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By: Dr. Adil Rassool Malik

Historically, fossil fuels, coal, nuclear, petroleum, and natural gas were the sources of energy generation – however these take millions of years to be formed and replenish the natural reserves and thus are called the non-renewable resources.

Renewable Energy on the other hand, much like its name suggest comprises the forms of energy whose source of generation can get re-newed/replenished in an acceptable time frame. The most common sources for harvesting renewable energy have been solar, wind, hydropower, biomass, and geothermal. While renewable energy systems are better for the environment and produce less emission than conventional energy sources, many of these sources still face difficulties in being deployed at a large scale including technological barriers, high start-up capital costs, and intermittency challenges.

The sun remains the central source and most of the renewable energy is derived directly or indirectly from it. Solar energy has been the most conventional form of generating electricity – with several initiatives from government for harbouring and harvesting the same, for example – ‘rent a roof’ policy by the Government of India is one such initiative, with a target for installation of Rooftop Solar Projects (RTP) of 40 GW by 2022 including installation on rooftop of houses.

India, a nation with the second largest population in the world combined with a positive Gross Domestic Growth (GDP) growth rate of around 8% is currently in a state of ever growing energy demands to fulfil various needs and goals, making the addressal towards the future energy security a matter of immense importance with the need towards further developing, strengthening and harnessing the vast renewable energy potential. In today’s scenario, India is the world’s third largest producer and consumer of electricity having seen an exponential growth in its renewable energy sector in the past five years. As of 31 March 2021, 36.8 % of India’s installed electricity generation capacity is from renewable sources (140.6 GW out of 382.15 GW). In 2015, the government made its intentions to transition to a lower-emission electricity system clear by declaring an ambitious target of 175 GW from renewables by 2022 which includes 100 GW from solar, 60 GW from wind, 10 GW from bio-power and 5 GW from small hydro-power.

Shifting our focus to the scenario in J&K – it happens to be the state with immense unutilized potential. It is categorized amongst one of the energy-starved states within India and the inadequacy of the existing power capacity power has been affecting the pace of development in all sectors of the economy. Historically the principal energy source in J&K has been hydroelectricity and still constitutes around 68% of the total energy mix. Its rivers, which are the main source of power generation, have the maximum flow during the summer season (April-October) and thus have a potential to meet the pressing energy demands. However, during the rest of the year, i.e., in the winter season, the water level drops to one third of the annual average and the demand increases due to the extra usage of electricity for heating and lighting purpose and thus resulting in purchase of large quantities of power from adjacent states.

J&K has a hydropower potential of the order of 20,000 MW of which about 16,000 MW have been identified and a quarter harnessed so far. Ironically, this huge hydropower potential has not been fully exploited due to the shortage of financial resources and also as a consequence of the provisions in accordance to the Indus Water Treaty signed between India and Pakistan. The Indus basin runs through both India and Pakistan and comprises three western rivers: the Indus, the Jhelum and Chenab and three eastern rivers: the Sutlej, the Beas and the Ravi. The treaty restrains the right of J&K on the upper Chenab, Jhelum, and Indus for purposes of consumptive hydroelectric storage and diversions within these basins. However, the Government of Jammu and Kashmir (GOJK) has decided to encourage generation of power through small hydropower sources of energy and has framed a policy so that the development of this sector serves as a driving factor to achieve the objective of promoting the all-round development of the region. (Jammu and Kashmir State Power Development Corporation (JKSPDC), Jammu and Kashmir State Electricity Regulatory Commission for determination of Generic Tariff for procurement of power from wind energy generators in the State of Jammu and Kashmir. Srinagar, India (2010).

J&K is one of the 14 Himalayan states that have a combined small hydropower potential of around 7550 MW. In 2021, the Union Minister for Power, New & Renewable Energy, Shri R. K. Singh, said that the government has taken commendable initiatives to harness the Hydroelectric Power Generation in the district. The Minister mentioned that people will witness a change in the power sector as Kishtwar is going to become a hub of Hydroelectric Power that will make Jammu and Kashmir power surplus. The roadmap includes the ‘Dul Hasti Hydroelectric Power Project’ which in combination with the other under construction power projects has a generation potential of roughly 2554 megawatts in Kishtwar. Out of this, 1000 MWs are planned to be harvested from the Pakal Dul Hydroelectric Project at Arzi, 390 MW from the Dul-Hasti Dam site at Dool, 1000 MWs from the Pakal Dul Hydroelectric Project at Dangduru Dachhan, 540 MW from Kwar Project and 624 MW from the run-of-the-river Kiru Hydroelectric Project. Such projects aim to provide secure electricity supply to foster domestic industrial advancement, attract new investments, and consequently serve as an important employment growth engine, generating additional income.

Jammu and Kashmir has an unsolicited potential for the application of biomass as an alternative source of energy through pyrolysis and appropriate gasification technologies, due to the higher capacity factor of biomass than other renewable energy sources as well as availability in abundance of fuel wood, agricultural residues and animal wastes. According to statistics, more than 2/3rd of population of the region relies on the agricultural sector for their livelihood and consequently uses agricultural residues and cattle dung cakes for cooking as fuel, which is a wasteful practice as only 9–12% of the fuel value is harnessed during the process. The practice of burning of cattle dung has not only led to national wastage of organic manures but has also various health and environmental hazards. Similarly the manure that is left to decompose in open releases two main gases that cause global climate change: nitrous dioxide and methane. Energy for cooking alone contributes 50% ofthe total energy budget of the state. There is a large potential for the application of biogas technologies to provide sustainable power supplies for distributed generation. Four model biogas plants were initially installed in 4 Kashmir villages namely, Village Chralpora Rohama, Rafiabad, District Baramulla, Village Athena, District Budgam, Village Mulnar New Theed, Harwan, District Srinagar. Village Chak-i-Safapora, District Ganderbal. This was done to assess the various acceptance, transition and efficiency factors involed with the usage of Biomass in the region. As of 2020, there are a total number of 3200 biogas plants in Jammu & Kashmir. Biogas plants in Jammu & Kashmir have increased from 2,489 in 2011 to 3,200 in 2020 growing at an average annual rate of 2.95%, clearing indicating the fruitful benefits of the deployment of this form of energy.

Thus, Jammu and Kashmir with its immense potential to harness renewable resources and to promote clean energy provides ample investment oppurtunities with high returns. The government should further encourage the corporate sector to increase their investment in renewable energy through various projects that are benefical to both parties. The government in one such initiative has already established Akshay Urja shops and the setting up of commercial small hydro power projects through private sector participation. The success of all these projects can only be fully realised once awareness is spread regarding their benefits – towards the environment and the population alike. These newer developmental systems thus should aim at being eco-friendly, farmer friendly and user friendly.

Author besides being Doctor engages with positive perception management of various political and social issues. [email protected]  & twitter @drmalikadil

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