Thursday, May 19, 2011

Kirit Parikh: Replacing Wood by Subsidized LPG is a Low Carbon Strategy

From Tehelka Magazine, "30 billion hours go in collecting fuel"
May 12th, 2011

Kirit Parikh is 75 and chair of the planning commission’s expert group on low carbon growth strategy. He spoke to Vijay Kumar on how to go green with our fuels and prosper. Edited excerpts:


Energy security has been an issue in the public discourse. How can low carbon strategy for inclusive growth provide a solution to our energy security problems?
Low carbon growth has two dimensions, one is to try and reduce the energy needs and the other is to increase energy efficiency. Once the energy needs are minimized, without compromising the final services that one wants, then it obviously increases energy efficiency. The second dimension is to try to promote renewable energy, which is carbon neutral. It will depend on the extent to which we produce renewables based hydel, nuclear, solar, and wind resources, which are all low carbon strategies. An important strategy is to reduce use of coal. To reduce it, we need to have other forms of energy sources. What is interesting in cutting down coal consumption is that we can also increase coal burning efficiency of our power plants. Our power plants on an average have an efficiency of around 30.5 per cent whereas state-of-the art coal-based power plants with super critical boilers can easily give us 38 per cent efficiency. If we have 38 per cent efficiency, then we have reduced the carbon needs for power generation by some 25 per cent. So we can have low carbon development and not compromise on energy security issues.

How cost intensive will be this low carbon strategy?
We have not looked at the cost intensity of the low carbon strategy at this point. If we can think of the carbon price, one can say that every ton of carbon dioxide that we save can be priced and sold internationally at €20 or €30. Then we can say we are not paying too much for low carbon development. If we use coal, which causes pollution, the more important thing is it also leads to degradation of forests because we have more coal under our forests. We can mine coal through underground mining and not disturb forests but much of our mining happens through open cast mining. Coal India would say we are restoring many of the mined areas but those are not natural forests. It is possible to mine coal in a way that is environmentally benign.

How do we keep a tab on carbon emission, mainly in the thermal power plants?
Carbon dioxide emission may be estimated by knowing the amount of carbon to be burnt, so we can measure how much carbon a power plant uses. For a thousand megawatt plant, with the existing efficiency, we are burning 5 million tonnes of Indian coal a year. With super critical boilers, they would 4 million tonnes. So there will be 25 per cent reduction in emission. If we save electricity at the user end, we can reduce emission. With a determined effort, by 2020, we can save 10,000 MW of installed capacity. There would be a corresponding reduction in carbon dioxide emission as well.

In which sectors would you recommend policy changes to achieve low carbon use without hindering growth?
We have not really outlined the specific policies. One can judge and say the most important is energy efficiency. Major options are available for energy efficiency in industries, households, buildings and transport. Power companies can install compact florescent bulbs in households so you can save `20 in the electricity bill and the company can collect its costs back. This would work where people are paying the right cost for electricity. If they are paying subsidised costs, then the saving would be just `5 a month. As part of the Bachat Lamp Yojana households have been issued free CFL bulbs. Distribution companies have randomly sampled bulbs and installed chips to measure the hours a bulb is used. On that basis, we estimate the emission saved. The companies get carbon credits based on the protocol. In industries, we have introduced the PAT (Perform Achieve and Trade) where the Bureau of Energy Efficiency will set standards for each firm. They have identified 714 large energy consumers. There are set targets that measure energy consumption in terms of oil. If a firm doesn’t save energy, there will be trade-off and this could help reduce energy consumption. This should be made mandatory and there should be a proper monitoring mechanism. In transport, sector we encourage use of public transport. There is less gain in emission reduction when people switch from bus to metro. The main gain is by making our automobiles more fuel efficient. If automobile makers are unable to achieve the standards, they have to buy enough certificates. Once this kind of trade is permissible, we can have energy efficient automobiles. If the use of public transport should be increased, there has to be an increase in their frequency.

What are the desirable impacts of adopting low carbon technology?
India is extremely vulnerable to global warming. We have about 4 per cent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions. Our per capita emission is 120th of the United States. We have great interest in a fair, clear global contract that everybody agrees on and obeys so that climate change threats are minimised. That is why we are taking proactive action even before the others have agreed. Maybe we will shame the others to act.

How do we bring in low carbon technology without affecting the poor too much?
It is clear that we must have inclusive growth as our theme. A study on 80,000 women in villages across the country shows that the amount of time spent in gathering fuel and water is 30 billion hours a year. The estimated number of premature deaths is about half a million a year as a result of using firewood and dung. Such people should be given subsidised clean cooking fuel like LPG. Replacing wood by LPG is a low carbon strategy. We have also strongly argued that all the villages should be provided electricity. Providing solar lamps is just a beginning; they should have electricity for productivity purposes.

Vijay Kumar is a Correspondent with

No comments: