Do we require a coherent overarching national energy policy ?

Discussion in 'Defence & Strategic Issues' started by The Vikas Sharma, Jul 16, 2013.

  1. The Vikas Sharma

    The Vikas Sharma Regular Member

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    The contours of our governing establishment owe their origin to sub-continental politics shaping their organization. Consequently we have no single Energy Ministry even though energy sufficiency remains a strategic goal. Somewhere in the inter-ministry co-ordination preoccupation, the nation has probably not had a desirable and coherent Energy policy or an efficient execution of the existing bouquet of independent policies.

    The downstream effect of the existing arrangement is that the Government is firefighting on the supply side and woefully falling short on the demand side. There is no holistic effort to improve operational efficiencies in production or achieving energy efficiency. Let us take the example of two ministries - Defence and Railways. They are the largest consumers of oil and also the largest landholders of the country. In the name of Energy Policy, there exists only a budgetary allocation from the Finance Ministry. There are no directions as to the desirable energy mix, efficiency measures and targets, technology adoption etc based on a national policy monitored at the highest level. Clearly a lot is required to be done.

    In my opinion, the Government should commence fulfillment of renewable integration and energy efficiency targets through implementation in own ministries. Defence and Railways have the scale and motivation since Diesel prices were decontrolled for them this January on account of their being bulk users. Defence ministry now has to meet all annual commitments after an additional budget cut ranging from 20-40%. A petro dollar saved is 60 rupees earned. The revolutionary method of proliferating energy efficiency, energy access and energy assurance lies in the adoption of the Microgrid approach in a nested manner.

    I solicit opinion of other members at this stage to obtain their views.
     
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  3. TrueSpirit

    TrueSpirit Senior Member Senior Member

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    many policies are there..implementation is missing
     
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  4. The Vikas Sharma

    The Vikas Sharma Regular Member

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    A multiplicity of authorities implies that achieving policy coherence, ensuring unambiguous responsibility and fixing accountability for execution is challenging. This is at the expense of the efficiency of the State. This is exactly what the departmental standing committees of our Parliament are expected to oversee.
     
  5. TrueSpirit

    TrueSpirit Senior Member Senior Member

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  6. The Vikas Sharma

    The Vikas Sharma Regular Member

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    Thanks for the encouragement. Over the years I have realized that solutions to most issues lie in simple and common sense approach to them. We do this to resolve our household problems on a routine basis as we have unlimited decision taking flexibility. In an organization, this is inherently not simple. The larger the organization, the more difficult is the process. At some stage, the 'specialised' departments make a living obfuscating rational approach by impenetrable jargon to justify their place within the organization. At national level, this translates into monumental waste of citizen's resources. The procedures end up taking precedence over the immediate needs of the citizen. We read examples of such kind everyday in our daily newspaper.

    The 'Microgrid' approach I mentioned in my inaugural post was fathomed after over nine months of research. In the end it was so simple, intuitive and implementable that it seemed criminal that it did not get attention inspite of a crying need in the country. The irony is that this concept has been adopted by civilian arms of the Govt. Though it is still in a nascent stage, it is delivering encouraging results under frugal conditions. At the very least, the DRDO or some PSU could have suggested this approach. Our Govt certainly does not have unlimited fuel reserves for Defence.

    And now coming to the dénouement. A microgrid is a miniature electricity grid which can formed from the level of a house till that of a locality. The microgrid has its own generation capability in form of fossil fuel generator and/or renewable energy (Solar/small wind turbine/both) coupled to local loads and a battery storage system with a designed backup capability. It maybe connected to the electricity grid, where available. It can draw as well as inject power into grid, i.e., low voltage distribution. It is capable of 'Islanding' itself, i.e., it draws power from grid under normal circumstances. In case of grid failure, it disconnects from the grid and powers it's identified critical loads from it's local generators and battery storage. In India, 5KW DC coupled microgrids are providing lighting in small isolated villages using LED luminaires. Such an arrangement using purely solar generation would cost less than Rs 15,00,000. In contrast extending one km of low voltage distribution line to a village costs a minimum of 7,00,000/- per km. Importantly such villages do not have heavy users or paying customers. Since electric supply is erratic, there is a big problem of regular pilferage of distribution lines and poles.

    In the military context, not only static sites but mobile forces also require a variation of microgrids for tactical mobile requirements. Generally each military vehicle housing electronics is self contained for power. However the standard military generators are never matched for loads. This results in massive wastage of fuel resources. This further means that more convoys required to resupply generator fuel. If these vehicles could optimize their internal power arrangement using microgrid architecture and then interconnect to form a local grid to further optimize generator-load matching, the nested microgrid approach could result in fuel savings of 20-35 %. This means less logistic effort under battlefield conditions, more energy autonomy with existing reserves and less cost. A jerrycan of fuel delivered to a high altitude post is not the refinery cost - it could well cross Rs 50,000/- at present value. And it is a recurring expense. An adoption of microgrid approach at Army level would require time and CAPEX. But it would be recovered in 1-2 years. The promise of recurring saving of 30% is achievable within 5 years. In case of ships, the involvement of global vendors has ensured that the concept of advanced power management exists from design stage itself. It is the adoption by Military and Police bases, Railways establishments and other Govt departmental sites that could help Govt significantly achieve it's ambitious renewable energy & energy efficiency targets in house. Advanced nations which have migrated to Smart Grids require microgrids to protect critical strategic installations from cyber-attacks caused grid failures. It is not very different from storing food and supplies in remote areas as insurance in the event of disruption of connecting road/rail link.

    If my home UPS could draw power from a solar panel and send surplus generation to the wall socket while powering my computer and peripherals, the arrangement could probably qualify as a nano-grid. Microgrids could be DC coupled or AC coupled or a combination depending on the type of loads to be served. Dc microgrids are popular at Telecom Base Station sites and Data Centres. They could range from a KW upto a MW in terms of distributed power generation. Since power is generated close to consumption, losses are significantly less. Distributed Generation also geographically diversifies risk (flooding, arson etc at generating plant).

    Microgrids are tailor made and can be setup in weeks with affordable resources. They can quickly be scaled up on further availability of resources. The savings and benefits commence immediately. They don't require a grand national project or a centralized procurement. On the contrary, their usage is driven by the users impacted adversely by diesel price decontrol leading to shrinking of purchasing power within the allotted fuel budget. All that is required is communicating the desired approach and enabling intent by legislation, rules and financial procedures. If Govt mandates that, say 5% of energy mix of all Govt departments would be from renewables, electrical efficiency measures would automatically follow. Since vehicles run only on fossil fuels, the sole area where significant optimization can be done is electrical power budgeting. The solution here is adopting the Microgrid approach. While the concept always existed, the technology tools available today make it simpler to implement. The oil prices and energy security are drivers for an increasing adoption internationally. Cybersecurity concerns are a decision factor for some militaries. Since India has commenced pilot projects for smartgrid penetration, our military microgrid design should factor this concern ab-initio.
     
  7. The Vikas Sharma

    The Vikas Sharma Regular Member

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    Smart Microgrids can be implemented in advance of Smartgrid rollout in the country - the smartness in power management would be localized. Smart Grid for a IT or Telecom professional is the power equivalent of a 4G ICT core network while a Microgrid would correspond to regional access network / enterprise networks. In old grid architecture, manual switchgear was used to match demand with supply. This included measures like disconnecting loads to balance load on each phase and preserve grid frequency. Over a period of time it was automated to an extent. In Smartgrid avatar, the grid architecture has it's integral Artificial Intelligence and communications to match demand and supply in near real time and even predict faults or imminent usage pattern in different geographical areas based on environmental inputs. This enables grid to optimize operation of all grid connected resources, the power flow within the grid and minimize downtime. Smartgrids resemble telecom networks in terms of optimization concepts borrowed. They track power usage pattern of each user in near real time through Smart Meters. Just like the telecom revolution in late nineties, we are at the cusp of a power revolution provided the regulation keeps the momentum. Like telecom, power is a regulation sensitive industry and hence it's fate depends a lot on the capability of the lawmakers and their advisers.

    Power is only a subset of Energy, albeit an important one. Coal is one of the cheapest sources of energy which drove the industrial revolution in the industrialised west. India is abundantly rich in coal resource but the production constraints of the monopoly Coal PSU led to protests against everything from policy to individuals. Knowledgeable people shared that the situation was always manageable had attention been paid to simple ground level operational details. Increasing coal production by 10% on the back of increased supervision in mining and replacement of old and faulty low value tools was achievable within a month. Yet again All Kings and No Serfs phenomenon came to play in absence of political will and organizational leadership causing avoidable chaos. In any public service organization one can either get work done or play politics. Unfortunately the accountability aspect is subverted and destroyed by the actions of people entrusted to take care. Strong accountability is probably the strongest energy efficiency measure that can be undertaken by the Government. But it will have to lead by example.
     
  8. The Vikas Sharma

    The Vikas Sharma Regular Member

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    If you google "lockheed martin intelligent microgrid solutions You Tube" you will come across a resource which describes the military microgrid in simple terms.
     
  9. TrueSpirit

    TrueSpirit Senior Member Senior Member

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    @The Vikas Sharma: have not read the complete text, yet but this sounds very interesting. Might do it on weekends.

    I am expecting others on DFI to chime in.....
     
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  10. Rage

    Rage DFI TEAM Stars and Ambassadors

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  11. W.G.Ewald

    W.G.Ewald Defence Professionals/ DFI member of 2 Defence Professionals

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  12. W.G.Ewald

    W.G.Ewald Defence Professionals/ DFI member of 2 Defence Professionals

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  13. W.G.Ewald

    W.G.Ewald Defence Professionals/ DFI member of 2 Defence Professionals

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  14. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    It has immense potential in the Military.

    And it could also be used for the remote areas of Kashmir, Arunachal and so on under the Sadbhavna Schemes.
     
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  15. trackwhack

    trackwhack Tihar Jail Banned

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    A good energy policy requires scientific and technological vision which is completely lacking. This topic though excellent is too huge to even cover in one post. I cannot comment of defence, however here are my thoughts on rural electrification and grid decentralization.

    Grid Decentralization through Microgrids are imperative. In fact standalone microgrids with no connectivity to the central or state grid is ideal for all population centres with less than 10,000 people.

    A separate policy is necessary for renewable energy as feasibility of solar and wind energy in particular is questionable for intensive energy needs like industry and urban domestic use. The current policies of subsidies to manufacturers and power companies during large installations of solar and wind power is absurd. Just look at the current scam in Kerala and it exposes the limitations. Instead subsidies must be channelled to the retail end customer. This will go a long way in enabling grid decentralization.

    I will elaborate with my own experience which I am tackling as of now. In order to get a power connection for my farm, I would have to shell out Rs 12,500 per electric post and I need 4 of them that equals Rs 50,000. Add nearly Rs 35,000 for the cables and I am looking at a total bill of approximately Rs 1 lakh including the labour costs and any potential bribes for regularizing my connection. This expense would give me a two phase line where I'd be lucky to get 200 volts at 10 Amps for about 4 hours a day during peak summer. This connection hardly allows for a 2hp motor to be run during the season when irrigation needs of farmers are the highest. When power comes on everyone switches on their motors simultaneously causing immense strain on the grid eventually causing a circuit breaker to trigger or a fuse to blow. This is the real world situation of more than half of our country's farmers. The lucky few who have a three phase connection get to run their 10hp motors for a couple of hours a day. Again mostly insufficient. This is one of the primary causes why most of the arable land in India follows a one crop cycle. Even where there is water, there is no power to pump it.

    I could choose to not spend that sum of Rs 1lakh and wait for the next free power connection scheme to come by every couple of years and enrol my name and wait. Dont forget, what I dont pay, the exchequer pays. So either way, the ballpark cost of lighting a rural house is around a lakh rupees - either paid by the government or the end user.

    Now consider the alternative
    Retail prices of solar power today has dropped to Rs 30 per watt. Which is Rs 30,000 per kilowatt. Given adequate storage capacity, even during the monsoon, such a system would give me anywhere between 5 and 8 KWH of power everyday. During summer when I need it the most such a system would give me almost 12 KWH a day. To put things in perspective, this kind of power allows me to run a 2hp motor for 8 hours everyday. So If I throw in another Rs 20,000 for the battery storage and the power circuitry, I have a power system that has twice the capacity for half the cost. Since I started with my installation, several farmers have approached me with questions about similar setups for them. I was surprised that they were willing to shell out this kind of money but from their perspective, they have already spent almost as much digging a borewell and having the power to irrigate twice the acreage would allow them to recover that investment in just one crop. And once setup its a once in three to four year cost of replacing storage batteries which turns out to be far less than the electricity subsidy that the government would have to foot during that time period providing "free" power to farmers for 4 hours a day!

    Now if an individual setup can deliver twice the power at half the cost, imagine what a decentralized grid would allow for in terms of both capacity and cost. Every house in a village either has a solar or wind based system that is heavily subsidised - no new funds are necessary. Just move the subsidies thats being doled out to power companies that make solar farms to the end user. Each individual power pack from each home connects via a metered system to the village grid that has a bigger storage mechanism. That iis only excess generation capacity from a house is fed to the village storage and only when one runs out of their individual storage system will they need to tap into the village grid. This allows uninterrupted supply even when there are maintenance needs. The biggest advantage the way I see it in such a scenario is that the supply and demand management becomes local. When demand equals or exceeds supply, depending on who the heaviest deficit users are, capacity can be accordingly augmented. It would be a great cost benefit study but based on my calculations and experience (Engineer, DIY, reading), the AMC costs on such local grids would noot even come close to the energy subsidy and grid maintenance costs that the government incurs on an ongoing basis.

    All this said, grid decentralization is just one part of a massive problem that needs solving. By the end of this decade, the power demand in India would have more than doubled. Where the hell are we going to generate that from? If we go back to starting with a vision, there is only one long term energy intensive resource and thats nuclear. But there are so many points to cover here. I will just touch on a few with some questions

    Why is our Fast Breeder Program Stalled? Why is our Accelerator driven system research stopped? Why have we been promising first excavation of thorium reactor site within 6 months for the last 5 years? American intervention, technology and materials denial, some of our politicians and now NGO's as well taking money and making nuclear power more a moral issue than a scientific one. Its just mental. So fk it.

    Unless we have a clear vision, there is no point in an energy policy.
     
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  16. pmaitra

    pmaitra Moderator Moderator

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    @Rage,

    Apologies for not responding earlier, and thank you for considering me as a person worthy of commenting.

    I have read the opening post, and frankly, I am not sure I can come up with a lot to suggest. This is not my area of expertise. If I happen to chance upon something, I will drop in a comment.
     
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  17. Rage

    Rage DFI TEAM Stars and Ambassadors

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    No worries pmaitra. Your input is certainly valued and appreciated, and as experience suggests, constructive even on topics out of your circle of expertise.

    I look forward to any comments or input you may provide.
     
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  18. Kunal Biswas

    Kunal Biswas Member of the Year 2011 Moderator

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    Subscribed, On tour will post view when return..
     
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  19. The Vikas Sharma

    The Vikas Sharma Regular Member

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    I humbly thank everyone and DFI in particular to give visibility to an important issue which would not otherwise qualify for mainstream news coverage against cricket, politics and entertainment.
    I now wish to draw attention to a renewable energy tool which goes by the name of 'Small Wind'. In Indian context, there is nothing small about the potential of Small Wind Turbine for household electricity generation in wind rich regions, especially coastal areas, islands, mountain villages and peninsular India. Wind turbines maybe Horizontal Axis (HAWTs) or Vertical Axis (VAWTs). I personally prefer VAWTs as they are suited for habitation and don't kill birds. They also make lesser noise and deal with turbulent airflow better. I would love to see high quality WTs of the kind WINDSIDE sells everywhere (except India). If Govt introduces Feed-in-Tariffs for domestic consumers, small wind could become as ubiquitous as a DTH antenna. Wind power costs a fourth of solar power. But the initial cost of a battery storage system is a deterrent for any ordinary consumer. Govt organisations are best suited to utilize small wind in immediate term apart from telecom tower companies. I recommend all to do some research and see for themselves that there is no dearth of good products to help us cut down on fossil fuels. I consider a Small Wind Turbine (SWT) as an essential component of any off grid Microgrid system.
     
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  20. Singh

    Singh Phat Cat Administrator

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    Not my area of expertise but I would like to make a few random points.

    Sources of Energy include Oil,Gas,Coal and Electricity. Instead of investing in areas which are unproven or unsustainable at present, we must make Energy a Central Subject with its own ministry.

    1. Electricity: Hydroelectric, Nuclear and Thermal should be promoted. We have billions of tonnes of coal, hill states which are naturally suited for hydroelectric generation and now with nuclear deal unfettered access to both raw materials and technology
    2. Like China we must allow only electric two wheelers, petrol cars, and diesel heavy vehicles. This way subsidy issue doesn't arise.
    3. Urban Public Transport should increasingly use electricity. BRT corridor can easily be electrified for eg., Metro is a successful example, maybe trams and electric taxis
    4. Railways should shift to electricity completely, and reduce rates of freight to help offset trucking monopoly over freight.
    5. Indian Oil&Gas demand is close to 3-3.5million bbl/day (thats 540,000,000 litres of oil per day) we only pump out about 7-900,000 bbl per day. At 100$ a barrel we are spending 2-300,000,000$ every day to import oil. This must be offset by increasing reliance on electricity and domestic/indigenous sources of fuel.
    6. Gas sources must be aggressively explored and extracted, and at less than international market prices so that domestic consumers shift from expensive imported oil and gas to domestic gas.
     
  21. TrueSpirit

    TrueSpirit Senior Member Senior Member

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    Sir, repercussions of too much reliance on hydroelectric projects was recently witnessed. Highly debatable.

    Electric cars may not be so green after all, says British study

    The fact is, per mile driven, it's more efficient to store the carbon on site and burn as needed, than it is to burn it in a plant and transmit the resultant energy down electric power lines.

    Most reputed source:

    ELECTRIC CARS, DESPITE THEIR SUPPOSED GREEN CREDENTIALS, ARE AMONG THE ENVIRONMENTALLY DIRTIEST TRANSPORTATION OPTIONS, A U.S. RESEARCHER SUGGESTS.

    Finally, a practical laymen perspective:

    Electric-car costs can outweigh cheap fuel

    refer to above sources.


    In Indian context, next to impossible & highly undesirable.

    Absolutely, but focus must be non-conventional sources of energy, which are not necessarily unproven or uneconomical, anymore.

    Yes, our sub-continental sea-shelf holds huge potential, which remains to be exploited.
     

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