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Focus on energy conservation and efficiency

A COUNTRY where, besides power shortage, electricity generation, fuel and the customer mix have gone wrong, cannot hope to surmount its energy problems in a short period of 2-3 years.

Presently, the most important challenge is to correct the highly skewed fuel mix. And if it is not done, prices would surely skyrocket, getting out of reach of the people.

Consequently, all efforts to add capacity (1900 MW has been added to the tally during the last 30 months) will come to a naught, if the fuel mix, at least, is not corrected through diversion of gas to the power sector and possible conversion of the GENCOs (except for the gas turbines) to coal fired systems.

The possible diversion of gas can be easy and probably depends upon the public policy alone. However, conversion to coal eventually needs at least 2-3 years.

But it is also imperative to take up energy conservation and efficiency in a very sustained manner.

The savings can be huge as the Pepco`s efforts of the last three years plus have already laid down the foundation of national conservation. The sale of CFLs or energy savers has ballooned from a meagre two million pieces in 2005-06 to a whopping 30 million in 2009-10. This alone has reduced the customer demand by a 1000 to 1500 MW – otherwise; the national demand would have been 22,500 MW against the maximum of 21,000 MW as seen in the summers of 2010.

Although, energy savers are accepted as gadgets to save on electricity bills, the general customer remains oblivious of many a facet and the country continues to be a dumping ground for inefficient domestic appliances like fridges, deep freezers, air-conditioners and the like.

PSQCA, at the prodding of the Pepco and ENERCON, has started firming up standards, but the job remains far from completed as yet. The National Energy Conservation Strategy, the National Energy Conservation Council and its executive committee all are dormant.

The recommendations that the standards of comparative economies be adopted have also not been given any weight. Experts opine that if all the domestic appliances had been efficient and compliant to international standards, the demand would have dropped by a colossal 2000 MW or 10 per cent of the highest demand in 2010.

Coming over to the industry, Pepco survey 2007, revealed that the average age of equipment/machinery was 17.3 years – meaning, that the equipment in use was of the 1990 model and beyond. In other words, the machinery was of the era when conservation and energy efficiency were not really in fashion (except for the textile machines) and these had been built to produce in the least possible time period.

According to available data, the difference in demand or load of the same machinery of current models and that of the earlier vintage is a cool 38 per cent on the average. This translates into an additional demand of 2000 to 2400 MW. Again, calculate the extra bills being paid by the industry and the difference it would make if balancing, modernisation and replacement (BMR) activity replaces all the trite machines.

Also imagine the usage of 2000 to 2400 MW in some other productive manner and the positive effect it could have on the economy. Such a reduction in demand would allow the utilities to differentiate between the base load and peaking plants – thus reducing the cost of supply in quantum terms. At present, all of the capacity, cheap or expensive, is being utilised to serve the customer demands.

Coming over to agriculture, one sees that the 250,000 tube wells connected to the national grid/electric supply use up to 2000 MW of power during the sowing season

Actually, the demand remain within the band width of 700-2000 MW depending upon the season but is growing in quantum terms.

According to statistics, about 30,000 applications for new tube well connections are pending for want of sanction, which will add another 300 MW to the demand. On checking, it was found that both the motors and the pumps are inefficient and do not conform to the international standards.

In fact, the equipment is of old vintage and over-engineered. Consequently, it is calculated that replacement of the existing equipment can reduce that demand of tube well usage to half of the present. This study was accepted by the USAID, which is in the process of implementing a pilot project of replacement of 11,000 tube well motors and pumps through a partnership programme, where the beneficiary farmer has to pay 50 per cent of the replacement cost.

Let`s hope that the replacement programme catches up and very soon all inefficient equipment would stand replaced. The best of the outcomes would, however, be the setting of standards and installation of only standard equipment in future. If the 7,50,000 tube wells working through diesel engines are also tackled along with the electricity powered ones, the country would save Rs50 billion in fuel and electricity charges each year.

It all could thus have a great impact on the economics of agriculture and may even contribute to possible reduction in the wastage of the underground water resources.

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