The myths in power generation


E. A. S. Sarma

Power problems are attributed to shortage in generation capacity, not inefficiencies in the supply chain.

From thermal power generation to end-use appliances, energy inefficiency can be reduced. — Raju V

From thermal power generation to end-use appliances, energy inefficiency can be reduced. — Raju V
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It is a myth that increase in per capita energy consumption measures “development”. The Integrated Energy Policy (IEP) report of the Planning Commission projects the energy needs of the country on the premise that GDP growth and the increase in energy needs are closely correlated.

IPE uses “elasticity coefficients” to estimate future energy needs. Is it a reliable basis?

In his path-breaking book Soft Energy Paths-Towards a durable peace, Amory B. Lovins (1977) provided the following insights into the way the per capita primary energy consumption levels in Denmark varied over the last five centuries.

Denmark’s per capita primary energy use evidently declined between 1500 and 1900, not because of any negative economic growth but on account of the combined effect of a shift in the fuel base and the improvements in efficiency.

The increase in the per capita primary energy use between 1900 and 1975 and the decline between 1975 and 2004 were the compound outcomes of the growth in Denmark’s GDP, the fuel shifts and the efficiency improvements.

These trends show that the per capita energy use is not necessarily linked exclusively to the rate of increase of GDP.

What matters in terms of the quality of life is the per capita useful energy use, not per capita gross energy use, as the latter hides the inefficiencies down the supply chain of electricity from the generation station to the end-use appliance.

THERMAL-HYDEL MISMATCH

The other myth is that “electricity development” is synonymous with “setting up new generation projects”. The end product of electricity is different in different sectors. It is luminosity in lighting, lifting water in irrigation, turning the wheel in industry, circulation of wind in fans and space cooling in air-conditioning. The energy required for this can come from a new MW based on a renewable or a non-renewable resource or from a saved MW through efficiency improvement.

In other words, setting up a new generation project is one among the several alternatives available and it may not be the most optimal from the point of view of cost and long-term sustainability.

If the unit cost is high, the poor cannot access electricity. If the resource is non-renewable, energy security is threatened. The challenge, therefore, lies in choosing the alternative that ensures an affordable cost and long-term sustainability.

Our electricity system is based primarily on large projects generating electricity that is conveyed over long distances to remotely located consumers through an extensive system of transmission and distribution (T&D) network. The investment we have made in T&D has not kept pace with the investment in generation.

As a result, more than one-third of the generated electricity is lost in T&D and the electricity finally supplied to the consumer is of poor quality.

Within the generation sector itself, the investment we have made in peak-load hydro generation has not kept pace with the investment we have made in base-load thermal projects, causing an unhealthy imbalance.

EXPENSIVE POWER

It is an expensive way to provide electricity to the consumers whose cumulative demand has diurnal and seasonal variation. Thermal generation (coal, combined-cycle gas, nuclear) can best cater to the steady component of the demand, whereas the peaking stations (largely storage hydro) can optimally meet the peak load.

As a result of the imbalance in thermal-hydro mix, the thermal capacity, though available, is not utilised fully and the shortfall in peaking capacity has resulted in peak-time shortages that have crippled the economy.

These distortions have imposed a heavy cost burden on the consumer who is not only forced to pay for the high T&D losses but also forced to invest on voltage stabilisers and inverters.

The high cost barrier has stood in the way of electricity reaching the poor. No wonder that it is usually the existing affluent consumers who use highly inefficient electric appliances and grab most of the additional electricity generated in the country. Meanwhile, the poor seem to remain where they are!

Between 2001 and 2011, the country added 85,000 MW of new capacity. The number of rural households who had no access to electricity in 2001 was 7.5 crore. In 2011, it was 7.8 crore! Similarly, in 2001, the number of urban households who had no access to electricity was 0.6 crore. It increased to 0.7 crore in 2011!

DISPLACEMENT EFFECTS

We have a spacious building constructed recently in Visakhapatnam, standing majestically in the salubrious environment of the beach. It is sealed on all sides with heavily tinted glass, letting in neither natural light nor fresh wind. It uses hundreds of inefficient electric lamps to illuminate within and a large number of heavy duty ACs to cool the space. It is a veritable energy guzzler.

If we mine coal with 100 units of heat value to start with, at the end of the supply chain that feeds into an incandescent lamp, the luminosity we get is equivalent to 0.39 units of the original heat energy. The rest, i.e. 91.61 per cent of the original heat energy of coal, is wasted. If we can double the efficiency of the lamp, we can do with coal of 50 units of heat value and reduce displacement of people by 50 per cent!

The corresponding savings in the generation capacity would have avoided the displacement of people at the site of the generation project by 50 per cent. Going one step farther, if we replace the conventional lamp by a solar PV-based LED, we can avoid coal mining altogether and do away with displacement of people at both the coal mine and the thermal power project.

Prayas, in its Discussion Paper on Thermal Power plants on the Anvil – Implications and need for rationalisation, pointed out in August, 2011, that 7,01,802 MW of coal and gas power plants had either been cleared or about to be cleared by the Ministry of Environment & Forests (MOEF) and they were most likely to be set up during the next few years!

This worked out to thrice the capacity addition required to meet the needs of the high-renewable, high-efficiency scenario for the year 2032 projected by the Planning Commission’s Integrated Energy Policy (IEP) study.

This will pre-empt all efforts to remove the existing imbalance in the thermal-hydro mix and compound the problems of both peak-time shortages and the high cost of electricity.

Prayas’ study further reveals that these capacity additions are largely concentrated in areas that are already categorised as “critically polluted industrial clusters” by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).

Plants of 30,470 MW and 24,380 MW capacity will come up in two districts of Chattisgarh, namely, Janjgir-Champa and Raigarh respectively, followed by 22,700 MW within 10 km of Krishnapatnam Port in Nellore district in AP.

In the districts of Rewa, Sonbhadra, Sidhi and Allahabad on MP-UP border, plants of 51,218 MW will come up in close proximity!

The capacity additions proposed include projects that are located in precious wetlands, irrigated tracts and fragile regions rich in biodiversity. The social costs imposed by such projects far exceed the social benefits.

(The author is former Union Power Secretary.)

Excerpts from the recent Girish Sant Memorial Lecture, organised by Prayas, Pune.

(This article was published on February 24, 2013)

 

Selling Nulcear Power to Women: Why the Industry has got it Wrong


Donella H. Meadows, http://www.dianuke.org/
DonellaMeadows1
Donella H. Meadows is an adjunct professor of environmental studies at Dartmouth College.

The U.S. Council for Energy Awareness has finally figured out how to sell nuclear power to women.

Women have always been a problem to the nuclear industry. Polls consistently show them to be more opposed to nuclear power than men. (“Because of their deeply held distrust of science and technology,” the Council for Energy Awareness assumes.) The Council, which, if it were honest would call itself the Council for Nuclear Propaganda, has never bothered to spend much of its $21 million annual budget advertising to women. It has sensed a better investment airing spots during football games and the World Series, telling men how nuclear power is going to free us from the domination of oil-rich Arabs.

That’s a lie, of course. Nuclear power generates electricity, which runs our lights and electric motors. It is not a substitute for oil, which runs our cars and planes. A flat-out program to build nuclear power plants could reduce our oil imports by a few percent at most. But then the CEA’s job is not to tell the truth, but to make us look kindly on nuclear power.

Which, when it came to women, was assumed impossible, until now. Through tireless polling, the CEA has finally found the key to female hearts and minds. Women, it has discovered, care about their children and about the environment and especially about the environment surrounding their children. And so the pages of Good Housekeeping, the Ladies’ Home Journal, and Better Homes and Gardens are soon to be graced with CEA ads showing kids playing happily in sylvan scenes with nuclear cooling towers rising in the background, and sweet pictures of a baby turtle crawling to the sea.

“The baby sea turtles hatching on nearby beaches are more evidence of the truth about nuclear energy; it peacefully coexists with the environment. Because nuclear plants don’t burn anything to make electricity, nuclear plants don’t pollute the air,” say the ads. “Nuclear plants produce no greenhouse gases.”

Nuclear plants produce radioactive wastes that no government on earth has figured out how to store safely, but those wastes are indeed not greenhouse gases. Under normal operating conditions nuclear wastes don’t pollute the air, though if anyone goofs and lets them loose, there is no more insidious pollutant of air, water, or soil. Nuclear wastes have to be sealed off in concrete tombs, kept under pools of water, and guarded closely for the several centuries; they have to be kept out of the hands of terrorists; the buildings that contain the reactors become hazardous waste when they are pulled down. But these matters would bother you only if you had some sort of irrational feminine distrust of science and technology.

young-women-in-nuclear-power-plantNuclear plants could, at best, reduce the world’s emissions of greenhouse gases by 12 percent, which is the amount generated by coal-burning power plants — the only greenhouse-gas-emitting activity for which nuclear power can substitute. To replace all existing coal plants with nuclear ones, would cost $5.3 trillion (and a multiplication of nuclear power reactors worldwide from the present 400 to 5,000). We could get the same amount of greenhouse gas reduction from energy efficiency at one-seventh the cost.

But let’s not bother the ladies’ heads with economics. Let’s help them, as the CEA kindly puts it, “sort out the facts from the conflicting messages they hear.”

“I want my kids to grow up in a healthy environment,” says the attractive young woman in the TV ad, as her kids play by a pristine lake. “I want them to breath clean air. I”m for nuclear energy because … it’s one of the cleanest sources of electricity we have. When I was in college, I was against nuclear energy. But I’ve reached a different conclusion. [Nuclear energy] means cleaner air for this planet.”

Her name is Karen Strauss, she is an environmental engineer, she travels around the country as a spokeswoman for CEA, and that college she was in when she was “against nuclear energy” was Dartmouth. She is the granddaughter-in-law of Dr. Lewis Strauss, once the chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission. He is the one who promised that nuclear power would be “too cheap to meter.” Now it is the most expensive way of generating electricity, even with major government subsidies.

Karen Strauss doesn’t mention the high cost of nuclear electricity, nor does she point out that the utilities funding the CEA run not only nuclear plants, but also coal-fired plants, sources of just about every air pollutant you can mention. They spend some of their tax-deductible public relations money telling us about nuclear power and clean air, and some fighting the Clean Air Act.

Nuclear power has dragged some utilities down to bankruptcy. Many others long ago reached the conclusion that they can meet their customer’s needs far more cheaply and with less environmental threat using technologies ranging from hydropower, wind, and solar thermal to smart conservation. The utilities that haven’t caught on yet are still trying to promote their dangerous, dinosaur technologies by lying to the public.

Maybe they would wise up if they hired more women.

 

These bills are long unpaid


To predict disaster, to invoke treachery
and malice, to spin tales of rotten
luck to make it not happen:
it doesn’t work.

The wind is still rising with hail
in its teeth. The waves are piling up
then spilling back way, way baring
bottom you’ve never seen.

There’s ashes in the wind, darling,
a taste of ashes in our food
ashes on our lips in bed
eyes blinded with ash.

There’s a mortgage on my spine
I cannot pay. Somebody has
bought my teeth and wants them
out tomorrow for dice.

There are real monsters under
the bed, hungry for blood. They own
the land this house stands on
to stripmine for coal.

Santa isn’t coming. The bounty
hunter is. There’s a lien on your
ass and the bank is itchy to fore
close your future.

If you’re going to stand get up.
If you’re going to fight, get moving.
Nothing comes to those who wait
but hunger’s claws digging into the soft belly.

If you value your blood, fight to keep
it in your veins. You have nothing
to lose but your life and it was sold to them decades
ago by your parents’ parents.
Their greed is endless.

Your patience shouldn’t be.

By Marge Piercy

Solar Panels Reflect Bright Future for Rural Papua New Guinea


GOROKA, Apr 2, 2012 (IPS) – In Papua New Guinea (PNG), which has no national power grid but large river systems and abundant sunshine, renewable energy has tremendous potential to transform remote rural lives with clean and sustainable electricity.

Ten years ago Nick Nait, who lives in a small village near Mount Sion in the Eastern Highlands with his wife and children, introduced electricity to his household for the first time. While working for a missionary organisation Nait learnt how to make solar power systems and subsequently built a small one for his two-room dwelling.

The single solar panel powers a radio, lighting and television.

For Nait, solar power is affordable and dependable. “It depends on the weather, but when there is sun, there is no problem,” he said, “It is very reliable and I rarely have to do repairs.”

After the initial cost of making and installing the solar unit, he has had few ongoing expenses and, once fully charged, the system will provide light in his home for one month.

Like Nait, many people living in the rural Highlands face economic and environmental challenges. Garaio Gafiye of Clean Energy Solutions, a consultancy for renewable energy projects in PNG, told IPS, “The Highlands is a very rugged area and there are so many communities. Renewable energy is very important, especially hydro, there is so much of it, and solar also. But the problem is incomes are very low in the Highlands and managing money can be quite difficult.”

Families have been forced to become very resourceful in order to access energy at minimal expense.

“Solar is very easy to install,” Gafiye continued, “Now if you go to some of the communities, (at least) one or two people have solar systems, just simple ones. They just get the panel and a battery and put it together.”

Obtaining sustainable electricity has made a vital difference to Nait’s family.

“We now have lighting in our home, access to information and the news from radio and TV and my children can do their school work and study in the evenings,” Nait explained, “Although we do not have an electric stove, my wife finds it very helpful to have lighting while she is cooking at home.”

Now he plans to expand the capacity of his solar unit to drive a water pump and eventually bring clean water from a nearby well to his home.

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), without access to energy, developing countries become trapped in poverty. The denial of choices to improve human development through energy is known to negatively impact infant mortality, life expectancy and income generation, among many others.

Sadly, this year, the International Year of Sustainable Energy for All, the IEA estimates that 1.4 billion people, or nearly one quarter of the world’s population, remain without access to electricity.

PNG Power Limited, the nation’s only power provider, claims it is unfeasible to construct a national grid system due to dense mountainous topography and long distances between load centres. Therefore, many villages still rely on traditional biomass, such as firewood, for cooking and heating, with diesel generators providing a popular alternative. But the high price of fuel means that generators are used sparingly, often for no more than a few hours each day.

“It is very cheap to purchase a diesel engine, but it won’t last long,” Gafiye said, “It could last four or five years but after that, if you work out the economics, it is not (cost efficient) to keep running it.”

Renewable technologies, which are practical for standalone systems and provide power 24 hours per day, are the best option for those living in remote areas.

According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), the total primary energy supply in PNG is 145.9 petajoules (PJ), of which renewable energy accounts for 115.2 PJ (roughly 79 percent).

Read full article here

Koodankulam Update March 21, 2012


10:00 AM

Electricity, Water and Food Supply stopped in Idinthakarai

All roads and sea routes to reach Idinthakarai are blocked. Police personnel forcibly took away mobiles phones and water supply equipments.

School run by Dr. S P Udayakumar damaged badly last night. School bus is also damaged.

There are 8000 children among the 20,000 protesting people in Idinthakarai. Milk supply to the village is also prevented and its affecting the children badly.

Media entry to Idinthakarai is also prevented.

Lokayat Organises Book Release Function and Seminar on Nuclear Energy


india calcutta bookstoreTitle of book: NUCLEAR ENERGY: Technology from Hell
Author: Neeraj Jain
Published by: AAKAR BOOKS, Delhi
450 pages, Price Rs. 295

The government of India is attempting to set up a string of nuclear plants across the country, with imported and indigenous reactors, and also start several uranium mines. People everywhere, from Kudankulam, Jaitapur, Mithivirdi, Gorakhpur to Jadugoda and Gogi, are fighting these projects.

The government is deriding these movements as being anti-development, and the country’s top scientists and leading intellectuals are claiming that nuclear energy is clean, green, cheap and safe, and is the solution to the country’s future energy needs.

In reality, nuclear energy is none of these. Nuclear energy is very expensive. Neither is it green and the sustainable solution to the energy crisis. But the biggest problem with nuclear energy are the safety issues associated with it -the deathly radioactive pollution of the environment caused by leakage of radiation from the mines and nuclear reactors, the as yet intractable problem of safe storage of high level wastes, and the potential for catastrophic accidents. For these reasons, nuclear energy was already in decline the world over, the Fukushima accident has sent it into a tailspin.

Discussing the problems of nuclear energy in depth, and giving alternate sustainable solutions to the energy crisis in the country, Neeraj Jain has written a book, NUCLEAR ENERGY : TECHNOLOGY FROM HELL. The book release function of this book is being organised on Saturday, January 21, 2012. On this occasion, Lokayat has organised a SEMINAR on Nuclear energy. The details of the program are as below:

SPEAKERS:
Justice P. B. Sawant, Retd. Justice, Supreme Court of India
Bhai Vaidya, former Home Minister, Maharashtra State
Prof. Sulabha Brahme, noted economist

Date: January 21, 2012
Time: 5.30 to 8 pm
Venue: Bharat Itihas Sanshodhak Mandal, Near Bharat Natya Mandir, Sadashiv Peth, Pune.

COMMENDATION OF BOOK BY PRAFUL BIDWAI:

Nuclear power is the greatest energy fraud ever played upon the world. Inherently and unacceptably unsafe, it leaves behind radioactive poisons for thousands of years, besides exposing people to hazards at each step of the nuclear fuel chain. It is unaffordably costly, predatory upon public funds, and locks the energy system into the wrong trajectory. This book is a scathing, well-documented, passionate critique of the nuclear industry. Analysts and activists will find it valuable at a time of growing popular resistance to nuclear reactors at Kudankulam, Jaitapur and other sites.

Praful Bidwai, Columnist, former Senior Editor of The Times of India,

and author of The Politics of Climate Change and the Global Crisis: Mortgaging Our Future

COMMENDATION OF BOOK BY MADHU BHADURI, IFS

Exceptionally well researched … systematically uncovers many lies of the powerful nuclear lobby in India and abroad in its claim that nuclear energy is safe, clean and green. The facts presented in a simple and straight forward way reveal instead how dangerous and destructive it is…

The author marshals evidence from many diverse sources … to make the powerful case that nuclear reactors are devastatingly unsafe. Indeed, so unsafe that without government guarantees they cannot be insured. No wonder the Indian government kept its nuclear program in a totally non-transparent wrap of official secrecy … This book cogently argues and compels the reader to agree that neither economic logic nor concern for the environment but the power of vested interest alone has forced decision makers to opt for nuclear energy … a must read to illuminate one of the most important debates of our time.

Madhu Bhaduri, IFS, former Ambassador of India to several countries,

was associated with the Indian mission to the IAEA, Vien

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