Meeting the Needs of All

June 5, 2011
Dept of Social Work, Amritapuri

Dr.-V.-K.-DamodaranDr. V. K. Damodaran, Vice-Chairman, Energy Management Centre, Kerala was invited to speak about renewable energy at the International Conference on Society, Technology and Sustainable Development. His talk emphasized ways to find enough, to meet the needs of all, through emerging renewable energy technologies and efficient use of energy.

A paper presented that same afternoon by Mr. Nitin Z. Akhade, Fr. C. Rodrigues Institute of Technology, New Mumbai verily illustrated many of Dr. Damodaran’s suggestions through a case study of the Tata Power Residential Colony in Mumbai.

Given below are some excerpts from Dr. Damodaran’s talk.


If you ask an administrator about renewable energy, you may receive the answer that renewable energy can contribute only 7-8% or maximum 10%, what are they to do for the remaining 90 % ?

EnergyThe presumption is that renewable energy cannot meet the real energy needs of the world. Of late, with climate change, renewable energy is getting more attention from the government. India has decided to have 20,000 MW of solar energy by 2020, China also has a more ambitious goal of 50,000 MW.

Mahatma Gandhi has said, “The earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need but not every man’s greed.” I say that this is true of energy also. There is enough to meet the needs of all through renewable energy technologies. Do not push it aside saying that it is too small.

If you look at global energy today, we use a total of 132,000 TWh. Of this, oil meets 37%, coal 25%, gas 23%. All others account for less than 10%. For instance, nuclear gives 6%, biomass 4%, hydro 3%, solar heat 0.5%, wind 0.3%, geothermal 0.2%, bio-fuels 0.2%, solar photovoltaic 0.04%. So this is today’s scenario.

My question is, at least by 2025 or by 2030 or by 2050, can we hope that renewable energy will become the major supplier worldwide?

EnergyThere is a plan of taking solar heat from the deserts of the world and converting by solar thermal to electricity and even transmitting part of it to Europe. So many companies have already started investing. They are targeting 100 GW of electric power. It involves 2500 sq km of desert land for the solar plants and 3500 sq km for high-voltage DC transmission lines.

When we talk about energy for least developed countries, they can also start in a small way. 77% of the population is without electricity in those least developed countries. 71% lives in villages. Small initiatives can bring a lot of change. Just to show an example from Kerala, this last year 2010, millions of 60 W lamps were replaced in households with CFLs. This resulted in a saving of 300 MW (~10%) load during peak hours.

Another example I want to share with you is an experiment initially performed in Kenya and then in Tanzania. In rural areas, we tried to bring in electricity by producing 10 KW of power by using whatever renewable energy source was available. Wind, solar, waste and in Africa there are lot of slaughter houses, so in many places we converted slaughter-house waste to electricity through the biogas route. So by any renewable energy source, we produced 10 KW, and we replaced all kerosene lamps with LED lights.

Even though renewable energy is generally more costly than conventional electricity and LED lights are more expensive as compared to conventional lamps, still the families benefitted. Earlier, every Kenyan or Tanzanian family spent 14 $ equivalent money on kerosene. With LED lights, recharging was required only once a week at an expense of 5 $. So every family saved 9 $ every month.


I just wanted to show that even with only 10 KW of renewable energy, the scenario in a whole rural area was completely changed. This was a small beginning. If every village can do this, a big difference can be made.


Supporting the use of biomass for energy, Dr. Smitha Chandran S. of Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham presented her research on an exotic aquatic weed that proliferates extensively, causing much harm to the native ecosystems. Dr. Smitha proposed the harvesting and use of this weed as feed stock in anaerobic digesters for biogas generation.


Mr. Venkatesh S. from Vel Tech High Tech Engineering College presented his studies carried out with a Solid Porous Support System for biogas generation through the use of vegetable waste from the market.

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