Strategic alternatives to end power crisis

“Decentralised solar power generations especially when DC power is generated directly,  is not much expensive than the grid power,”saysDr Ashok Jhunjhunwala,Founder of TeNet Group, IIT Madras
 Power cuts continue to plague Indian states. The government has been looking for new methods and technology for uninterrupted power supply that could end rolling blackouts. Dr Ashok Jhunjhunwala has pioneered a slew of technologies in different sectors and now he desires to end power cuts in India. In an exclusive interview with Shahzad Bagwan, he discusses the concept called brownout and methods to prevent power cuts.
What is your take on the current scenario of power shortage in India?Power shortage has been rising. More can be done to generate required power, but power shortage could still be there. Therefore we need to try to enhance demand and at the same time do a few other things too address the demand-supply gap.
We need to evolve the demand-supply scenario considering details like generation, reduction of demand by increasing energy efficiency. So increasing energy efficiency will also play a major role.
What alternatives do you plan to use to reduce the shortage and how sustainable are these alternatives?There are three things we are trying to do. Firstly, to significantly increase energy efficiency we are using direct current (DC) powered light, fans, chargers for electronic products so that power wastage can be significantly be reduced. In volumes none of these solutions are more expensive. In comparison to CFL lightning LED is expensive but LED has a higher life span. The other DC solutions are not expensive than the AC solutions so are sustainable.
Secondly, we are talking about decentralised solar power generations. Decentralised solar power generations especially when DC power is generated directly,  is not much expensive than the grid power. It is equivalent to the similar charges for grid power which is around Rs. 5 per unit so again it is sustainable. If it is installed by individuals and if the direct output is DC, then it is extremely beneficial.
The third important step is we are trying to bring in the concept of brownout, where there is limited amount of power supply during power shortage. The power cuts are never 100 per cent but 85-90 per cent. The remaining power gets converted to DC and continues to feed DC while AC is cut off. Now that requires a small amount of investment, the amount of investment is small at the end of the power distribution company; it will be Rs. 300-500 per home. For a home-owner it will cost around Rs. 1,000 which is a small price to pay for uninterrupted power supply. It also far better than the current UPS or inverters which use battery.
According to you what are the areas which need improvement?For light, fans and electronic products we can almost cut the power uses by a factor of two so to get a huge gain. As far as solar power is concerned, I think it is possible to generate probably 30-40 per cent of power required for light, fans and electronic goods. Therefore to that extent that power is saved.
As far as the uninterrupted power is concerned we are talking of very small amount of power – 10 per cent of the power to be continued to be saved. The advantage that we get with uninterrupted power is larger.
With the use of these alternatives how can we meet the demand-supply gap?By decentralised solar power generations we can enhance the power supply. If 100 million homes generate 1KW of power it will result in 100GW power generation which is 40 per cent of today’s peak power generation. So we are talking about huge increase in supply side of power generation.
On the demand side, conversion of lights, fans and electronic goods to DC will result in demand side deduction which is another way to bridge the demand-supply gap. Where uninterrupted power is concerned, it does not change the demand-supply gap; even in the power cut it keeps minimum power at home and therefore is of high social value.
What is your comment on running solar energy with DC combination?As soon as we start providing uninterrupted power supply using DC power line to home, it will give a huge incentive for people to put their own solar generator because they no longer have to do conversion of solar. One just has to buy a solar panel, which is easy and cost effective.

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