Energy system in the Himalayan mountain regions is complex due to the wide variations in availability and demand of energy resources. Mountain inhabitants are traditionally dependent on bioenergy resources like fuel wood, agro and animal residues for meeting their energy requirements for heating, cooking, etc. Per capita fuel wood consumption varies with seasons and regions as 0.48–1.32 kg/person/day (Solan), 1.9–2.68 (Shimla) and 0.89–2.91 kg/person/day (Lahual Spiti). Dwindling forest resources limit availability of fuel wood while commercial sources like LPG and kerosene fail to meet the domestic energy demands due to logistic and economic constraints. Hence, the inhabitants are forced to follow inefficient and ad hoc usage of juvenile forest trees (thus hindering regeneration), agro and animal residues disregarding their alternative utilities. This deteriorates the ecological harmony and demands for sustainable resource planning in the regional level. Ecologically sound development of the region is possible when energy needs are integrated with the environmental concerns at the local and global levels.The need to search for decentralized renewable, alternate and non-polluting sources of energy assumes top priority for self-reliance in the regional energy supply. This demands an estimation of available energy resources spatially to evolve better management strategies for ensuring sustainability of resources. The spatial mapping of availability and demand of energy resources would help in the integrated regional energy planning. Spatial analyses of the availability of solar energy show that the state receives annual average GHI above 4.5 kWh/m2/day and a total of 98586056 Million KWh (or Million Units, MU). The lower and middle elevation zone (< 3500 m) with tropical to wet-temperate climate receives higher GHI (>5 kWh/m2/day) for a major part of the year compared to the higher elevation zone (> 3500 m) with dry-temperate to alpine climate (4-4.5 kWh/m2/day).
Spatial wind profiles based on high resolution data provide insights to the wind regime that helps in identifying potential sites for wind prospecting. The higher altitude alpine zone in Himachal Pradesh has relatively higher wind speeds compared to lower altitude zones. The minimal but reliable surface measurements in the lower altitude temperate and tropical zones indicate the micro climatic influences and spatial variability in the complex Himalayan terrain. The wind potential in Himachal Pradesh supports small wind technologies like agricultural water pumps, wind-photovoltaic hybrids, space/water heaters etc. This would help in meeting the decentralized energy demand sustainably.
The total tree cover in the study area is 43.51% (Solan), 48.85% (Shimla) and 0.36% (Lahaul Spiti) providing annual woody biomass of 517.3–1111.7 kilo tonnes (Solan), 1253.8–3029.8 kilo tonnes (Shimla) and 18.9–63.8 kilo tonnes (Lahaul Spiti). The annual bioenergy potential of agro residues (considering 50% for fuel purpose) is 349463 million kcal (Solan), 221562 million kcal (Shimla) and 2678 million kcal (Lahaul Spiti). The annual biogas generation potential is 8.7–35.6 million m3 (Solan), 12.9–43.2 million m3 (Shimla) and 0.8–1.9 million m3 (Lahaul Spiti). Bioenergy resource crunch is more pronounced in the higher elevations while scarce resource availability scenarios create similar conditions in lower elevations as well.
The process of energy planning at present, however, is a highly centralised activity, and district and local level institutions are not playing any significant role in the process. As a result, the energy crisis in rural areas and particularly in mountainous regions is not adequately reflected in national level planning. In addition, decentralised energy development and conservation programmes are not being effectively implemented. This applies to a wide spectrumof programmes, ranging from the enhancement of social forestry to the introduction of energy-saving devices, e.g., improved cooking stoves and space heating devices. Hence, there is a need to look at all locally available and exploitable renewable resources of the region and analyse spatially the demand for energy services.This study has shown that the objective of effective implementation of energy planning cannot be achieved without decentralisation and active participation of the local community. India is fortunate that it has a wide network of local government institutions at the district and lower levels. This can be effective with the capacity building and assigning the local institutions their due role in the implementation and management of the local energy system.
KEYWORDS: Renewable energy, solar energy, Global Horizontal Insolation (GHI), wind energy, bioenergy, energy demand, decentralized energy planning