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Friday, August 5, 2011
How are you all? This time, the topic is a departure from normal, light ones but, nevertheless, one which requires some serious thought and attention by the current generation, if the generations after us should not suffer.
This is a write up on our energy scenario 50 to 100 years from now; and the same has been prepared by my father after carrying out in depth studies. Being a topic of relevance for all I am putting the same here
We intake energy every moment, and therefore we are alive. In other words when we stop intake of energy in the form of food we die. This reason is sufficient for us to acquire awareness on availability of energy for all for the future.
The young ones of today are unaware of the conditions in which our great grandfathers lived. That was before petrol, diesel, cooking gas or electricity became available. There were no cars, buses, railways, ships or aircrafts in those days. They did not have the wonderful aids of today such as phones, television or even a radio.
Then how did they live? Our forefathers lived largely in villages by utilizing the limited quantities of (renewable) energy available then. Grains and vegetables were largely cultivated using manure of biological origin in river basins. Cooking of delicious food was largely done using the intense heat of fire obtained from burning firewood. They walked, and used animal driven carts and country boats to reach places beyond walking range. None belonging to the younger generation of today can imagine as to how our forefathers lived.
Then what was the root cause of the revolutionary types of changes that have taken place in our lives? Undoubtedly we could say that the unbelievable types of aids that have come into the lives of the modern man in the form of a large variety of home appliances energized by electricity, environmental conditioning systems, various transportation media as well as the computer assisted communication systems and many more have been realized by utilizing unlimited quantities of hydrocarbons.
Nowadays, petroleum is mined out, processed and distributed as per demand (more to satisfy the greed in us than need, according to this author). This gives an impression that petroleum deposits shall be available eternally. This is one side of the story.
Look at the other side of the energy scenario of the recent times. A couple of years back the Chief of British petroleum sent out a message that petroleum shall be available for meeting out needs only for around four more decades. A question came in my mind as to how we shall be able to operate our cars, trucks and buses and aircrafts after four decades from now. However, no one seems to have noticed this statement which according to me is life threatening. May be petroleum could last for another one hundred years more; even then, what do we do for liquid fuels afterwards? This is a question that is kept away from our discussions. However, we seem to have some idea on the energy shortage which is expected to seriously affect the functioning of our economy in the not so distant future; therefore we are looking at the possibility of deriving energy from alternative sources.
This could be the reason for us to seriously pursue with measures for deriving electricity from nuclear energy to the maximum possible extent. However, we seem to be running after the oasis of accelerated capacity additions of nuclear electric power plants. Since we do not have the capability for establishing a large number of them in a short period utilizing our indigenous production capabilities alone, we have gone to countries that could make them available for us. However, we are in a pathetic situation in which they provide us hope one day, and the very next day makes us desperate.
Then we are promoting the generation of grid connected solar electricity in a big way; we therefore have the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission aimed at a capacity addition to the tune of 20000 MW by the year 2022. We are investing a huge quantum of money and in turn our precious resources for this. However while doing so we are overlooking many negative aspects of solar electricity generation; some of them are:
· Compared to the intensity of energy we get by burning hydrocarbons, the intensity of solar energy is very weak.
· The efficiency of conversion of solar energy into electricity is also very low.
· The life of many of the sub systems of solar electrical plants is very low; eg. Battery.
· The cost of solar electric plants is very high.
An analysis carried out by self indicates that we spend more energy largely in the form of electricity for the manufacture and operation of solar electric plants, than the quantum of electricity we get from them over their lifetime performance. This important aspect seems to have been overlooked by our energy planners.
Books on energy refer solar energy as the energy of tomorrow. I believe that this statement is being made without understanding its limitations with respect to generation of electricity.
We also seem to believe that energy from nuclear fusion reactors is sure to provide us as much energy as required in the hydrocarbon depleted era. However, its technology seems to be so complicated that nuclear fusion reactors providing us energy even after a century or two seems to be very remote.
On the whole the energy scenario of the coming centuries seems to be very bleak. Whether anyone is aware of this aspect is not clear. By not being serious about working out an energy-population planning for the coming times, we are doing great injustice to our succeeding generations who might face very serious energy shortages.
This author would like more and more of us to develop understanding on what are happening on the energy scenario, and what it is likely to be 50 to 100 years from now.
Thanks to my father S Muthukrishna Iyer on his efforts to spread awareness about ever(never)lasting energy scenario through this article.