now an independent entity which is operating on a stand-alone basis in catering uninterrupted electricity to agriculture pump sets and other types of consumers as mentioned above. It is pertinent to conclude that many more Gram Panchayats can group together and form similar entities and cater to agriculture pump sets and other consumers in similar fashion and solve the power scarcity to a great extent. This will also solve the problems that are encountered by the grid such as transmission loss, voltage fluctuation etc. DISTRIBUTED GENERATION OF POWER: (D G) This is attracting a lot of attention worldwide. Several applications of DG are Standby power, Combined Heat and Power (CHP),Peak Shaving, Grid support and stand-alone power. The Hukkeri model can be used to transport the power generated by these independent power producers and cater to the consumers without any hitch. G. OBSTACLES IN PROCURING CLEARANCES; It is generally concluded that the main culprits of the supply and demand chaos which has resulted in the power crisis in India are the land and Environmental clearances, short supply of quality coal to the power plants, and Transmission and Distribution losses. But, there are other issues which are equally detrimental and contributes to the present power crisis which are as mentioned below: 1. Lack of concerted efforts made to extract Natural gas indigenously to replace coal even though coal is still the cheapest source. 2. Dearth of trained supervisors and skilled technicians which is already discussed: This can be achieved by initiating a full-fledged training course and creating an awareness about the complete aspect of Electricity, Power generation, transmission, Distribution, and at the same time the concept of Power conservation to the Supervisors and Technicians. This training will result as a big boon to these personnel when they are engaged in the erection and operation of the power plants. Unfortunately, it is observed by experience, that this important factor is totally overlooked by most of the concerned authorities at site, resulting in unnecessary breakdown of the power plant. 1. RENEWABLE ENERGY: The Power secretary, Mr: Shankar has stated that India plans 17,000M.W.of Renewable based power generation during the 12th five year plan. But the proper planning and distribution of finance to solar projects, Wind mills, and Micro and mini hydro projects seems to be the main constraints to achieve this target. Solar Energy: More than enough solar energy to meet worldwide energy consumption for a whole year reaches the earth in a single hour. But, the utility of this energy is negligible. That is PVs contribution to world electricity supply remains relatively negligent. 2. BIO- MASS Power generation: Co-generation of power in Sugar industries accounts for the highest percentage of generation of power among all the industries. It generates its own fuel for generation of power in the form of Bagasse. In spite of this advantage, the sugar mills are not performing to its capacity the reason being: There are around 475 sugar mills in India, out of which, 50% of them are more than 35 years old and are sick. If these can refurbished or are replaced by new ones, the generation from the sugar mills alone can be to the tune of at least 4000M.W. The generation of power can be further enhanced by increasing the capacity of Captive power plants. 3. REHABILITATION OF OLD AND SICK POWER PLANS: There are a good number of Thermal power plants which are quite old and sick. These plants invariably break down every now and then, causing a heavy strain on the grid, creating unwarranted outages. A separate entity in the form of a corporation consisting of expert Engineers, supervisors and skilled technicians must be formed to tackle this issue immediately. This way the power plant capacity will increase to a great extent and solve the power problem considerably. This also means that, by making these old plants to run at its rated capacity, the burden of installing new plants of that much capacity is avoided. 4. Engineering colleges : It is advisable to institute a separate discipline on Energy, pertaining to Power generation, Transmission, Distribution and also Energy audit in Engineering colleges so that the graduates who begin their career in the power sector are ready to take these highly sophisticated assignments. 5. USEFUL TIPS TO SAVE ENERGY: A comprehensive long list of useful tips are initiated by agencies like BEE, PCRA and several NGOs to save energy in the domestic, Industrial and Agricultural sectors. An awareness has to be created in all these departments and implementation of these tips should be made mandatory. 6. CRIMINAL WASTE OF ELECTRICITY. It is of paramount importance, that, the respective State electricity boards should not only take stringent steps to curb Transmission loss and Theft of Electricity, but also keep a vigil on the wasteful usage of electricity. One can witness this waste of energy during open air functions and celebrations conducted by both government and private agencies. One glaring example is, It has become the practice to conduct one day and T-20 cricket matches across the nation during nights consuming a large quantity of electricity. Some centres depend mostly on the electricity boards and some run their own in- house Diesel Generator sets. Using electricity from the board should be stopped immediately so that, the same could be used in more important and productive sectors. Consuming Diesel oil to run the D.G. sets during these matches which amounts to several thousands of litres should also be stopped forthwith and diverted to more important, meaningfull and genuine consumers of electricity. That means, it is obvious that these matches should be played only during the day. 7. RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT. The activities in the research and development in the power sector is almost negligible. There is an enormous scope and potential in Conventional and Renewable energy that too in solar energy, bio-mass energy, Tidal/ocean power and Geo- thermal power. The government should release generous funds towards these fields and take an active part to achieve the desired results. 8. INVOLVEMENT OF VILLAGE PANCHAYATS. It is an accepted fact, that the planning and management of electricity in both the urban and rural sectors plays a major role in power distribution. It is also observed that the effort put in the rural sector in this regard is below par and needs more attention. Gram Panchayats can play a big role in this aspect. A group of Gram Panchayats, as discussed earlier, can adopt the Hukkeri case as a role model. This will enable them to implement “Distribution generation of Power.” The Gram Panchayath in this case, through the Hukkeri mode can manage the power generated by Stand alone and other generating units, in the rural areas. This way, the transmission and distribution of electricity in and around the local areas can be managed easily and thus the T&D losses are reduced to the minimum. It is very important to note that, the members of the gram panchayats are educated and created an awareness among them regarding Electricity and its Benefits so that this valuable commodity is handled by them efficiently. It is prudent once again to conclude that the GPs in India should be reformed and modernised and made stronger by making them a technically viable proposition to handle electricity. Finally, to sum it up, if we have to achieve the targets and make the 12th five year plan a success, and serve the people across the nation, particularly the Industrialised and Agricultural sectors and the farmers in the villages, the above mentioned issues must be addressed on a war footing with immediate effect. “THE POWER CRISIS WILL BE A THING OF THE PAST.” 1 January 2013 L .R.Srinivas BENGALURU : 097400-67873

Thursday, August 02, 2012


An Electrical Grid Is Pressed to Its Limit

An Electrical Grid Is Pressed to Its Limit

By MATTHEW L. WALD Published: July 31, 2012

WASHINGTON — The Indian electrical grid, said Arshad Mansoor, the senior vice president for research and development at the Electric Power Research Institute in Palo Alto, Calif., is like "a whole bunch of rubber bands." Cutting some, he said, might make no difference, but cutting another one could make the web fall apart.

"You don't know which one is stretched, and their system is really stretched," said Dr. Mansoor, whose undergraduate degree is from a university in Bangladesh and whose master's and Ph.D. are from the University of Texas, Austin. The American grid has more resilience, he said, because it has excess capacity that can be turned to very quickly if a single generator or power line fails, but India is woefully short of capacity.

The area blacked out in India is effectively a single, interconnected grid, which means that power is transmitted through it almost instantaneously, as are imbalances, explained Raj Rao, an American electric company executive who is a frequent visitor to India and is familiar with the system there.

Mr. Rao, who is the president and chief executive of the Indiana Municipal Power Agency, based in Carmel, Ind., agreed that India is chronically short of generating capacity, a problem exacerbated by a shortage of coal. But shortages of generating capacity do not produce widespread power failures; power system operators manage those with rotating blackouts.

The United States had an extensive blackout in the summer of 2003 that stretched from Detroit to New York City. Mr. Rao and others cautioned that a definitive engineering analysis of the Indian blackout would take months, as it did after the American blackout in 2003.

But, he said, the most likely mechanism was a botched attempt to black out a small area temporarily. For example, he said, if the generating capacity was 120 megawatts and the available capacity was 100, that would require unplugging 20 megawatts of load.

"My hunch is, somebody fell asleep and they did not cut off the 20 megawatts," he said. "And that's where you run into trouble."

When demand on the generators runs higher than they can satisfy, they automatically disconnect themselves to prevent mechanical damage, and as each one drops off, it makes a cascade more certain, he said. The first generators would cut out in a fraction of a second, he said.

Mr. Mansoor noted that parts of the Indian grid were quite modern, including a class of automatic devices called relays that will shut down parts of the system if they sense an imbalance. These relays monitor the alternating current system (which in India is 50 cycles, compared with 60 cycles in North America).

If the frequency slows down because demand exceeds supply, relays will shut down power lines or transformers, to protect the system, he said, but if they cut off too much load, frequency will bounce back at too high a level, leading to a disturbance that propagates through the system. 

Gopinath S Bangalore
91 99161 29728

Friday, June 08, 2012


The steel shock by Sunita Narain

When the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) started its Green Rating Project in the mid-1990s, India had just liberalised its economy. Fears were that it would be disastrous if the country took the route to economic growth that ignored environmental considerations. The Green Rating Project was designed to find ways of measuring the environmental performance of companies and to drive changes in policy and practice through public disclosure.

First we rated the pulp and paper sector that has a massive footprint on the environment. It is also a sector that needs huge quantities of water for production and creates pollution on a large scale. When CSE wrote to companies about its public disclosure project, the response, to say the least, was lukewarm. Frankly, they did not have a clue about environmental management. They did not know what to monitor or measure, nor did they have a department for such affairs. Only one company had an ISO 14001 certification. The first rating put emphasis on management systems. But an interesting outcome was the gradual opening up of this sector to public scrutiny and disclosure. There was willingness to engage, a desire to learn.e rating was successful, especially if one considers the fact that when we returned to this sector some five years later, we saw much improvement.The industry accepted the fact that the benchmarks we provided on different resource use and environmental performance parameters helped it improve its accounting. This in turn cleaned up its act.

When we rated other sectors—automobile, chlor-alkali and cement—in the first decade of this century we thought India had crossed the environmental hump. In each sector we saw improvement. By the time we reached the cement sector we noted Indian industry was close to the global best on many parameters. Environmental performance was worse where there was no visible push. But on the whole, everything looked better. By then environment was the in thing; company heads were discussing this; management systems existed and there was public adulation for companies with green credentials. Even the most polluting industry would not say that it was not green. We were ready to say that environment had been mainstreamed in Indian industry.

However, in 2012 we would like to revise our assessment. It follows from the rating of the iron and steel sector. It is the core sector of the economy (with its own Union ministry and its very own prime minister's award for best performer) that involves the biggest industry names. Rating it has been a shocker. The Green Rating Project's assessment, after two years of detailed plant-wise scrutiny, is that this sector is non-transparent, non-compliant with weak environmental norms and is getting away with it because of an even weaker regulatory framework.

What is also clear is that economics of production is a key driver for change. It makes companies innovate to improve the bottom line. In this sector, which is all about material and energy, anything that companies do to improve their bottom line also works to better environmental performance. It is interesting to note that top three companies work against economic odds. They import fuel and do not have captive mines for iron ore. In gas-based Essar Steel at Hazira and Ispat Industries in Raigad energy costs are as high as 23-30 per cent of the turnover. In Rashtriya Ispat Nigam in Visakhapatnam iron ore constitutes 17 per cent of its turnover and coking coal another 31 per cent. But in Tata Steel in Jamshedpur, Jindal Steel and Power in Raigarh or SAIL in Rourkela the cost of iron ore is only 3-10 per cent of the turnover.

So, there is no level playing field. The top three companies have no option but to innovate. They have invested in efficient technologies and work hard to reduce the cost of energy and improve material efficiency by ensuring reuse. This effort, made for economic imperatives, also improves their environmental performance. But it is incidental, not deliberate. That's why it is not enough, and it shows up in the CSE scorecard. Even the best company, which has inherent advantages of running on clean fuel like natural gas and imports its coking coal, scores a low 40 per cent.

The poor environmental performance of this sector points to the complete failure of the regulatory institutions. Nobody is asking this sector to improve its green bottom line; nobody measures and monitors actual performance. One should not be surprised for the country has worked to decimate its pollution regulatory structure.

As I said, this does not bode well for the future. This is a sector that is expanding fast. Within this decade steel production has gone from 24 million tonnes annually to close to 70 million tonnes. It is aiming to be a 100-million-tonne industry in the next four years. If expansion takes place in this business-as-usually-bad scenario, environmental costs will be too high for the country to bear. Therefore, there is only one way ahead: to move towards a truly green steel industry, and not spend more time on greenwash. This is technically achievable. The only question is who and what will drive the change. 

Gopinath S
Chief Executive
nRG Consulting Services, Bangalore
+91 99161 29728

Thursday, April 12, 2012


Unique scheme for energy efficiency


The Power Ministry had notified units consuming more energy in paper and
some industries.

India's Perform, Achieve and Trade Mechanism creates a market for energy
efficiency through tradable certificates.

As the sun was setting on the previous fiscal year, the Ministry of Power
and Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) were quietly resurrecting a historic
regulation for accelerating energy efficiency in the industrial sector. The
set of notifications issued on March 30, 2012, requires 478 industries to
achieve reductions in specific energy consumption by an average of 5 per
cent during the next 3 years. This scheme is the first of its kind in a
developing country.

The Perform, Achieve and Trade (PAT) mechanism, as the scheme is called,
requires notified industries to invest in energy efficiency and reduce at
least 5 per cent of input energy cost for self and public good. The savings
in the first three years of the scheme are estimated at 9.8 million tonnes
of oil equivalent of energy or approximately 9000 MW of avoided thermal
power capacity, without compromising on the industrial output.

The direct benefits for the participating industries in this period is
reductions in input costs related to energy of approximately Rs 30,000
crore at the current oil prices.

Needless to add, this will significantly enhance global competitiveness of
industry while simultaneously reducing India's overall GHG emissions. The
PAT scheme is the flagship scheme of the National Mission for Enhanced
Energy Efficiency (NMEEE), which is one of the 8 national missions
announced under the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) by the
Prime Minister in June 2008.

The thrust of NAPCC is towards development of multi-pronged, long-term, and
integrated strategies for achieving key goals of sustainable development,
while balancing the concerns of climate change.

The scheme builds on the provision of the Energy Conservation Act that
empowers the Central Government to notify energy-intensive industries and
mandate them to report their energy usage, appoint Energy Managers, and
adhere to targets for energy efficiency.

The Ministry of Power had, in 2007, notified units consuming energy more
than the prescribed benchmark in 9 industrial sectors — namely Thermal
Power Plants, Fertilisers, Cement, Pulp and Paper, Textiles, Chlor Alkali,
Steel, Aluminium and Railways. The present notification requires the 478
listed industries amongst the 9 industrial sectors to achieve the target
for Specific Energy Consumption (SEC) by 2015. SEC, as defined under the
scheme, is the energy used for generating a unit of output.

The scheme is unique in many ways, particularly from a developing-country
perspective. Firstly, it creates a market for energy efficiency through
tradable certificates, called Energy Saving Certificate (ESCerts) by
allowing them to be used for meeting targets. These certificates can be
issued to any of the 478 industries who are able to exceed their respective
notified target, the value of the certificate being the excess achievement,
more than the target set. The beneficiary industry could trade this
certificate to any of the rest of the entities (of the 478) that is unable
to meet its target, as buying ESCerts has been allowed as sufficient
fulfilment of compliance requirement without any penal action.

Thus, the scheme, by allowing the use of market-based instrument in the
form of ESCerts, incentivises to over-achieve at the individual industry
level, while simultaneously making sure that the overall goal of improving
energy intensity is achieved in the most economical manner. This innovative
mechanism to encourage compliance is a significant departure from the
command and control regime, while promising to be more efficient,
transparent, and inclusive.

Secondly, the rules promulgated take note of the fact that the scheme,
particularly its market creation goal, needs to align with the investment
decision-making processes of the private sector. In order to make sure that
industries take a considered decision of making investments for achievement
of specified targets or purchasing ESCerts, the certainty of adequate
numbers of ESCerts being available as well as their price needs to be known
much earlier than the end of the compliance period.

Under normal circumstances, both these parameters would be known at the end
of the compliance period of 3 years. The rules notified allow intermediate
issue of ESCerts after every year, based on partial fulfilment of targets,
and thereby enable sufficient liquidity of ESCerts in the market at the end
of the first year itself, allowing for decision by the remaining actors to
purchase them for compliance. This will create the critical mass for market
for ESCert to function.

Thirdly, the monitoring and verification protocol of the scheme culls out
the best from similar schemes around the globe, simultaneously making it
simple, transparent and effective. The targeted reduction of SEC is
measured on a gate-to-gate basis, by measuring energy usage per unit of
output. The simplicity of approach will not only make the exercise robust,
but will also encourage companies to comply due to reduced cost of

Fourthly, the rules outline the monitoring and verification mechanism by
inviting reputed agencies having adequate technical knowledge and having
energy auditors certified by BEE. The eligibility conditions, the manner of
their appointment, have been elaborated in the rules, making them
transparent and credible at par with global standards. It also includes a
liability clause for the monitoring and verification agencies to guard
against frivolous certifications.

Fifthly, the scheme assimilates several competing issues seamlessly under
its domain. Being an energy intensity reduction (or energy efficiency)
scheme, it doesn't present any restriction on the expansion of capacity. It
may be mentioned that an energy or emission cap scheme would have needed
reduction in energy use, and thereby the output from the baseline.

The added incentive of ESCerts and its attendant additional monetary
benefits enhances the attractiveness of implementing energy efficiency. The
overall reduction in energy use enhances efforts towards energy security,
reducing GHG emissions, while simultaneously taking the industry on a
higher growth path.

The scheme has been a result of extensive consultations, both at the policy
level as well as with the industries, and addresses most of the concerns.
PAT scheme has all the traits to become a benchmark for design and
implementation of policies and measures, particularly when the need for
aligning of competing incentives of various actors exists. It also
highlights an innovative approach of introducing market-based instruments
to encourage compliance. Successful implementation of the scheme could
serve as a model for upcoming and existing environmental regulations in a
transparent and economically efficient manner.

(The author is Programme Officer, OzoneAction Programme, United Nations
Environment Programme, Bangkok.)

Gopinath S
Chief Executive
nRG Consulting Services, Bangalore
+91 99161 29728

Wednesday, April 04, 2012


How India is getting gas and coal policy wrong

EDITORIAL: How India is getting gas and coal policy wrong
by Sunita Narain
Two monopolies. One private and the other public; one in gas and one in
coal. Both equally disastrous for the environment. I speak here of
Reliance Industries Ltd and Coal India Ltd.

We know that air pollution in Indian cities is hazardous. We need urgent
solutions to cut emissions from all sources so that we do not lose this
critical health battle. In Delhi and its surrounding region, for
instance, we know that air toxins are a clear and present danger. The
tiny particles of PM 2.5 that can go deep into lungs and cause serous
health impairment are several times higher than standards during
winters. In addition, nitrogen oxide (NOx) levels are rising because of
the burning of diesel and coal. A new danger is lurking: ozone, a deadly
pollutant, which targets lungs and is linked to high NOx emissions.

We need to find urgent solutions. We know that one big part of the
solution is to reinvent mobility and to phase out diesel use in
vehicles. Another part of the solution is to phase out coal use in
thermal power stations in densely polluted areas and to run them on
relatively cleaner natural gas. Gas-based power stations have no
particulate emissions and much lower NOx emissions. They can achieve 20
ppm NOx levels where coal-based power stations have no standards but
emit between 100 ppm and 300 ppm. Coal-based power plants are regulated
based on their stack height—the assumption is that the higher the
dispersion of pollutants, the lesser the problem. But this worked when
there was cleaner air for dilution. It does not work now. So the
transition done in the case of vehicles to compressed natural gas (CNG),
which helped the city leapfrog to cleaner air, is needed in power plants
as well.

This has been accepted. So, for the past few years, Delhi and its
surrounding region have invested in building gas-based power plants.
Delhi has shut down its coal-based IP power plant and is waiting to
close the Rajghat power station. It has built Pragati, Bawana and
Rithala plants. The combined installed capacity of these gas-based power
plants is over 1,730 MW. In addition, the city is ready to invest in a
plant of 700 MW at Bamnoli and to convert three units of the Badarpur
power plant to gas.

But there is a small hitch. There is no gas to run these commissioned
plants. The country, they say, has run out of gas. Oops! This is exactly
what was said over a decade ago when demand was raised for natural gas
to run vehicles. Then, gas became available; there was talk about huge
finds in the Krishna-Godavari basin. But now the wells have mysteriously
dried up, gone kaput.

Or so it is said. According to the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas
(MoPNG), India's gas output is expected to fall by a whopping 35 per
cent in this fiscal and another 12 per cent next year. Nobody cares to
explain this. But it is clear that the new monopoly player—Reliance
Industries—is not playing ball. The Comptroller and Auditor General of
India's (CAG's) report on hydrocarbon production sharing contracts has a
damning indictment of the loss to the exchequer in the allotment of the
gas field and of the manner in which the capital costs have been rigged
to reduce the sharing with government. The widely held belief is that
exploration is down and gas is drying up because Reliance Industries
wants prices to be hiked. It wants control over the sale and allocation
of gas. Its partner in this is oil major BP, which picked up 30 per cent
stake in it for US $7.2 billion. Clearly, this investment would not have
been made if the fields were dud.

In coal the story is same and different. It is said that thermal power
plants are running out of coal because environment and forest clearances
are holding up projects. So there is a clamour to open up more forests
to private players. The leaked draft report of CAG on allocation of coal
blocks reveals dirty secrets. What is worse is that Coal India, which
produces 90 per cent of India's black gold, has under its control some
200,000 hectares (ha) of mine lease area, including 55,000 ha of forest
land. Still it produces only about 500 million tonnes annually. So it is
convenient for all to not fix this supply problem, but ask for even more
forests to be mined.

The environment is hurt in both ways—by the unavailability of natural
gas, which would have cleaned up emissions; and by the demand to destroy
more forests, surrounding water bodies and livelihoods of people,
because of our inability to use the existing coal fields optimally.

The issue also hides the serious problem of pricing power at affordable
levels, given the rising price of coal and gas. Currently, imported and
re-liquified gas price is touching US $17-18 mmscd. Imported coal price
has also spiralled out of control. In this scenario, the options are as
follows: one, to maximise domestic resources and operate them at tight
capital and operational costs; and two, pay for higher raw material
costs in power generation by investing in reducing inefficiencies,
including losses in transmission. As yet, there is little evidence that
we are moving in any of these directions. The only evidence is that the
big monopolies are taking us for a ride with disastrous consequences for
our health and environment.

Gopinath S
Chief Executive
nRG Consulting Services, Bangalore
+91 99161 29728

Friday, March 30, 2012


Rice husk, solar energy to solve power issues

Rice husk, solar energy to solve power issues
Chetan Chauhan, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, March 29, 2012
First Published: 00:17 IST(29/3/2012)
Last Updated: 02:26 IST(29/3/2012)
share more...
1 Comment         
If all goes well, rice husk and solar power — two very unlikely entities — will together provide rural India with a twin solution to its problems of power shortage and lack of storage for agriculture produce. What's more, the evolving system promises zero emission of pollutants as well.

The government's Solar Energy Centre has managed to make use of rice husk and solar power, which are both being wasted at present, to come up with a technological marvel that would prevent wastage of food grains in rural India. "Around one-third of the agriculture produce goes waste in the absence of adequate storage facilities," said SK Singh, director of the centre run by the ministry of new and renewable energy. "Our technology can help set up low-cost cold storages in rural India."

Through this project, the ministry provided electricity to every household in a village in Bihar's West Champaran district in August 2007. The rice husk is burnt to produce enough energy for powering a turbine and producing electricity. As of now, there are 60 mini-rice husk powered electricity plants that light 25,000 households in different parts of the country.

The emission from the rice husk plants is coupled with energy generated by solar thermal plates to run a cold storage with a capacity of 15 tonnes.

The project, undertaken in collaboration with Thermax and The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), has gone past the experiment stage and is set to be rolled out in rural India. "Bihar could be our first destination, because integrating the solar unit with rice husk power systems would be easy there," said Gireesh B Pradhan, secretary, ministry of new and renewable energy.

To dispel the belief that solar energy is only meant for villages, the Solar Energy Centre has also developed the world's most efficient solar-based air-conditioning unit, which can run for over eight hours in urban commercial complexes. "Three or four such units have already been installed in companies such as TVS Motors," said an official from private partner, Thermax.

The Centre is also developing a diesel-solar hybrid unit to power industrial units at an estimated cost of Rs 90 lakh. "The additional cost can be recovered in less than five years, and it will run effectively for 20," said another scientist.

Gopinath S
Chief Executive
nRG Consulting Services, Bangalore
+91 99161 29728