Tuesday, October 21, 2008


The Kyoto Protocol, aimed at reducing green gas emissions to arrest the fast deteriorating climate changes, might not be popular with some countries which find it difficult to moderate the lives of their citizens through cutting down on fossil fuel use and ostentatious style of consumption. But world in general seems to be grasping the significance of such measures as switching over to alternate renewable energy sources and countries like Norway are taking up the leadership in this noble endeavor. To day energy is being generated from diverse sources such as Sun, Wind, Atoms, Ocean Waves and the Earth.

Solar energy was touted as the best alternate option because it is the cleanest energy with unlimited potential that can be obtained easily from solar radiation through photovoltaic cells. However the investment per kilowatt of energy captured from the sun is exorbitant, making it difficult to promote on a large scale. Even in the house holds the initial cost works out to more than Rs 3 lakh per kw energy generated and it can never compete favorably with inverters which can be installed at less than Rs 25000 per kw power. Probably heavy subsidization and other economic incentives combined with uncontrollable escalation of the cost of fossil fuels may still rescue solar power from oblivion. Scarcity and unpredictability of power from hydroelectric sources and other conventional power plants will also compel large players to turn to solar power and capitalize the initial cost of building such power packs in newer facilities.

Wind mills are increasingly becoming part of the landscape in many countries including India, China, Germany, Norway, USA etc but here again the initial cost is considered very high and unaffordable for the industry. Governments can think of investing in such power plants for supplementing the grid power, the high generation cost being evened out by the low cost conventional power. Similarly Wave energy now being made technologically feasible may yet emerge as a serious contender as a future source if the initial capital cost comes down significantly. Geothermal energy using heat sinks is being tried out in a limited way to augment domestic power needs and the possibility of further technological break-through to reduce the cost and develop larger versions cannot be ruled out. Nuclear energy is a class by itself and is a zero polluting industry though disposal of waste fuel still poses enormous environmental problems.

The dramatic growth of the green energy sector is reflected by the fact that there are to day about 400 fabricators of power plants based on renewable sources with no environmental hazards, doing business worth $300 billion which is considered bigger than the IT and Bio tech industry put together. From 160 manufacturers in 2004 and 300 in 2007, the present scenario is reassuring and the growth is expected to be phenomenal in the coming years. While majors like L & T, Suzlon, Vestas will redouble their efforts to promote green energy in a big way, many small start up companies will find sufficient space for snatching a piece of cake through innovative and cost effective services.

Considering that food and beverage industry is one of the major CO2 emitting culprits right from production through processing, packing, storage, distribution and retailing, it is time that conscious efforts are made to cut down use of fossil fuels drastically by tapping alternate sources of power in a big way. It is ridiculous that on an average food industry invests 10 kC energy at various stages till consumption to get less than 2 kC of biologically usable energy! Why not assess future food projects more critically in terms of energy consumption, qualitatively and quantitatively and extend initiatives to those with most favorable ratings? In all the proposed Mega Food Parks a larger proportion of power must be generated from alternate sources limiting fossil fuel to absolute minimum. Through policy initiatives, all existing food industry must be given financial incentives to establish power packs based on non-conventional sources over a period of time.


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