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BW Businessworld

Wind, Water And The Sun

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This magazine has  been focusing on the deteriorating state of India’s power sector for some time now. We have highlighted the problems being faced by the ultra mega power projects, the worsening coal situation that makes several power plants run at way below their capacities, the parlous state of finances of our state electricity boards, and other issues — ranging from land procurement problems to inordinate delays in getting environmental clearances for allocated coal mines — that have soured the dream of many private power producers.
 
Simply put, the power sector in the country is grappling with issues in all three parts of the business — production, transmission and distribution. At the production end, the biggest problem is fuel — or rather the lack of it. This ensures that even when new capacity comes on stream, it does not add as much to the total power availability as it should. At the transmission end, poor infrastructure leads to leakages and theft. And finally, distribution is a mess, with most states unable to get their electricity boards to function properly.
 
Of the three, the power generation issue could be mitigated somewhat if India took steps to harness clean power sources. While hydro electricity has limited potential, because of the dwindling state of most Indian rivers, wind and solar can be harnessed far better than they are being done now. Tamil Nadu and its neighbouring states have enormous potential for wind power generation. And most states provide ideal conditions for tapping the power of solar energy.
 
Despite the obvious advantages, why haven’t we been able to do better on the solar and wind energy fronts? Correspondent Yashodhara Dasgupta spent two months researching the issues that are plaguing India’s clean energy movement. Assistant editor Vishal Krishna travelled to Tamil Nadu to understand why the state with the largest number of wind farms could not harness its power properly.
 
On a different note, this week saw another cabinet reshuffle. We thus have the third power minister in six months, the third petroleum and natural gas minister in three years, and the fourth railway minister in six months. Will this make the government more efficient? I am not particularly optimistic, given the history of this government.

(This story was published in Businessworld Issue Dated 12-11-2012)