We are living in history. Twenty years down the line there is going to be a chapter, scratch that, an entire book on how we coped up with nature’s toughest wrath. People around the world celebrated the start of a new decade with a bang but well, who knew the smoke from the bang soon would take over the clear, bright skies and leave us with a grey to deal with probably for a very long time. Right from the time the year started people have been greeted with one calamity or the other in various parts of the world only to culminate with a pandemic (hopefully) collectively. It escalated quickly from a pandemic to an endemic. And now the responsibility sits on the entire world on how to shape the future.
The current times have not only tested human patience but also have allowed us to slow down, to pause, to breathe, and to look back in retrospection. Look, not just environmentally but also technologically, publically, and humanly. How we have led our lives up till now no longer matters because for one, it is unable to save lives today and two, the damage caused by the novel coronavirus is still unknown. Lives have been shattered and the economy has been rattled. What really accounts for concern, is the future. While the world has taken an abrupt pause, it has also given us the right opportunity to reshape the world better as it unfolds slowly. And the key is to bring in affordable and sustainable solutions.
People are already aware of how our lives are moving towards the mechanisms where everything sooner or later is going to depend on electricity but what people really undermine is the role of Decentralized Renewable Energy (DRE) technologies or more specifically decentralized clean energy technology. These energies do not rely on a grid source for power generation. A diesel genset or kerosene lamps both might be examples of DRE technologies but they do end up polluting the environment. Now if we talk about decentralized clean energies such as solar, wind, or biomass, they depend on renewable sources for power generation are cleaner sources and hence generate very minimal carbon footprint. According to the 2018 Climate Scope report, India ranked second among the emerging economies to lead to the transition to clean energy. This clean energy transition has also changed countless lives by increasing income levels of households, providing them with better health living conditions, bringing women to the fore-front, and expanding the educational opportunities for the children of underserved families.
‘Clean and Affordable Energy’ is one of the UN sustainable goals of 2030, the government too has started looking into the prospects of including clean DRE technologies as a part of mainstream power sources. Government plans to establish a renewable energy capacity of 500GW by 2030. In fact, the government has come out with various schemes such as KUSUM, Atal Jyoti Yojana (II), solar charkha mission, National Biogas and Manure Management Programme, etc., to name a few. Not only government is coming forward with the idea of DRE technologies but the sector itself has seen some of the groundbreaking innovations such as solar sewing machines, thermal storage, and solar dryers, solar pumps, high-quality clean cookstoves, and even E-ambulance.
The DRE sector up till now has been committed to the under-served sector or the un-served sector. For the lower section of the population, it has been nothing less than a blessing. In a report by CLEAN in 2019, DRE sector was able to generate employment of 95,000 direct formal jobs and 210,000 informal jobs 2017/18. DRE technologies also help in the clean cooking transition in the rural sector. Solar lamps have illuminated innumerable lives where light, once was a far-fetched dream. Right from the grassroots level, it has supported women and men in getting various skills training. Although DRE enterprises have expressed their needs to have a more solidified financial and policy environment which helps this sector to flourish more.
Now that it’s evident that this sector is vital for the growth of the people in the rural sector and also for the economy, it is also important to acknowledge that this sector like the other sectors has been hit during this pandemic. A lot of companies are on the edge to have a company shutdown. While the government tries its best, we as people also have a moral duty towards the environment and the coming future. To revive the sector we need to include DRE in the mainstream power sources and urban spaces.
Battery operated E-rickshaws are already running, but combining them with solar panels can save a lot of battery usage and charging problems. The same way Resident Welfare Associations can have electricity generated in complexes through solar rooftops. Many of the regions expected to experience the greatest increase in urbanization are located in solar-rich regions. For example, the majority of the total land area of India experiences an annual direct solar irradiation of over 200 W/m2. Additionally, the efficiency of photovoltaic has increased steadily and has already surpassed 40% in the laboratory, using concentrated multijunction cells. Hence, under optimal conditions, the power density of photovoltaic could exceed 120 W/m2. These technologies will also bring cleaner air to breathe which is one of the bigger problems in the developed cities. Urban households can be supported with DRE based heating, cooling, and storage appliances making homes more spacious as most of them are compact in sizes. With efficiencies up to 80%, solar hot-water systems offer a thermal power density up to 240 Wt/m2 under optimal conditions (Wt, watt-thermal), whereas the global averaged thermal power density of solar heat collectors is 67 Wt/m2. Geothermal energy can be used both for heat and electricity. Generating biofuels would also help in improved and clean transportation systems in the city. In fact, solar heat pumps can work well in urban areas because human activities tend to keep the temperature warm in cities. In fact, some companies have come out with ecological ways of making building designs. Even a small wind energy generator can be installed in the city since it comes out as low maintenance and reliable source. Therefore even the policymakers should introduce better and stricter norms focusing on clean energies in the urban areas.
From the future point of view which sees an ever-growing population, it is important to make cities liveable and breathable which will also cause a major shift in climate change. We are mere tenants on earth and it is our wholesome responsibility to leave a better and sustainable world for the future generation.
-Chhavi Arora (One of the prize winners of Covid-19 Article Writing Competition in the 18-24 years age group)
Picture Credits: noharm-asia.org