When I tell people that I think the United States can stop using coal and gas to generate electricity by 2030 (see “All In”), even some of my fellow environmentalists sometimes raise a skeptical eyebrow. True, it doesn’t sound like very much time. But it’s actually longer than we needed to go from Sputnik to conceiving, building, and landing Apollo 11 on the moon.
I’m not saying it will be easy—but it’s most certainly achievable. That’s because, unlike with the Apollo program, we already have the technology: clean, renewable energy. Wind and solar have lifted off and will soon achieve escape velocity.
I understand the skepticism, though, because it’s easy to forget how fast new technologies can spread. At the start of the 20th century, automobiles were exotic and prohibitively expensive. But by the time Henry Ford stopped manufacturing Model Ts in 1927, he had sold 15 million of them, and lowered the price by two-thirds.
What will drive the spread of clean energy technologies is not just that they are cleaner, healthier, and safer. As with the rapid adoption of the Model T, it will be economics. Right now, we can’t afford “business as usual.” The International Energy Agency estimates that for every year the world delays taking significant action to curb climate change, we will have to spend an additional $500 billion down the road.
The specific economic risks posed by climate disruption were laid out in detail this summer in a report from the Risky Business Project, co-chaired by former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, retired hedge fund manager Tom Steyer, and former treasury secretary Henry Paulson Jr. (Bloomberg and Steyer have donated money to the Sierra Club through their charities.) Regarding real estate alone, it predicts that if we continue on our current path, between $66 billion and $106 billion worth of existing coastal property will be under the waves by 2050, and up to $507 billion worth by 2100.
Extreme weather is already having an economic impact, which explains why a majority of small-business owners support federal limits on carbon emissions from power plants. The main opposition, not surprisingly, comes from fossil fuel industries. ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson admitted at a recent shareholder meeting that climate disruption is real, and that the effects will be severe, but maintained that it was essentially a “risk-management problem.” In other words, ExxonMobil will extract every ounce of oil and gas it can—if we let it.
Another economic reality is that renewables are becoming cheaper much faster than anyone guessed was possible. In just the past three years, the price of solar panels has dropped by more than 60 percent and the per-megawatt-hour price of wind has fallen by more than 40 percent. In places like Oklahoma, Texas, and Colorado, wind is cheaper than both coal and natural gas. As clean energy achieves greater economies of scale, this trend will accelerate.
Are there still technological and economic challenges? Absolutely. For example, our current power grid wasn’t designed for renewables. The up-front costs of modernizing it will be substantial—although the payoff is free fuel forever. And let’s not forget that we have to make the transition from dirty fuels while keeping the lights on for everyone and supporting workers in the communities most affected by this transition.
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We can do it, though, and not just because we have the technology and economics on our side, but also because we have the will. The EPA’s new standard to cut carbon pollution has overwhelming popular support. Polls show that 70 percent of U.S. adults agree that the federal government should limit “greenhouse gases from existing power plants in an effort to reduce global warming”—a majority that holds whether you ask Democrats, Republicans, or independents.
As President Obama told an audience of new college graduates this June, “You’re going to have to push those of us in power to do what this American moment demands.” And push we shall.
Developing shared solar programmes could boost the US rooftop market and represent as much as 49% of distributed PV sector in 2020, according to a new report by the US Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).
The report claims that allocating electricity from jointly owned arrays to be sold to the multiple owners would expand the pool of people who can benefit from solar.
Small business with insufficient roof space, and – crucially – those living in apartment blocks would stand to benefit.
Expanding this segment could lead to the addition of 5.5-11GW of solar between now and 2020, representing an investment of US$8.2 to US$16.3 billion, the report said.
According to the NREL 49% of US households and 48% of business are unable to host a PV array.
“Historically, PV business models and regulatory environments have not been designed to expand access to a significant portion of potential PV system customers,” said David Feldman, NREL energy analyst and lead author of the report. “As a result, the economic, environmental, and social benefits of distributed PV have not been available to all consumers. Shared solar programmes open up the market to the other half of businesses and households.”
The report suggests that the schemes may not be treated as for-profit securities if they are marketed as a means to reduce bills, thereby avoiding SEC regulation, which the report said would impact on the way shared solar programmes operate.
The report said governments, utilities and the solar industry could aid the acceleration of the shared solar market through initiatives such as the introduction of local legislation to create transparency and standardisation for investors
When is a village termed electrified?
According to the Ministry of Power, a village is termed electrified when –
– Basic infrastructure such as Distribution Transformer and Distribution lines are provided in the inhabited locality as well as the Dalit Basti hamlet where it exists.
– Electricity is provided to public places like Schools, Panchayat Office, Health Centers, Dispensaries, Community centers etc.
– The number of households electrified should be at least 10% of the total number of households in the village.
The important figure here is 10%. An electrified village doesn’t necessarily mean that all its residents enjoy the benefits of electricity, and thus figures representing the number of electrified villages can be misleading.
Why is rural electrification important ?
In rural areas, electricity finds one more important area of deployment that is absent in urban areas and that is mechanization of many farming operations like threshing, milking and hoisting grain for storage. From an Indian perspective, this is extremely important since till this day, approximately 50 percent of the Indian population is dependent on agriculture as their source of livelihood. The novel visions of our Prime Minister won’t see the light of the day until this sector flourishes.
Like education, rural electrification too has manifold effects in the day-to-lives of a rural resident. It frees up significant amounts of human time and labour. Women across villages in India spend hours and hours on procuring water for their families. Imagine the impact it can create if these women can utilize this time spent doing arduous labour for some economic activity!
It also has a direct effect on a community’s daylight hours. People can work longer which translates to better income and better standard of living.
What are some of the positive trends in rural electrification?
Much of this improvement has been attributed to India which witnessed mass migration to powered metropolitan areas. Electrification rates in India in the year 1990 were only 43 percent as opposed to vast improvement to about 75% in 2012.
But picture abhi baaki hai…
While UTs like Lakshwadeep, Delhi and Daman and Dui record electrification rates of over 99%, Assam, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar lie on the other end of the spectrum with dismal rates of 37%, 36.8% and 16.4% only. Thus even with decent levels of electrification in the country, the widespread regional disparities are a matter of genuine concern for policymakers and regulators.
In 1990, 40 percent of the world population (2.2 billion people) still lacked power. Nineteen years later in 2009, this figure changed to 18 percent, affecting 1.456 billion people. In terms of percentage of households using electricity as their primary source of lighting, we witnessed an an increase from 55.8% in 2001 to 67.2% in 2011.
What is India’s role in this?
What are some of the policies and programmes adopted by the Indian government?
1. National Electricity Policy 2005
2. National Rural Electrification Policy, 2006
1. Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana (DDUGJY)
2. Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojana
3. Remote Village Electrification Programme
4. Village Energy Security Security programme
5. Minimum Needs Program (MNP)
6. Pradhan Mantri Gramodaya Yojana (PMGY)
7. Kutir Jyoti Scheme
8. Accelerated Rural Electrification Programme (AREP)
An Article written by Swati Gugnani
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