Impact of Renewable Energy Sources on Global Warming in India

 A brief story of global warming- global warming skepticism 

Of all the forecasts of global environmental disasters made from time to time, the one which aroused the most widespread skepticism was about global warming. Even as several well-meaning people took it seriously- some rather too seriously- a whole lot of other scientists and policy-makers dismissed it as over-exaggeration. During 1970s through 1990s, those who believed in global warming talked of it as soon as they felt a day was hotter than the previous one. Others believed that even if the world continued to produce gases which cause greenhouse effect, our oceans would keep assimilating them and no long-term global warming will ensue. They dismissed episodes of extreme climate as the usual fluctuations that occur in nature. Indeed during the late 1960s and early 1970s, it was the forecast of global cooling that had captured public imagination (Gribbin, 1975; Thompson, 1975; Peterson et al, 2008).

Global Warming A Scientifically Accepted Fact  

During the last 20 years, the balance of evidence has gradually and decisively shifted towards global warming. It is now a scientifically accepted fact that global warming is indeed occurring and that it will have long-ranging impacts on the earth’s ecosystems. There is no longer a disagreement on the existence of global warming; if there are disagreements, they are on the extent of harm global warming will cause. There is also near-complete consensus that use of fossil fuels is the principal cause of global warming and unless the emissions to atmosphere of CO2 and other greenhouse gases are drastically reduced, global warming will progressively increase and lead us to our doom.

Adverse Effects of Global Warming 

      So, global warming has already hit us, and it is beginning to hit us harder. It has also produced another monster which may me even more destructive than temperature rise and ocean acidification .Given that 70% of the world is covered by oceans, any disturbances in oceans can have bigger and ‘deeper’ effects on earth than the disturbances in the rest of the 30% of the world!

Global Warming and Renewable Energy Source: India and the world 

Once again, there is a groundswell of demand for ‘alternative energy sources’, particularly the ‘renewable’. Even before global warming became an accepted reality in the post-modern era, fossil fuels were almost universally perceived as highly ‘unclean’ fuels responsible for numerous forms of gross pollution, including acid rain. On the other hand, non-conventional energy sources, especially the renewable energy sources, have created a ‘clean’ image regarding environment impacts. But obviously there is exception, one of the major exceptions is the large hydropower projects. Past experience showed us that they can be catastrophic for the environment. Now it is believed that mini-hydel and micro-hydel projects can be proved harmless for alternatives.

The tide has turned so strongly in favour of renewable that for the first time ever since the dawn of the fossil fuel era over two hundred years ago, renewable energy technologies have attracted more investment globally, ($140 billion) in 2008, compared with $110 billion for fossil fuel-based technologies according to figures released by the United Nations, June 2009 (Macalister, 2009). Wind energy has attracted the highest new worldwide investment, $51.8 billion, followed by solar at $33.5 billion. Biofuels are the next popular investment, winning $16.9 billion. There is as much as a 27% rise to $36.6 billion in developing countries led by China, which pumped in $ 15.6 billion, mostly in wind and biomass plants. India’s overall spending on renewable energy has risen to $4.1 billion 2008, 12% up on 2007 levels.

India has started Spending on Renewables to reduce global warming and pollution 

         According to India’s Ministry for New and Renewable Energy (MNRE, 2009), India has a potential of generating over 82000 MW (8.2 GW) of power from just wind, small hydro and biomass (Table 1.1). Of this, only 6100 MW, i.e., a mere 7.4% of the potential is presently being realized. There is a similarly vast potential for dispersed units, but only a small fraction has been realized (Table 1.2). Which is why India has stepped up its spending on renewable, just as the rest of the world has. It as if the world is preparing to stake it’s all on renewable in the hope that renewable will save it from the looming disaster of global warming and irreversible pollution.

Table 1.1 : Potential of Power Obtainable from wind, small hydro and biomass in India vs its actual realization at present (MNRE, 2014)

Impact of Renewable Energy Sources on Global Warming in India

Table 1.2 : Potential utilization of biogas and dispersed solar energy, biomass and wind energy systems in India and the present state of its realization (MNRE, 2014)

Statistics of renewable energy sources in India, 2014

These links gives glimpses of the renewable energy sources. It also addresses these tricky questions: are renewable energy sources really as benign as is widely believed? Are they really a sure answer to the problem of global warming?

Is there any major proof that Renewables are environment friendly ? 

One may say that for thousands of years when humankind was dependent almost totally on renewable, the world was much less polluted and there was no global warming. Is this itself not a major proof that renewable are environment-friendly?

Sadly, it isn’t!

The reason is that till the mid-18th century the global population and the per capita energy consumption, hence the total global energy consumption, were small fractions of what they are today. Had we used fossil fuels at the rate renewable sources were being used till 1850, we would not have experienced global warming. But at the present rate of population growth and per capita consumption no source of energy, however, clean it may be, can bail us out of rapidly increasing global warming and other forms of pollution

India, in its National Electricity Policy 2005 (MNRE, 2009), has set for itself the goals of, among other things: (a) access to electricity for all and (b) increase in per capita availability to over 1000 units by 2012. In other words, we want to greatly enhance energy consumption. In doing it, we will have to face the inevitable consequence of more serious pollution. And, as we will bring out in the next articles that renewable aren’t as squeaky clean as are popularly believed. Nor is the use of renewable energy sources on a large scale an insignificant burden on the environment.



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