Energy Matters

  August 4, 2016

Electric bulbs, cars, fans, air conditioners, televisions, cooking ovens, chulhas, machines... The word ‘energy’ conjures up images of almost everything that makes up our everyday lives. Some forms of energy are renewable, including energy harnessed from the sun, wind and water. Energy produced from garbage, such as dead trees, branches, leftover crops and gobar, or dung, along with other forms of livestock manure—resources collectively called ‘biomass’—can also be used and then replenished.

There is also a second category, non-renewable energy. All forms of fossil fuel—oil, coal and natural gas—are examples. These fuels were made over 300 million years ago and we are slowly and surely depleting the reserves. India has oil reserves, at present production levels, only for 19 years, gas for 28 years, and coal for about 230 years. Then once they are gone, they are gone.

So, what is the need of the hour? What do we do? We need to consume less and conserve. Saving energy is the first step towards energy conservation.

A recent Green Schools Programme (GSP) survey on energy consumption gives us interesting insight into how alternate sources of energy are becoming popular.

The schools were asked various questions: Why are schools opting for solar energy? What are the benefits that schools reap? Is there a difference in schools’ electricity bills?

Of the seven schools (see Box: Schools that participated in the GSP survey) that participated, four have access to solar energy as an alternate source of energy, one is planning to install solar panels, and two have no alternative source of energy installed in their premises.

Saving the environment, utilisation and usefulness of non-renewable sources and significant savings in the electricity bill are the three of the most important reasons for schools using renewable energy. A point to note is that only one of the schools had availed for subsidy from the state/Central government for the installation/purchase of the alternate source of energy.

The schools also stressed that this initiative has helped them understand the benefits of using cleaner and alternative renewable sources of energy. This is evident from the following examples:

  • GSSS Khadri said they use solar energy to light three bulbs of 300 watt each for four hours, which saves them 4.32 mega joules per day.
  • Hayde Heritage Academy said they have solar street lights, solar garden lights and solar water heaters, and are also using solar cookers in their canteen.
  • East Point School said they have seen considerable difference in their electricity bill, amounting to 30 per cent of saving of the total bill. The school also availed subsidy from the state/Central government.

As per the GSP audit 2015, over 40 schools reported using alternative sources of energy. Solar energy was the most popular, with Delhi having the most schools using solar power, followed by Haryana. Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Punjab tied for the third spot.

This indicates that interest and awareness generated are the main reasons for using renewable sources of energy. There is a huge untapped potential that schools in India need to draw on to become energy-efficient.

The burning of fossil fuels releases a complex mixture of pollutants. The ones on which regulators keep a watchful eye are: particulate matter (PM), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), sulphur dioxide (SO2), carbon monoxide (CO) ozone (O3).

  • These have lethal side effects on human health. Exposure to these elements causes both acute short-term effects like eye irritation, headache and nausea as well as chronic long-term diseases such as cardiovascular and respiratory disorders, and lung cancer.
  • Saving energy is the first step to energy conservation. So switching off electrical gadgets when they are not being used; or stopping the car engine while waiting at a traffic signal point, are a great way to start the process. However, this is not enough. Investing in products, appliances and services that use energy more efficiently is the second step. Like using Compact Fluorescent lamps, that consume 40 per cent less electricity than ordinary bulbs; or driving fuel-efficient vehicles.
  • India is energy-scarce and has a price-sensitive market. But it is also blessed with abundant solar irradiation that can be harnessed effectively to mitigate energy scarcity to a large extent. The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy has proposed ambitious renewable energy targets of 1,75,000 megawatt (MW)–1,00,000 of solar, 60,000 MW of wind, 10,000 MW from biomass and 5,000 from small hydro power.


Schools that participated in the GSP survey

  1. Bluebells School International, Delhi: No usage of alternate sources
  2. Indirapuram Public School, Uttar Pradesh: No usage of alternate sources
  3. SRT DAV Public School: Planning to install
  4. GSSS Khadri, Haryana
  5. Hayde Heritage Academy, Uttarakhand
  6. East Point School, Delhi
  7. DAV International School, Punjab

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