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Special Content

Issue no 37, 10-16 December 2022

Green Energy

The Way Forward


Dr. Manas Ranjan Senapati


Renewable energy or green energy is energy obtained from the sources which are essentially consumed from nature and are not replenished during the course of time. Examples of renewable resources include wind energy, solar energy, geothermal energy, tidal energy, biofuel and hydroelectric energy. The most important feature of renewable energy is that it can be harnessed without the release of harmful toxic pollutants. Nonrenewable energy or conventional fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas, are likely to deplete in due course. At the present rate of consumption, oil reserves will last for 30 to 40 years, gas reserves will last for 50 to 60 years, coal reserves will last for 80 to 100 years and uranium reserves will last for 1000 years. Conservation of non-renewable energy is therefore important not only to save the resources but also to protect our environment. National Energy Conservation Day observed every year on 14th December aims to generate awareness among the masses in India about the importance of saving energy. Green energy is derived from natural sources such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides, plants, algae and geo-thermal heat. These energy resources are environment friendly and reduce our carbon footprint. Green energy, however, utilises energy sources that are readily available all over the world, including in rural and remote areas that don't otherwise have access to electricity. Advances in renewable energy technologies have lowered the cost of solar panels, wind turbines and other sources of green energy, placing the ability to produce electricity in the hands of the people rather than those of oil, gas, coal and utility companies. About 30 percent of the world's electricity comes from renewables, including hydropower, solar and wind among others. Costa Rica has produced a whopping 98% of its electricity from renewable sources for over seven years in a row from combination of hydro, geothermal, wind, biomass and solar power. India ranks fourth in the world in terms of installed renewable energy capacity and India's non-fossil fuel energy has grown by over 25% in the previous 7 years. It is estimated that by the year 2050, the largest amount of the world's energy will be supplied by alternative or renewable energy sources. Regardless, a world powered by renewable sources sounds likes a great future. Green technologies encompass various aspects of technology which help us reduce the human impact on the environment and create ways of sustainable development. Today the environment is racing towards the tipping point at which we would have done permanent irreversible damage to the planet earth. Our current actions are pulling the world towards an ecological landslide which if happens would make destruction simply inevitable. Green technologies are an emerging approach towards saving earth. Thus both its pros and cons need to be investigated. Green technology uses renewable natural resources that never depletes. Green technology adopts new and innovative energy generation techniques. Renewable energy is the energy which is derived from a limitless source. Proper utilisation of energy resources is a hot debate going on these days. It is very essential to choose which source of energy for our need and why so. Majority of factors such as cleanliness, cost, stability, efficiency and environmental aspects must be taken into account. It is a bitter fact that many industries and commercial establishments around the world instead of going green are still dependent on fossil fuels for electricity generation.

Need of Renewable Energy: With an increase in the world's population of 50-100% in the future and increased economic welfare by many people in the industrialised countries and the newly developed industrialised countries including rurbanisation, the challenges for future economic, social and technological changes are clear. There is a need for more resource efficient consumption patterns, more resource efficient technologies and an increased focus on reduction of environmental impact and resource consumption in strategies for research, innovation and different consumption areas. Renewable energy uses energy sources that are continually replenished by nature-the sun, the wind, water, the Earth's heat, and plants. Renewable energy technologies turn these fuels into usable forms of energy-most often electricity, but also heat, chemicals, or mechanical power. Renewable energy generation, such as wind and solar power, is sometimes criticised for being variable or intermittent. Renewable energy technologies can have significant environmental benefits. Unlike coal and natural gas, they can generate electricity and fuels without releasing significant quantities of CO2 and other greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change. We often call renewable energy technologies "clean" and "green" because they produce comparatively less pollutants. Burning fossil fuels, however releases greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, trapping the sun's heat and contributing to global warming. Climate scientists generally agree that the Earth's average temperature has increased alarmingly in the past century. If this trend continues, sea levels will rise, and scientists predict that floods, heat waves, droughts, and other extreme weather conditions could affect us more often. Other pollutants are also released into the air, soil, and water when fossil fuels are burned. These pollutants take a dramatic toll on the environment and on humans. Air pollution contributes to diseases like asthma, pneumonia, lung cancer etc. Acid rain caused by sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides mostly released from thermal power plants affects plants and aquatic animals. Nitrogen oxides also contribute to photochemical smog. Renewable energy will also help us develop energy independence and security. Replacing some of our petroleum with fuels made from vegetable oil, for example, biofuel could not only save money but also strengthen our energy security. Renewable energy is available in plenty, and the technologies are improving all the time. There are many ways to explore renewable energy resources. Most of us are seen already in practice to use renewable energy in our daily lives.

Energy Conservation : Proper use of energy is very vital in catering the need for energy demand. Experts all over the world are of the opinion to utilise renewable energy sources for power generation. The sustainable nature of wind, hydropower, geothermal, solar and biomass highly encourage the energy supply companies to utilise them. Moreover, people can setup small solar panels over their homes to tackle their own load demands. Conservation of energy and utilising renewable sources is the ultimate destination of energy roadmap. Many vehicles run on gasoline (which is a fossil fuel). Gasoline will deplete one day and vehicle industry must resort to some new sort of energy such as hybrid systems or electric vehicles to continue its business. Energy can be conserved in many ways. Many a times, we ignore the lights, fans and other devices being switched on. Turning off lights, ACs and heater when not in use can save up to 282 kilowatts of energy per day. This practice will certainly save lots of money on electricity bill. Incandescent lamps are now almost replaced with lightemitting diode (LED) bulbs. It only takes a 12-watt LED bulb to give off as much light as a 43- watt halogen bulb or a 60-watt traditional incandescent bulb. It's a simple way to use less electricity. This practice not only saves money but also conserves energy. Air conditioning and heating are responsible for a large percentage of electricity bills in various establishments. We can adjust the thermostat of air conditioner and heater by a few degrees, but while still maintaining soothe. As a case study, if the heater is typically set to 71 degree Fahrenheit in the peak winter, set it to, for instance, 69 and if the air conditioner is at 73 in the peak summer, set it to, for instance, 75. Just a couple of degrees can make a considerable indentation in the amount of energy consumed while this also saves money.

Conclusion: India is committed towards clean and green energy sources and National Hydrogen Mission is a leap in that direction, said Union Minister for Environment Forest and Climate change Bhupender Yadav on the sidelines of COP 27 recently concluded in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt. The objective of using green energy sources is to reduce the pessimistic environmental effects associated with non renewable energy sources such as coal, oil and natural gas. Opting to use a renewable energy source will not only translate into cost savings over the long-term, but will also help protect the environment from the risks of fossil fuel emissions. Energy conservation awareness campaigns must be initiated at government level to make people aware of the importance of conserving energy by adopting energy audit. Moreover, power generating units should gradually resort to the use of renewable resources as they are profuse and will never deplete. Social media can play a key role by augmenting awareness amongst people about green energy sources and their utilization. Public should be made aware about green good deeds on energy conservation and utilisation. There is no hesitation in saying that people are becoming increasingly conscious of the importance of using renewable sources of energy but still a lot of work needs to be done in this domain. For instance, awareness programs must be started in various regions by intellectuals and subject experts to make people responsive of the importance of alternative energy technologies. They must also discourage them to use fossil fuels due to their evident demerits to the environment and living beings. Courses on renewable or green energy are introduced in the syllabus at school, college and university levels in order to make them realise their significance and to increase their knowledge in this sphere. Green jobs from different sectors on clean and green energy vs. fossil fuels, public transportation vs. roads, electric vehicles vs. internal combustion engine vehicles, and nature-based solutions vs. oil and gas production draws attention now a days. A renewable energy economy is desired and the next decade is going to be the era of renewable energy. Private sector support and international cooperation are needed to strengthen government policy initiatives. This requires programs that promote technology transfer, capacity building and collaborative research and development. Innovation in green energy sources will enable developing countries to leapfrog to modern and sustainable energy systems and technologies.

The Author is Dean Science of Biju Patnaik University of Technology & Professor of Chemistry, Trident Academy of Technology, Bhubaneswar. Views expressed are personal.