Thursday, May 31, 2012


Lot has been written and spoken about the impending energy crisis due to running out of the fossil fuels because of high rate of depletion of the reserves all over the world. To day's society is so much dependent on energy that many cannot envisage a world without abundant energy for maintaining the activities at the present pace. Besides fossil fuels and their by-products are inevitable to run the industry without which there could be economic chaos all around. The inequity that is the feature of to day's energy landscape is reflected by the lop sided use of fossil fuels by rich nations which are putting pressure on poor countries to cut down their energy consumption without showing any signs of self sacrifice! Added to this the environmental pollution that is changing the weather conditions for the worse arises because of carbon dioxide emission from burning the fuels. Here again poor countries are being pushed around by the well to do nations to cut down on such emissions drastically.

Newly emerging economies like India, China, Brazil, Indonesia etc have realized how important it is for them to have a bigger share of energy generated to catch up with the developed world in providing a decent life to their citizens and their dilemma is understandable when they take a stand that rich nations must sacrifice equally if not more by cutting down fossil fuel consumption and carbon emissions. It is not realized that warming up of the atmosphere can be disastrous for the entire world with rain falls becoming erratic and drought conditions prevailing more frequently which in turn adversely affect food production. It is true that food production on a globalized context always kept pace with population growth generating a feeling of comfort all around. but statistics cannot be relied upon when it comes to micro levels where food production is hampered creating shortages and famine. Perishable foods are vulnerable to easy and quick time spoilage unless the field heat is brought down after harvesting and their cold storage is ensured. If energy consumption is sought to be curtailed the food spoilage can attain monstrous proportion affecting the very health of millions of population residing in more than hundred countries who can achieve high productivity only to see most of it perishing at different stages from farm to the fork. Therefore cutting down on energy consumption may never be a practical answer to meet the crunch now being felt world over.

It is not that world is silently watching this deteriorating situation without doing any thing. In fact there have been tremendous efforts especially by the private sector to come up with alternate sources of energy at affordable cost. But the progress is not some thing one can be very proud of so far. There is lot of euphoria on alternate and sustainable energy technology conceptualized and developed and those in the forefront must be applauded for their ingenuity and hard work. Unfortunately world is still nostalgic about the past energy scenario when unlimited cheap energy was available from fossil fuels. News about energy being tapped from solar rays, oceanic waves, geothermal source, wind mills etc do not evoke much excitement because of the high cost in utilizing them as compared to conventional energy from hydroelectric, petroleum and coal resources. Solar energy is by far the most talked about technology and to some extent common man is exposed to this form of energy through solar water heating, solar based inverters, solar batteries and solar lights. If at all any alternative to fossil fuels is to become viable, only solar source is the one that may become a reality if modern day developments are any indication.

Thanks to Chinese initiatives solar energy cost has come down significantly during the last 2-3 years and new business models are being emerging that may transform the energy sector dramatically in the near future. There are some countries in Europe which have taken policy decisions to switch over to sustainable energy production setting for themselves amazing targets to increase proportion of renewable energy in their total energy consumption. The potential for solar energy is immense in many tropical countries and yet Europe seems to have out paced others in practicing renewable energy programs. One of the reasons why Europe is stealing a march is because of the investing capacity of the population there with high income, being able to afford the cost of solar panels and power generation equipment. Government policies offering attractive fiscal incentives for installing solar power packs also help in countries like the US to go in for this mode of energy production.

A flip part of the Chinese down pricing policy is the challenge faced by domestic solar power industry in countries like the US where people are increasingly going for cheap Chinese equipment in preference to indigenous ones on cost consideration. The condition has worsened further with new energy entrepreneurs bringing in innovative practices that in effect gives the users free power on no investment! Typically families lease out their roofs for the power generating companies to install solar panels which generate power in excess of the needs of the family and the investor makes money by supplying the excess power to the grid. Such lease arrangements are taking place across the US making the energy scenario a fast changing one.  

Recently some significant developments have taken place in the solar energy area that may revolutionize the energy sector like never before. Thanks to Chinese endeavor solar panel cost is coming down dramatically and consequently the energy generation cost is becoming cheaper, able to compete successfully with conventionally generated power. While corporate honchos are able to invest on roof top solar converters with their deep pockets, it is the home owner who finds it hard to mop up the required finances for installing solar power modules on the roof top. Sound economic sense may not justify spending on solar power packs at individual homes because the real energy cost works out to more than 100% of that available from the grid. In a country like India, investing in solar energy equipment attracts a measly discount of a few paise per unit which does not amount to even 5% of the utility bill!. Who ever goes for solar energy in this country can justify the decision only because of the perpetual power shortage and frequent shut downs one experiences in most parts of the country round the year.

The roof top leasing sounds attractive to many house holds in the US where it is becoming a popular option for those finding the utility bills escalating due to increasing cost of power generation. In India power suppliers, mostly government companies revise power tariffs almost every quarter making the lives of middle class families miserable. As the power bill payment cannot be deferred beyond a point consumers invariably pay up fearing disconnection. Such a situation gives sufficient confidence to entrepreneurs for venturing into roof top leasing activities with practically no risk. It is time such models are created in many tropical countries where solar energy is available abundantly during most parts of the year.  


1 comment:

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