Smoke signals from the renewable energy sphere

Editorial Analysis – Smoke signals from the renewable energy sphere

Source – TH

  • Prelims: Current events of international importance, renewable energy, solar cook-stove, G20, GCF etc
  • Mains GS Paper III: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment etc

Key Points

At the India Energy Week 2023, which is part of the G-20 calendar of events, the Indian Prime Minister unveiled the solar cook-stove patented by the Indian Oil Corporation.

About the Issue

Renewable energy

  • These resources are typically self-replenishing, natural, and often have a minimal or nonexistent carbon footprint.
  • Examples of renewable energy sources:
    • Wind power
    • Solar power
    • Bioenergy (organic matter burned as a fuel)
    • Hydroelectric including tidal energy.

Solar cook-stove

  • With its hybrid mode, the stove can operate using solar power and an auxiliary energy source concurrently, ensuring a dependable cooking solution regardless of weather conditions.
  • The Minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas praised it as a “catalyst” in promoting the use of low-carbon alternatives, such as biofuels, electric vehicles, green hydrogen, and the stove itself.
  • Uses
    • The technology has the potential to revolutionize cooking methods.
    • It could save significant amounts of money on LPG costs and foreign exchange, amounting to thousands of crores.
    • It has the capability to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
    • The project may generate tradable carbon credits that can be sold on the market.

Additional declarations made by the government

  • The 2022-23 revised estimates show a 99% reduction in the subsidy for liquefied petroleum gas (LPG).
  • The 2023 Budget aims to provide support for low-income households despite the high international fuel prices.

The government’s initial effort to revolutionize domestic energy consumption

  • In the 1950s, the National Physical Laboratory developed a solar cooker during a time of great uncertainty surrounding food security and energy self-sufficiency.
  • The solar cooker faced several issues, including slow cooking times, a high price point, and a lack of consumer interest.
  • In the 1980s, the national energy policy introduced “improved chulhas,” aiming to reduce deforestation and benefit women’s health and finances. The program was launched in 23 states and five union territories, with a federated system set up to achieve national targets.
  • The government provided a 50% subsidy for the adoption of “improved chulhas.”
  • According to the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (formerly the Ministry of Non-conventional Energy Sources), the chulha was adopted in over 32 million households by 2001, out of a potential 120 million.
  • The program faced several obstacles, including the stove’s construction, high maintenance costs, alleged bureaucratic corruption, lack of state government autonomy, difficulties in meeting pre-set targets, and underpaid workers charged with installations.

Various reports

  • According to a survey conducted by the National Council of Applied Economic Research across 10,000 villages:
    • The annual dropout rate for the improved chulha was found to be 17%.
    • As a result, seventy officials involved with the program were suspended.
  • In a 2004 report, it was revealed that cooking accounted for 80% of a rural Indian household’s energy consumption.
  • In 2013, the International Energy Agency discovered that 668 million individuals in India relied on biomass for cooking and lighting.
    • India is the world’s largest consumer of fuelwood for household purposes.

Similarities can be drawn between the government’s promotion of Indian Oil’s solar stove and the historical context

  • A public-sector innovation was introduced with the promise of having a transformative impact following a fuel crisis.
  • There existed a significant gap between state-subsidized programs and their actual implementation on the ground.
  • Despite the correlation between the type of energy consumption and per-capita income, there was no clear long-term plan to improve rural incomes.

Way Forward

  • Despite the government’s claimed success with the LPG scheme, the unprecedented rise in fuel prices and the gradual removal of subsidies has forced women to resort to using the chulha, despite its associated risks.
  • Earlier interventions in the renewable energy sector were primarily led by the state and various non-governmental organizations, which provided superficial solutions to deeper social issues. Today, the real progress is being made elsewhere.
  • Public funds are now being channeled into heavily subsidized, large-scale private projects that primarily produce green energy for commercial purposes.
    • The technical innovations in renewable energy policies, despite their supposed benefits, actually contribute to an unequal distribution of energy resources.

Mains PYQ

Explain the purpose of the Green Grid Initiative launched at the World Leaders Summit of the COP26 UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow in November, 2021. When was this idea first floated in the International Solar Alliance (ISA)?(UPSC 2021)

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