Beat the pollution crisis, switch to solar energy

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Published : Nov 16, 2021, 7:50 PM IST

Updated : Nov 16, 2021, 9:11 PM IST


India needs some kind of a revolution to reduce the share of emissions in the total Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The country aims to achieve 40 per cent of its power capacity from renewable sources by the end of this decade. This aim is in line with the Paris Agreement. However, these goals can be achieved only through optimum utilization of the solar energy potential in the country, writes Ashad Mofiz, Assistant Manager, Corporate Communications, Jakson Group.

Hyderabad: There are two major topics that are driving the conversation in the energy space today: decarbonization and equitable power distribution. This is a part of the global quest to save the planet from the harmful effects of increased fossil fuel usage and rising carbon emissions.

India continues to be highly dependent on burning fossil fuels to generate electricity for households and commercial establishments. At the same time, around 200 million people in the country still lack electricity. And the demand continues to rise rapidly, owing to overpopulation and increasing energy demand. Moreover, the conventional power sector in the country has led to an extremely high concentration of fossil fuels in the economy despite lack of access to electricity to a sizeable population.

India needs some kind of a revolution to reduce the share of emissions in the total Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The country aims to achieve 40 per cent of its power capacity from renewable sources by the end of this decade. This aim is in line with the Paris Agreement. However, these goals can be achieved only through optimum utilization of the solar energy potential in the country.

The pollution crisis is becoming a stiff challenge in India. Make no mistake, the entire world is battling growing pollution. As per the United Nations, global warming has risen by almost 50% over the last three decades. Meanwhile, carbon emissions generated by burning fossil fuels has also grown at a steep rate of 62%.

We are now forced to live in unhealthy conditions and spend a sizeable share of our incomes on mitigating public health risks.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), around 90% of human beings are presently breathing polluted air. In India, exposure to air pollution is the third largest cause of death, responsible for a whopping 4.2 million deaths per year. 21 out of the world's 30 most polluted cities are located in India. Most of the Indian cities transgress the limits of air quality guidelines issued by the WHO.

The average PM 2.5 concentration in India stands at 50.08, with some industrial hubs in Uttar Pradesh including Moradabad, Ghaziabad, Greater Noida and Noida affected by egregiously poor air quality indices. Other Indian cities like Guwahati, Muzaffarpur, Delhi, Meerut, Siliguri, Kanpur and Lucknow too are affected by poor air quality.

In fact, the National Capital Region itself is infested with growing air pollution levels. The government has tried bringing down pollution levels by curbing stubble burning, traffic congestion and burning of firecrackers. The Delhi Government has also tried to restrict use of bad fuels by restricting use of diesel generations to emergency services under its Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP). Innovative solutions like organic composting solution that come in the form of capsules too have emerged as an alternative to stubble burning. Yet, the carbon footprint is dominated by household, industrial and commercial consumption through unclean sources which must be handled properly.

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Pollution can have harmful effects on our bio diversity as well, such as Eutrophication in water bodies. The excessive accumulation of nutrients like nitrogen in rivers and lakes due to pollution encourages uncontrolled growth of algae, which in turn, depletes oxygen levels and harms aquatic life. This is just illustrative of how air pollution can cause irreversible damage to thriving natural environments for many aquatic and land species.

The main issue currently facing policymakers is- how do we curb pollution while finding a clean alternative(s) to conventional fossil fuels, especially for power generation, as they remain the main pollutants and their fast-depleting stocks.

When it comes to making renewable energy more accessible and efficient for the general public, India is justifiably choosing solar energy.

Currently, solar energy is the most viable alternative in the country as India gets ample sunlight throughout the year and is a self-sufficient source of power generation. Solar power is not just environment-friendly but also cost-efficient. The traditional electrification program involves heavy public spending on electricity grids.

Solar energy can easily transform and change the fundamental character of India's fossil fuels-based power sector. Rooftop solar projects provide a good level of flexibility when it comes to generation and usage of solar power by all kinds of users- be it a large scale industrial establishment, or a small commercial or residential facility.

In India's overpopulated cities, empty rooftops can be put to good use by installing rooftop solar projects that generate on-site power for use by the host building.

It is estimated that in areas with around 250-300 days of sunshine, a 1KW rooftop solar project can help save 30 tonnes of carbon emissions over a period of 25 years. This is equivalent to planting 50 trees, which is quite a healthy environmental practice if adopted on a mass scale. Solar rooftops already dominate the solar power industry. Rooftop solar installations account for 40% or 40 GW of India’s 100 GW solar capacity enhancement target.

In fact, the Government of India is promoting use of solar power by providing 30% subsidy on installation of rooftop PV systems in general states and a subsidy of 70% on installation of rooftop PV systems in some special states, namely Uttarakhand, Sikkim, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir and Lakshadweep. India's efforts to encourage solar energy is in line with the larger spirit of Aatmanirbhar Bharat (self-reliant India).

Last week, during the UN climate change conference (COP26) in Glasgow, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his British counterpart Boris Johnson jointly launched the 'One Sun One World One Grid', a transnational solar grid initiative.

Despite all the advantages of solar power generation in India, there are some limitations like size of the roof and capacity limitations imposed by power distribution companies. The orientation of the roof also becomes important because in the Northern Hemisphere, south-facing rooftop solar systems are able to tap in more sunlight.

However, these minor challenges can be negated by the simple fact that electricity generation is totally devoted to the building which serves as the site of power generation. Also, the net-metering system allows transferring excess power to the grid which can be consumed during non-sunlight periods.

It is worth noting that despite the limitations, India has made tremendous progress in increasing its solar energy capacity and ensuring wider adaption of off-grid solar solutions. During the UN Climate Summit in Glasgow, India stated that it has steadily increased its solar energy capacity 17 times in the last seven years to 45 GW. India’s efforts to develop solar energy capacity will help reduce its reliance on fossil fuels, improve public health, safeguard our rich biodiversity, and will play a crucial role in realizing its net-zero emission goals by 2070.

Last Updated :Nov 16, 2021, 9:11 PM IST
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