E-Pao! Essays - Conservation of energy - a must

Conservation of energy - a must

By: N Shyam Sundar Singh/The Sangai Express *

Energy & its forms:
Like air, Energy is also a colorless, odorless and invisible wealth of the Nature. It is a gift to all the living things on Earth for their survival although physically invisible; its presence is always felt. Energy can exist in various forms such as heat energy, sound energy, light energy, electrical energy etc. In all the physical processes, energy changes from one form to another but in totality the quantum of energy remains the same.

Need for Energy:
Various bodies need different forms of energy for different purposes. These forms of energy are produced through several processes. In this high-tech age, human beings need energy the most. Of all types of energy, electrical energy is the one, which is essential for most of the purposes of scientific and technological developments. Simply because, it is one of the key inputs required for agricultural, industrial and other activities for better economic performance. Secondly, electricity is produced commercially; on a large scale and at the same time it is easily transferable, transformable and convertible too.

Therefore, the discussion in this paper shall have its focus only on the Electrical Energy. Electricity is no longer a luxury item today but an essential pre-requisite of life. Each individual needs electric power for education, health care and other social & cultural activities. Even the most common people have started using at random the electrical appliances, gadgets and other electric operated machines like radio, television, refrigerator, computer, air conditioner, heater, cooler, cooker, geyser, washing machine, pumps etc.

They find that, application of these modern innovations to the day-to-day domestic purposes is -easier, economic, eco-friendly and time saving too. In fact, modern world is gaining momentum on developmental front with intensive use of electricity in all walks of life. Therefore, competitive efficiency may not be possible without electricity.

Sources of Energy:
Besides water, sunray and plants, Coal and Fuel oil are the two main sources of energy. These fossil fuels, which are available in plenty, are commonly used all over the world for conventional method of generation of electricity in Thermal Power Plants water flowing down a river or falling from a reservoir at a higher elevation is also another economic source of electric power. Mechanical energy available in the flow or fall is converted into electrical energy with the help of Turbine-Generator sets in Hydro Power Plants. Nuclear Fuels like Uranium etc. are also other sources of energy that can be subjected to nuclear fusion in an Atomic Reactor to produce electricity in a large scale. While Hydro Power Plants and Nuclear Power Plants constitute about 30 pc and 10 pc respectively, Thermal Power Plants alone account for more than 60 pc of the total generation across the Globe.

Global Issue:
Both coal and fuel oil are non-renewable sources of energy and they are facing fast depletion. It is estimated that the total reserve of the natural wealth would last another 130 years or so from now. Thus, exhaustion of the finite reserve of these non-renewable sources creates a global problem for generation of energy through conventional method. Indian Scenario on this front is no exception. The coal deposits in India, which are estimated to be in the region of about 1,12,000 million tonnes, are perhaps very large. But sadly, these are of very poor quality coal having ash content sometimes being as high as 70 pc. The moisture Content too is high. Therefore, the end result is expected that the Indian coal, having low calorific value may not be suitable for generation of desired quantum of power. Similarly, the prognosticated reserve of oil and oil equivalent of gas in various basins of India, are estimated to be about 15,000 million tonnes.

The estimation is based on scientific methods of Calculation and sound geologic reasoning and it is really small. The above facts have given one to understand easily that, unless specific programs are evolved now to find out and develop alternate sources of energy there may be a serious energy crisis in the near future when the consumers' demand cannot be met. The situation is therefore quite alarming and it definitely needs the attention of all concern.

With this perspective in view, GoI took the initiative in early eighties, t& explore possibilities for sustainable development of renewable sources of energy through application of non-conventional method of electricity generation. Ministry of Non-Conventional Energy Sources was created and it was entrusted with the challenging task of exploiting the renewable potential from sunray, potential SHP Sites, geothermal, tidal, wind, bio-mass and solid waste etc. During the past couple of years, the Ministry has made substantial progress in developing Non-Conventional Renewable Energy Sources. Meanwhile, many private, semi-Govt and Govt promoter and developer have also come forward to share the responsibility.

Adequate financial support' is also assured by various funding agencies including World Bank under UNDP and other Global Programs.

Increase in generation cost:

Meanwhile, the cost of generation of electricity has also increased substantially because of the following reasons:
a) Increase in the prices of oil & petroleum products.
b) Corresponding price hike in almost all the commodities.
c) Consequent increase in the labour cost.
d) Payment of interest during construction.

Even though there is a wide gap between the supply and demand, a developing country like India, can't afford to bear the heavy expenses for setting up power plants that can fulfill the demand. Therefore, it has no alternative but to avail of loan from bonafide funding agencies of the world.

Rapid growth in the demand:
On the other hand, electricity has become another essential commodity next to only food and medicine. The demand increases rapidly and always surpasses the supply. This is primarily due to failure to achieve the target for capacity addition during the 8th and 9th Five Year Plans. Secondly, the modern scientific and technological innovations have made even the general people dependent on electricity for all sorts of activities. Right from birth till death, one needs electricity unavoidably. Therefore, the standard of living of people of a country is precisely measured in terms of the per capita consumption of energy. While the per capita consumption in the developed countries like USA, Canada, Norway and Sweden etc. are well above 7000 units, it is only a bout 360 units in India. Per capita consumption in Manipur is around 150 units only. It fairly shows that the demand shall continue to grow rapidly.

Energy conservation:
Therefore, the issues facing the planners are namely - the fast depletion of finite reserve of energy sources, increase in cost of generation and rapid growth in the demand. The planners definitely find it difficult to evolve suitable programmes to take care of the above constraints. At this juncture, it is equally important to take proper steps simultaneously to optimize the use of electricity through available technical and commercial processes. It is in this context that conservation of energy is considered most effective and simplest method to ease the ever-increasing pressure and provide a possible relief.

Here, it is to be borne in mind that energy saved is energy generated. Saving of one unit of energy simply means generation of one and half units. This theoretical finding can be translated into reality through Demand Side Management in which role of consumer is quite significant.

The demand side management plan has its focus on the reduction of losses - both technical and commercial. It envisages detection & regularization of unauthorized connections involving theft and pilferage of energy, improvement in commercial services like energy auditing, billing & revenue collection, and training and education programmes for the consumers on the energy efficient items.

Each of the above activities needs continuous support and co-operation of the consumers. Utility alone can not make headway towards the desired goal. Therefore, without active participation and involvement of the consumers, successful implementation of the demand side management or the conservation of energy may not be possible. Apart from those mentioned above, there are simple ways and means to conserve valuable energy at almost negligible expense.

To name a few, the consumers have to put off the switches when it is not needed, to use fluorescent tubes in place of incandescent bulbs, to oil the electric machines timely, to use sunlight as much as possible, to use light painting on the walls, to keep the door of refrigerator close as quickly as possible, and to use energy efficient items as much as possible etc. Each of them seems to have little impact but collectively they can affect the economy.

To its contrary, most of the consumers are found to be consuming energy lavishly without paying much heed to the challenging issues ahead. Therefore, there is a need for reversing the present trend. A time has definitely come when consumers have to realize the importance of economic use of this precious input. Otherwise, the day is not far when the economic activities run short of the primary input causing a set back to the whole economy. By and large, the community response is, it appears, low.

Energy is precious. Being an input of all economic and welfare activities today, it is a prime requirement for mankind - right from birth till death. Demand continues to grow rapidly on one hand and the finite reserve of non-renewable sources continues to get exhausted fast on the other. Therefore, urgent and renewed efforts are required to promote sustainable development of renewable energy sources. At the same time, it is a must that one saves and conserves energy for the present and future generations. What is possibly called for, is a new culture of rational use of power.

This article was published at The Sangai Express by N Shyam Sundar Singh.
N Shyam Sundar Singh writes regularly at The Sangai Express
This article was webcasted on December 20, 2004

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