By Nithin Sridhar
In 2004, the government decided to observe 20th August as “Akshay Urja Diwas” or “Renewable Energy Day” in order to increase awareness about renewable energy. It was subsequently celebrated in 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008.
Today, on 20th August 2015, let us revisit the basics of renewable energy and dwell on its importance.
What is renewable energy?
In the high-school, most of us would have studied that energy and energy sources can be broadly classified into renewable and non-renewable energy. The energy which is derived from sources and get exhausted over time is called as “non-renewable energy”. Example: power generated using coal as fuel.
On the other hand, the energy generated from sources that remains non-exhaustible and hence does not deplete with usage is called as “renewable energy”. Example: power generated using sun light. The sun does not deplete with usage, but the coal does. Renewable basically means “renewed” or “replenished”.
What are the sources and extent of the usage of renewable energy?
Sunlight, wind, and water-falls are the major sources of renewable energy. Other sources include tides, waves, and geo-thermal heat.
According to Renewables 2014 report, in 2012 the contribution of renewable energy to global final energy consumption was around 19%. The division of renewable energy consumption was: Traditional biomass (9%), non-biomass heat energy (4.2%), Hydropower (3.8%) and power generated from wind, solar, geothermal etc. (2%).
In India, the total installed capacity of grid interactive renewable power as on 30.03.2014 was 31,692.18 MW. Out of that, Small Hydro Power contributed 3803.7 MW, Solar Power: 2631.96 MW, Wind Power: 21136.40 MW, Biomass Power: 4013.55 and power generated from waste contributed 106.58 MW.
Why renewable energy is so important?
The most important advantage of using renewable sources of energy is that they are renewable. Hence they can be used always without the fear of depletion. Further, increased dependence on renewables, would mean decreased dependence on exhaustible sources like coal and oil. This in-turn will not only result in preservation of natural-resources but also will decrease political and economic conflicts and wars that are fought over owning the exhaustible sources.
Another important advantage in using the renewable sources is the reduction of air and water pollution and optimal usage of naturally available resources with minimal side effects. The coal-based or gas-based thermal power plants are one of the major sources of pollution. By decreasing the dependency on coal, gas, etc. these pollutions can be restrained. This will in-turn help in reducing the release of greenhouse gases and hence help fight global warming and climate change.
Use of renewable sources of energy will also prevent any damage to life and property through nuclear disasters as happened in Fukushima Nuclear Power plant in Japan. If the cost of producing electricity from renewable sources drops further, then they may become more widespread and in-turn help in stabilizing energy prices.
At an operational level, production and maintenance in a renewable energy plant are much easier than in, say, thermal or nuclear power plants. The risks associated with an on-site job is also lesser. Also, the renewable energy systems are more resilient and reliable energy systems.
Therefore, in spite of having some constraints in using renewable energy sources (for example, they are not available in the same degree throughout the year), attempts must be made to increase the installed capacity of renewable energy systems and slowly the energy reliance should be shifted from exhaustible and polluting sources like coal to non-exhaustible and non-polluting sources like sunlight.