The Sunday Times of India April 12, 1998, Page 5


The Times of India News Service

BANGALORE: With the present fossil fuel (coal, oil and natural gas) potential unable to meet the current demands, renewable resources of energy provide viable alternatives. With a cycling time of less than 100 years, renewable resources, if optimally utilized, can fill the void created by the depleting non-renewable resources which take more than a million years to get replenished.

The current sources of renewable are from wind, small hydro, solar, biomass, energy from wastes (such as biogas, agrowastes, etc). However, not many people know that traditional fuels account for 53.2 per cent of total energy consumption in Karnataka.

A study has been conducted by Prof. T.V. Ramachandra and D.K. Subramanyan of Centre for Ecological Sciences, IISc, in Uttara Kannada. According to the study, in the five taluks of Karwar, Ankola, Kumta, Honnavar and Bhatkal, the fuelwood consumption for water heating in one year is 222.56 kilotons. Of this, 66.77 kilotons can be replaced by solar water heating devices. Similarly, fuelwood consumption for cooking is 185.81 kilotons for which the anticipated replacement is 9.29 kilotons.

Using improved stoves, one can save about 42 per cent in the quantity of fuel used by traditional stoves. In the fuel-efficient stoves, there is complete combustion of fuel wood with as little excess air as practicable to generate the highest temperature.

"Many villages have been supplied with efficient fuel stoves and biogas digesters by the government but lack of maintenance and unawareness on the part of the villagers has led to the skewed presumption that the technology has failed," said Mr. T.V. Ramachandra. Other than using residues from forests, agriculture, horticulture and livestock, scientists also propose energy plantations. In other words, growing select species of trees and shrubs that are harvestable in a comparatively shorter time and can be used as efficient fuels. "The heat content of the wood is similar to that of Indian coal," scientists say.

Another study conducted to assess the status of bio-resource availability in Kolar shows that the supply-demand ratio is less than 0.5. In other words, there is no resource scarcity. What is required is awareness on the part of the people and initiative on the part of the government, the researchers believe.

That the immediacy of the problem has not hit the right chords is clear from the fact that in the eighth plan, out of the total energy outlay of Rs. 1,14,100 crore, renewable energy projects got a measly 0.8 per cent, while in the ninth plan there is no mention of such projects.

Though the total renewable sources contribute about 18 per cent to mankind's total energy use today, the current use of renewable is only about 1.9 per cent of the primary energy use. Time we harnessed the nature's bounty.

Bioenergy from residues

* Agriculture: Paddy husk, stalks; oil seeds (e.g. groundnut shells); maize cobs and husk; ragi residue

* Horticulture: Coconut and areca leaves, inflorescence, shells, husk; cashew shell and husk

* Animals: Dung from buffaloes, goats and sheep Study shows that gas generated by animal dung is sufficient to meet the requirement of 20 per cent of the population in Kolar.