By Geeta Dash
Growing population, rapid urbanization, improving economic condition of the people and urgent need to lower the pollution level have increased the demand for Solar power in South Asia.
“It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light” said Aristotle, the Greek philosopher and polymath 2500 years back. Ironically when the planet Earth is now facing ecocatastrophe due to excessive Green House Gas emission caused by fossil fuels, the environmental scientists are looking at the Sun. They are urging to abandon the use of fossil fuels at the earliest and to produce green clean renewable energy, that does not pollute the environment and prevents climate change.
Solar power is harvested from direct solar radiation through ‘collectors’ and photovoltaic (PV) cells. It is also produced by the Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) system. A PV panel system, which can be easily distributed and mounted on land, rooftops, poles, etc., is convenient for local use. The CSP system however requires considerable operational areas (about 2 Hectare for generating one megawatt) and other infrastructures. Since solar power is produced only in the day time and is dependent on weather conditions, large solar power plants or solar parks should have wind mills or small hydro-power units near by, so that such alternative energy, together, can supplement each other through common pool or grid for continuous supply of steady uninterrupted power to the consumers.
Solar electricity is cheap and can be produced on-the spot, even in remote areas with or without conventional power supply. Thus, it can improve the standard of living and boost economic development. Solar electricity has multiple uses, including rural electrification, cooling and heating for buildings, water heating, refrigeration, distillation, pumping drying, cooking, lighting, transportation (electric vehicles and power boats), television transmission and a lot more.
Recently, the nondescript hamlet of Palli in Jammu and Kashmir has become India’s first ‘Carbon Neutral Panchayat’ with a 500 KV solar power plant; that will provide clean electricity to 340 houses, under the Gram Urja Swaraj program of the Central Government. The Indian initiative to generate 10 GW solar power in order to run 20 lakh agricultural pumps, involving 3.5 million farmers under the PM-KUSUM Scheme is worth mentioning.
India is world’s third largest producer as well as consumer of electricity and it is also the third largest producer of renewable energy. As against the potential to produce 900 GW of renewable energy (750 GW of solar), India has an installation capacity of 157.32 GW renewable energy (includes 44 GW of solar energy approx); which is about 40% of the total installation.
The National Solar Mission (NSM) under the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) aims to make India the global leader in solar energy. India is therefore working to maximise solar energy production in the country as well as in neighbouring South Asian countries as per the “Neighbourhood first” policy, adopted by Government of India. But the export, import or exchange of energies in between different regions need easy power-trading facilities with grid connectivity and storage as well as transmission facility. The organisations such as South Asia Forum For Infrastructure Regulation (SAFIR), World Bank, Asian Development Bank, initiatives such as USAID’s South Asia Regional Initiative for Energy Integration (SARI/EI) program and trade facilitators like Power Trade Corporation Of India (PTC), Indian Energy Exchange Limited (IEX), Power Exchange India Limited (PXIL) and other Research and Development wings of corporates, companies and private players are also working for facilitating Cross Border Energy Trade (CBET) in South Asia.
USAID’s SARI/EI program currently being implemented by South Asian thinktank IRADe, has been playing an important role in holding discussions in between the governments of South Asian countries, bringing the government as well as non-government stakeholders together, encouraging the setting up of a common regional power market, facilitating setting up of regional-level institutions for sustainable CBET as well as building awareness and consensus on benefits of CBET among the masses.
India has initiated a programme called “One Sun, One World, One Grid” (OSOWOG), to utilize sun-shine in different neighbouring countries, in different times, different weathers, by establishing transnational electric grids in order to supply solar power across the globe.
The main objective of OSOWOG is to build a global ecosystem of interconnected renewable energy resources and to provide uninterrupted secured electricity to all human beings. This mega project will be taken up under the technical assistance program of World Bank. In the first phase, the energy interconnectivity will be in Asia; particularly in Middle East, South Asia and South East Asia. In the second phase the connectivity will be with the African pool and the third phase will mark the globalization of the green grid system.
A tripartite MOU has already been executed in 2020, between International Solar Alliance (ISA), World Bank and Government of India for this purpose. Nepal, a member of ISA has also agreed to export it’s surplus hydro power to India, which will contribute to its economic development. India and Sri Lanka have signed an agreement on March 2022, to install a 100 megawatt solar power plant at Trincomalee in Sri Lanka in order to strengthen their bilateral economic relationship.
The growing population of the South Asian countries, rapid urbanization and slowly improving economic condition of the people as well as the need to lower the pollution level, have increased the demand for renewable clean energy. The easy exchange of power in between these countries can not only help in solving the power supply problems in general; but also can help in the economic growth of different regions in particular. The cheap and easy availability of solar power will be a blessing in any case !
By: Geeta Dash
(The author is a recipient of ‘Media Fellowship’ from NTPC School of Business, under the ‘Think-Tank Project’ funded by USAID for the SARI/EI project, currently being implemented by IRADe.)