Updated: June 27, 2022 6:47:22 am
The use of renewable energy (RE) has already started benefitting the common man, including farmers, who — unlike in the case of conventional sources — don’t have to pay any bills for solar pumps and solar feeders, according to Ravindra S Jagtap, Director General of Maharashtra Energy Development Agency (MEDA), Pune. In an interview with Omkar Gokhale, he talks about the agency’s contribution to alleviating the power woes of Maharashtra, RE-based solutions for congested cities, and steps being undertaken to increase the production of renewable energy in the state. Excerpts:
What has been MEDA’s contribution in alleviating the power problems in Maharashtra?
The agency has always promoted the use of various forms of renewable energy. It initially promoted energy from bio-waste as an alternative to wood burning. Solar power projects help in summer when there is a higher demand for power. Moreover, wind energy generation projects are complementary to solar plants as the former start generating power after 2 pm, when the solar power generation goes down.
Wind power projects generate a good amount of energy even during peak hours and are also helpful during monsoons when the production of electricity from coal power plants goes down as the coal gets wet. Wind power projects that generate electricity during monsoon also help in saving water for hydro-projects, which can be used later when required. Moreover, bagasse-based projects start power generation during winters and cover seasonal downturns of solar and wind energy. In this way, with options such as solar, wind and bagasse-based power generation, we can cover all three seasons and supplement conventional sources.
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While the cost of renewable energy sources is still high, how can a common person benefit from the initiatives of MEDA?
The common man has already started benefitting from the use of renewable energy through rooftop solar projects. More farmers have started using solar pumps and solar feeders for which they do not need to pay any bills. These are of great benefit for them. The government and distribution companies (Discoms) are also benefiting due to the reduced subsidy burden through the use of solar energy. Besides, the citizens are benefitting due to reduced energy bills as solar and wind power is cheaper than conventional power. They also don’t add to pollution and therefore, contribute in reducing healthcare costs.
What are the solutions for congested cities with regard to renewable energy (RE)?
In RE Policy, 2020, several renewable energy project targets are included, which are suitable for congested and overpopulated cities. Firstly, a large amount of degradable and non-degradable waste is generated in the cities and their proper disposal is important to achieve better environmental norms. Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) based power generation projects need some encouragement; there can be separate generation projects based on MSW with a target of 200-MW energy across urban areas.
Moreover, households and cooperative societies can set up more and more rooftop solar projects to reduce their energy bills. Such panels will also reduce the heating of roofs as an added benefit. We have set a target of generation of 52, 000 kWp/year of energy through rooftop, off-grid or hybrid solar power plants in the next five years.
What initiatives has MEDA taken for farmers in Maharashtra?
MEDA and the state government are focusing on making electricity available to the farmers at minimum or zero cost besides providing continuous power during the daytime. By increasing the height of solar panels, it is possible for farmers to start allied farming businesses under the solar panels such as storage, goat farming, etc. Additional power generated by solar projects can also be utilised for other farming works such as cutting, grinding etc.
Recently, nearly one lakh solar pumps of 3, 5 and 7 horsepower have been installed under Maha Krushi Urja Abhiyan -PM Kusum Yojana in areas in Maharashtra where farmers do not have electricity connections.
What efforts is MEDA taking to increase the production of renewable energy in Maharashtra?
Under the 2020 RE policy, as a state Nodal Agency, we have undertaken 17,360 MW of grid-connected renewable power projects to be completed by 2025. These include 12,930 MW of solar power projects, 2,500 MW of wind energy projects, 1,350 MW of co-generation projects, 380 MW of small hydro projects, and 200 MW of urban solid waste-based projects.
Based on this, we are expecting a substantial increase in the RE-based power generation capacity of the state. We are also planning to encourage hybrid solar-wind projects and demo projects for green hydrogen energy promotion in Maharashtra.
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