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Is solar energy the answer to Goa’s power problems?

19 May 2017 03:55am IST
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19 May 2017 03:55am IST

According to a statement made Power Minister Pandurang Madkaikar, the State will have a solar power policy in place within two months.

According to a statement made Power Minister Pandurang Madkaikar, the State will have a solar power policy in place within two months. The idea is to ensure that the power requirements of the State are met through this alternative source of energy, as Goa has set aside the option of bidding for a coal block. The decision not to take on a coal block came after receiving feedback from power ministers of other States that the cost of maintaining a coal power plant is high and it does not compensate with the supply of power. 

While the decision to opt for solar power is welcome, even the first step towards this may not happen soon. As the minister said, ‘unless and until’ a policy is framed, the State cannot enter into any agreement with the companies that have shown interest in setting up solar plants in Goa. Besides companies showing an interest, there is also a proposal made earlier by the Joint Electricity Regulatory Commission (JERC) to the State to install solar panels to generate 150 mega watts of power for the State. What is surprising is that despite past announcements of opting for solar power and the JERC proposal, there appear to have been no steps initiated to take any of this forward in the State.

In August last year, during the monsoon session of the State Legislative Assembly, the then Power Minister while replying to the debate on grants to the Electricity Department and speaking on solar energy had suggested that solar panels could be fitted on the tops of government buildings to harness energy from the sunlight. The same minister a few days later had said that the non availability of flat land to set up the solar plants was an impediment and that there was a proposal to use water canals, as Gujarat had done, to install solar panels. Even eight months later, neither of these proposals have been acted upon.

Solar power is always a better option than coal-based power, it being renewable energy and non- polluting. For that matter any power drawn from renewable energy sources should be seriously considered so as to reduce the dependence on conventional non-renewable sources of energy, such as fossil fuels that are currently in use. As the world comes to terms with the fact that fossil fuels will run out some day, experiments with alternative renewable sources of energy are already taking place. In the past two years Germany, United Kingdom, Denmark and Portugal, among other countries, have attempted to meet their power needs on an experimental basis, for a certain period, without depending on fossil fuels and have tasted success.

Though in India we have not experimented with this, the Union Ministry of New and Renewable Energy has plans to increase the share of clean power, which means the use of renewable energy sources like bio, wind, hydro, solar, geothermal and tidal so as to supplement fuel-based electricity generation. 

Goa does not produce electricity, but depends on drawing power from the National Grid. If it can take that big step towards producing power through solar energy, it could lead the way for the country in alternative energy sources. But even this would be a slow process, for though the experiments in the use of alternative energy sources have shown positive results, the replacement of fossil fuel by these other sources may never actually happen. Renewable energy sources are also prohibitively priced and will remain supplements and not alternatives to fossil fuels and fossil fuel based power generation. Goa could, therefore, attempt to meet its shortfall in power demand through the solar energy, but not look to replace fossil fuels.
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