Sunday, January 22, 2012

Why priority for "Megawatt" instead of "Negawatt" ?

 Focus on Megawatt                                         


The Hon'ble Prime Minister is reported to have told the 17 member delegation from Power Sector Industrialists, that called on him on 18 th January "Your problems are a National Problem, they will be given priority, with coordination by Prime Minister's Office (PMO) ".


Some of the issues raised by the delegation are reported to be –Speedy Green Clearances to Projects, Delinking of Clearances with Coal Linkages, Compounding Offences under Environment Protection Act, Pricing of Land etc. The emphasis seems to be on increasing Power Generation (MW) capacities by increasing coal supplies..


If the focus is to resolve the above issues to the satisfaction of the Power Sector Industrialists, with Power Hunger seemed to have been fueled by Stock Markets, Bank Loans, Rerouting of Money from Foreign Sources etc., the Power Sector in India, will prove to be a "Global Problem" apart from being the "National Problem" 


National Integrated Energy Policy


The Expert Committee Report of August 2006 on "Integrated Energy Policy" points out that lowering of energy intensity of GDP Growth through higher efficiency is important, as unit saved by user is greater than a unit produced. Thus a "NEGAWATT" produced by reduction of energy consumption, has more value than the "MEGAWATT" generated. It further points out that by aggressive pursuit of energy efficiencies & conservation, it is possible to reduce energy intensity up to 25% from current levels.


The report further states that most importantly India must pursue Technologies that maximize Energy Efficiency, Demand Side Management (DSM), and Conservation. The thrust areas for improved efficiency in electrical energy from coal based Thermal Power Plants (TPPs) are: Extraction (Mining), Conversion (TPPs) Transportation (Transmission   & Distribution) and Consumption (DSM Measures)  


Coal Extraction 


The report emphasizes that as Coal remains most important source of energy till 2031-32 and possibly beyond and given the demand for coal, India must pursue new coal extraction technologies such as in-situ gasification, to tap its vast coal reserves that are difficult to extract economically using conventional technologies.


Inefficiencies in Thermal Power Sector


The fact is, "It takes energy to make energy". In the case of coal based TPPs, the energy is Extracted from Coal and Converted (Thermal-Mechanical-Electrical) to Electrical Energy. It is estimated that by using Subcritical technology boilers and the steam turbine-generator sets, the efficiency of Extraction and Conversion to Electrical energy from Coal is hardly 33% and it may go up to around 40% even by using Supercritical technology boilers.


Taking into account, auxiliary consumption of TPPs, T&D Losses and the inefficient use of Electrical Energy by the end users, the percentage of the actual energy effectively utilized comes down drastically. At present, the overall efficiency, of extraction and conversion of Coal Energy to Electrical Energy and its transportation & the end use, may work out to be around 15 to 20%.


While about 80% of coal energy is being lost in the system, should the addition of Coal based TPPs be continued, unmindful of their socio-economic &ecological impacts & costs and with  out giving a thought and priority, for improving the efficiencies in transportation & the end use sectors of electrical energy which is more cost effective ?  


Why this Rush for "Megawatt" instead of "Negawatt"?


The illogical addition of inefficient coal based TPPs (Megawatt) and pumping energy into equally inefficient network and trying to meet ever increasing wasteful demand of the end consumers, may be satisfying the Greed of the Power Sector Industrialists and certainly not the Energy-Security and Need of the Nation?


Why does not PMO coordinate the efforts to motivate the same Industrialists for producing "Negawatt" by investing for improvement of T&D Network, as highlighted   by the Expert Committee?


Why does not PMO take initiative to expedite  effective implementation of, National Mission on Enhanced Energy Efficiency, National Water Mission etc. as part of National Action Plan on  Climate change ?


 What is coming in the way of popularizing grid connected Roof-Top Solar Systems, having tremendous potential without additional land requirement, as part of National Solar Mission?


Sunday, January 15, 2012

CFLs & Mercury Contamination

  Promotion of CFLs for Energy Conservation

 Bachat Lamp Yojana (BLY) is a scheme developed by BEE to promote energy efficient lighting in India. As CFLs consume only 20% to 25% of energy used by Incandescent Lamps ( ICL) to provide same light, use of CFLs is being promoted. Under the BLY scheme, quality long life CFLs would be, distributed through collaboration with DICOMS, to grid-connected residential house-holds in exchange of ICL for Rs 15. Once CFLs have reached their end of life or CFLs failed prematurely, the scheme implementing agencies are required to arrange for their collection, and safe disposal of CFLs as per applicable environmental norms.

The BLY scheme was officially launched by Govt.of India in February 2009, after lapse of 7 years since Energy Conservation Act, 2001 has come into force from I st March 2002 The AP Government has now introduced BLY scheme in the State

CFLs, Mercury &Toxicity

CFLs use mercury as a vital component for their functioning, which if not properly disposed after use, has potential for causing damage to public health. The Mercury is a neurotoxin and highly toxic heavy metal known to impact vital organs such as lever and cause developmental and neurological problems; particularly dangerous to pregnant women and children. Some of their compounds are capable of crossing the placental barrier causing irreparable damage to the unborn / newborn babies.

Mercury Content of CFLs

.A study by Toxics Link titled "Toxics In That Glow: Mercury in CFLs in India" reveals the potential threat associated with these lamps. The study, which analyzed 22 samples of CFLs of well-known brands sold in India for their mercury content, exposes somewhat disturbing trend in mercury dosing practice by CFL manufacturers.

As per the report, average mercury content per CFL has been found to be 21.21mg, much higher than internationally known standards,-ranging 4 to 6 times the CFL sold in developed countries. About 50% of samples analyzed were found to have high average mercury content ranging between 12.24mg & 39.64mg across different wattages. In some cases, the mercury content per watt has been found to be as high as 4.39mg.

CFLs Mercury Contamination 

Currently, in the absence of proper management system or infrastructure in place to manage the used-up and/ or discarded CFLs in the country, they are usually dumped with general waste/garbage, spreading out mercury into the waste stream and the food chain through these energy saving lamps. Higher level of mercury dosing in CFLs enhances the chances of mercury contamination and toxicity of the Food-Chain.

Dubious Role of Indian CFL Industry

The disturbing trend is in most brands, mercury content is high in lower watt lamps, possibly to capture greater market share as mercury increases lumen (light) output. It is also worrying, that most multinational brands, having operations across the globe follow different regulatory norms in different countries including India, rather a dubious stand.

Health & environmental concerns have prompted globally, to take measures in order to contain mercury dosing. In the US, lighting manufacturer members of the National Electrical Manufacturers Association ( NEMA) have voluntarily capped the amount of mercury used in CFLs in 2007 and lowered the cap again in 2010. Currently the US cap is 4mg / CFL for units up to 25 watts and 5mg/CFL for units over 25 watts. In EU, the Restriction of Hazardous Substances ( ROHS) law mandates the cap to 5mg/CFL.

Procrastination of Govt of India

The Indian CFL industry is exploiting the new market opened up by the climate change crisis; however they are creating a toxic crisis alongside. The industry, instead of following the best practices in the world, is putting the Indian consumer at risk through high level of mercury content of CFLs, in the absence of enforceable norms.

What adds to the grim reality is the fact that despite the potential dangers and serious health afflictions, the country lacks regulatory framework to standardize and limit mercury dosing. This is despite the fact of having large base with potential to manufacture 400-500 million pieces annually. India also imports about 1/3rd CFLs.

 The Government of India seems to be procrastinating on mandating optimum mercury content in CFL and norms for Environmentally Safe Mercury Management of CFLs recommended in 2008 by Technical Committee and Task Force appointed by MOEF. Business interests may be bypassing serious public health concerns.


 Multi-pronged action is suggested for consideration and expeditious follow up, so as to contain the mercury menace through CFLs:

a) BIS Norms for optimum mercury content in CFLs, inline with international norms and the advanced technologies available. The standard should be made mandatory with effective monitoring / implementing strategy of incentives/disincentives for compliance.

b) Consistent Practice: Since most multinational players in the organized sector have the means to move towards safer regimes, they must immediately standardize their production process in India, as followed by them in other parts of developed world or to conform to BIS norms, which ever is better?

c) Imports: The registration of CFL Importers to be made mandatory, with strict vigil and monitoring the compliance of the imported product as per BIS norms. The Import,/smuggling, distribution and sale of substandard and spurious CFLs should be treated as a criminal offence and dealt with accordingly under relevant Acts & Rules.    

d). Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), is environment protection strategy, that makes the producer responsible for the entire life-cycle of the product, especially for take back, recycle and safe disposal of the product. Thus, producer's responsibility is extended to the post-consumer stage of the product-cycle. Hence, the onus of operationalization of used CFLs recycling mechanism rests with Manufacturer/Importer.,

This needs to be included in suitable legislative frame work, making EPR a mandatory activity associated with production of electrical & electronic equipment, in accordance with universally accepted "Precautionary Approach" and "Polluter Pays" Principles..

e) Environmentally Safe Mercury Management in CFLs &FLs: Expeditious decisions and follow up action on the recommendations submitted as far back as Feb & May 2008 by the Technical Committee and the Task Force appointed by MOEF for the purpose.

f) BLY Scheme: The CFL brands with the lowest mercury content or as per BIS norms only, should be selected for distribution under BLY Scheme. The Scheme Implementing Agencies should be denied CDM benefits, if they do not follow EPR norms.


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Food Security Vs Food Production & Usage

 How Much Food is needed?

Normally, the amount of food a given population- be it in a country, a region, or the world- needs is the product of two factors-numbers of people and the average food requirement per person. Unlike with many other forms of consumption, there are limits to the physical quantity of food that people can usefully consume. The actual food consumption by the population is determined not only by its basic needs, but also by its income and dietary preferences.

This is particularly important in high-income countries, where the crops that could be consumed directly are instead fed to animals to produce eggs, meat and milk. Therefore the amount of food, a given population requires depends on food system efficiency, reflecting the extent to which food is spoiled or wasted in going from Farm to Mouth.  

Disparities in Food Consumption

It is estimated that as many as 700 million people do not eat enough to live and work at their full potential. The average African is estimated to consume less than 90% of calories needed for a healthy productive life.  On the other hand, the diets in many rich countries are so laden with animal fat as to cause high rates of heart dieses and cancer.

Moreover, the meat-intensive diets of the wealthy are known to usurp a disproportionately large share of the earth's agriculture carrying capacity, since producing one kilogram of meat takes several kilograms of grain. If all people in the world required as much grain for their diet as the average American does, it is estimated that the global harvest would need to be about 2.5 times greater than it is today- a highly improbable scenario.

Food Production Limitations

If global population gets doubled by 2050, providing everyone with a rich and varied diet enjoyed by today's wealthiest countries, we may require a tripling of food production. Alternatively, with improvement in food system -farm to mouth- efficiency, and adoption of a healthier diet in high-income countries, it may be possible to provide such a diet for the entire global population, with just a doubling of food production.

But even a doubling of current production could strain Earth's ecosystems, as modern agriculture practices based on intensive use of land, energy, fertilizer and pesticides could jeopardize the health of the environment.  The key questions are whether there would be enough Land and Water to produce the amount of food needed and whether technology could keep increasing the yield of food grains from the land available.

Food Demand Management 

The debates on food security focused on the potential for increasing the food production / supply (Supply Syndrome like in all other sectors), but interestingly enough, little attention is being paid to the issue of food demand management, a cost effective, environment friendly and sustainable alternative. Like Energy & Water, Food can be conserved and the demand for it adjusted to meet human needs (not the greed) and lessen the burden that modern agriculture places on the environment. The demand for food supply can be curtailed by motivating changes of dietary preferences in rich countries, leading to food system efficiency – Farm to Mouth.

Imitation of Western Habits

India, with about 4 times the population and about one-fourth of the area of USA, cannot afford to indulge in extravagant & unsustainable food habits/ dietary practices, inherent with very poor food system efficiencies. As it is, around 42% of under-fives children in India are reported to be malnourished, despite impressive growth rate of country's GDP.

BPL Beneficiaries & Delivery System

 As per Food Security Bill introduced in the Parliament, the Below Poverty Line (BPL) Census would become the basis of identifying the beneficiaries at the village level. Depending upon the parameters finalized to classify the BPL beneficiaries, the total number could be disparate ranging anywhere between 30% to 60% of the total population coverage under the Bill.   

 Many of the well intended welfare schemes of Govt. do not seem to have the desired impact on the targeted BPL groups, due to lack of good Delivery System at Grass-Roots Levels of Villages. Because of political patronage, the key functionaries at grass roots levels seem to have become a law onto them, practically ignoring the writ of higher officials with impunity. As a result, the schemes get derailed without any accountability.


With a view to minimize inherent malady in the system, the realistic identification & recording of genuine BPL beneficiaries of food-security, good delivery system at grass roots levels & an effective supervisory and monitoring mechanism, need to be  focused,  apart from  conservation of food grains by good post harvest practices & storage systems to prevent avoidable wastages & prevention of contamination in supply chain. To prevent wastage at consumer end, following German example is to be followed.

"Order only what you can consume, to avoid wastage. Money may be yours but Resources belong to the Society. You have no right to waste resources. There are many others in the world who are facing shortage of resources."


Monday, January 2, 2012

Planet Earth -A Sinking Ship?


Dysfunction of Human Mind

The humanity's ancient religions and spiritual traditions, point to fundamental truth, of realization that  'Normal' state of mind of most human beings contains a strong element of what we might call 'dysfunction' or even madness. Certain teachings of Hinduism see this 'dysfunction' as a form of collective mental illness, called 'Maya' the veil of delusion. Ramana Maharshi, one of the greatest sages, bluntly states "The mind is maya"

Human Actions

The achievements of humanity are impressive & undeniable. More recently, the way we live and have enabled us to do and create things that would have been considered miraculous, even 200 years ago. No doubt, the human mind is highly intelligent, yet its very intelligence is tainted by madness. The destructive and cruel wars, motivated by the desire for power, greed and fear, had been common occurrences through out human history, as widespread violence inflicted for religious and ideological reasons. The history of 20 th century was where that dysfunction, that collective insanity, can be most clearly recognized. Humans suffered more at the hands of each other, than through natural disasters. Further this dysfunction is actually intensifying and accelerating.

Impact of Science & Technology

Science & Technology have magnified the destructive impact that this collective dysfunction of the human mind has upon the planet, other life-forms and on humans themselves. It helped human species to be an agent of change of geologic proportions. Literally move mountains to mine the earth's minerals, redirect rivers to build cities in deserts, torch forests to make way for crops and alter the chemistry of the atmosphere by disposing of wastes generated. In our efforts to make the earth yield more for our needs, we are diminishing its ability to sustain life of all kinds -humans included.

Impact of Human Actions

Another aspect of the collective dysfunction of human mind is the unprecedented violence that humans are inflicting on other life-forms & the planet-the mindless depletion of natural resources, destruction of oxygen-producing forests and other plant & animal life and poisoning of water bodies, Rivers, Oceans, the Air and the Soil. If humans, driven by greed & ignorance, are permitted to continue unchecked, in this collective madness, it can only result in their own destruction. The doubling of world population, the quintupling of global economic output and the widening gap in the distribution of income, since mid 20 th century, are the main factors that are contributing, most directly to the excessive pressures being placed on the Earth's Natural Systems. The environmental impact of the population growth has been vastly multiplied by economic and social systems that strongly favour growth and ever-rising consumption over equity & poverty alleviation. They fail to discriminate between means of production that are environmentally sound and those that are not. At humanity's hand, the earth is undergoing a profound transformation-one with consequences, we cannot fully grasp.  

Planets Carrying Capacity

The outer limit of the planet's carrying capacity is determined by the total amount of solar energy converted into biochemical energy through plant photo-synthesis minus the energy those plants use for their own life process. This is called the earth's Net Primary Product (NPP) and it is the basic food source for all life. As per one estimate, humans have destroyed outright about 12% of the NPP and directly use or co-opt an additional 27%. Thus one species have appropriated nearly 40% of the terrestrial food supply, leaving only 60% for millions of other land-based plant and animal species.

One may be tempted to infer that at 40% of NPP, we are still comfortably below the ultimate limit. But this is not the case. We have appropriated the 40% that was easiest to acquire. It may be impossible to double our share, yet theoretically that may happen by mid 21 st century, if our share rose in tandem with population growth.

Lightening the Load

"As a society, we have failed to discriminate between technologies that meet our needs in a sustainable way and those that harm the earth". We have let the market dictate which technologies move forward, without adjusting for its failure to take proper account of environmental damages. Now that we have exceeded the planet's carrying capacity, and are rapidly running down its natural capital, such a correction is urgently needed.

The Ship Captains pay careful attention to a marking on their vessels called the Plimsoll line. If the water level rises above the Plimsoll line, the boat is too heavy and is in danger of sinking. When that happens, rearranging items on board the ship will not help in reducing the total load, which has surpassed its carrying capacity. The answer is to reduce the load by jettisoning the cargo items in a selective manner, till the water level goes down below Plimsoll line.   

The ecological equivalent of Plimsoll line may be the maximum share of earth's biological resource base that humans can appropriate before a rapid & cascading deterioration in the planet's life-supporting system is set in motion. We may be close to this critical mark and the challenge is to lighten our burden on the Planet before it sinks.

(References: "A New Earth"--Eckhart Tolle & "Carrying Capacity: Earth's Bottom Line"- Sandra Postel, Worldwatch Institute)