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Renewable Energy Technologies

by Bhairab Giri Goswami last modified 2010-12-20 15:49

Rural India continues to suffer from energy poverty in variousRenewable energy technologies aspects of domestic energy use. Majority of heat energy for cooking, heating, agricultural processing is met by burning traditional biomass such as wood, agricultural residues, charcoal and dung. About  75% of rural households still depend on firewood for cooking, 10% on dungcake and about 5% on LPG. This process of cooking has low thermal efficiency and produces very high concentration of air pollutants that cause respiratory and eye infections. Collection of fuelwood itself results in drudgery of women and  children since they have to walk long distances to collect such fuels. Moreover, the time spent for this purpose is significantly long, depriving them of their additional income which they would have earned during that time. It is estimated that in rural north India 30 billion hours are spent annually in gathering fuel-wood and other traditional fuels. The economic burden of traditional biomass-based fuels, time to gather fuels, time lost in sickness, and cost of medicines is estimated to be some Rs 300 billion.

About 50% of rural households depend on kerosene for lighting. Access to electricity and the services it provides (illumination, mechanical power, cooling) is also extremely limited. About 44 - 57% of the population, primarily in rural areas does not have access to reliable electricity.

From a longer term view on the threat of climate change and the need to diversify energy sources, renewables hold tremendous possibility. Solar power could be important for attaining energy independence as well as a green house gas-free energy system. A renewable energy source may be environment- friendly. It may be locally available thereby making it possible to supply energy at a cheaper cost. Further, renewables may provide employment and livelihood to the poor.

The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) is responsible for programmes covering renewable energy sources. One of the missions of the MNRE is to “enlarge energy availability and improve access to meet needs for clean energy for cooking, heating, motive power and captive generation in rural, urban, industrial, and commercial sectors.” MNRE programmes include rural energy programmes such as electrification of remote villages, biogas, and improved chulhas for cooking and; integrated rural energy programme (IREP). Under the 10th Plan, around 5000 remote villages/hamlets were provided with electricity from renewable energy sources mainly through solar energy. Village Energy Security Projects are under implementation in 100 villages and around 5 lakh biogas plants have been installed. Under the 11th Plan, one of the majo programmes of MNRE is “Renewable Energy for Rural Applications.” The Rural Electrification component under the current Bharat Nirman Programme envisages electrification of all 125000 un-electrified villages.

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