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Akshay Urja Diwas: Why renewable energy is important

Nithin Sridhar
In 2004, the government decided to observe 20-August as “Akshay Urja Diwas” or “Renewable
Energy Day” in order to increase awareness about renewable energy. It was subsequently
celebrated in 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008.
Today, 20-August-2015, let us revisit the basics about renewable energy and its importance.
What is renewable energy?
In the high-school most would have studied that energy and energy sources can be classified
into renewable and non-renewable energy. The energy which are derived from sources which
become exhaust over time is called as “non-renewable energy”. Example: power generated
using coal as fuel. On the other hand, the energy generated from sources that are for all
practical purposes eternal i.e. non-exhaustible and hence do not deplete with usage is called as
“renewable energy”. Example is power generated using sun light. The sun does not deplete with
usage, but the coal does. Renewable basically means “renewed” or “replenished”.
What are the sources and extent of the usage of renewable energy?
Sunlight, wind, and water-falls are the major sources of renewable energy. Other sources
include tides, waves, and geo-thermal heat.
According to Renewables 2014 report, in 2012 the contribution of renewable energy to global
final energy consumption was around 19%. The division of renewable energy consumption was:
Traditional biomass (9%), non-biomass heat energy (4.2%), Hydropower (3.8%) and power
generated from wind, solar, geothermal etc. (2%).
In India, the total installed capacity of grid interactive renewable power as on 30.03.2014 was
31,692.18 MW. Out of that, Small Hydro Power contributed 3803.7 MW, Solar Power: 2631.96
MW, Wind Power: 21136.40 MW, Biomass Power: 4013.55 and power generated from waste
contributed 106.58 MW.
Why renewable energy is important?
The most important advantage of using renewable sources of energy is that they are renewable.
Hence they can used always without fear of depletion. Further, increased dependence on
renewables, will mean decreased dependence on exhaustible sources like coal and oil. This in-
turn will not only result in preservation of natural-resources but also will decrease political and
economic conflicts and wars that are fought over owning the exhaustible sources.
Another important advantage in using the renewable sources is the reduction of air and water
pollution and optimal usage of naturally available resources with minimal side effects. The coal-
based or gas-based thermal power plants are one of the major sources of pollution. By
decreasing the dependency on coal, gas etc. these pollutions can be restrained. This will in-turn
help in reducing the release of green-house gases and hence help fight global warming and
climate change.
Use of renewable sources of energy will also prevent any damage to life and property through
nuclear disasters as happened in Fukushima Nuclear Power plant in Japan. If the cost of
producing electricity from renewable sources drop further, then they may become more
widespread and in-turn help in stabilizing energy prices.
At an operational level, production and maintenance in a renewable energy plant is much easier
than in say thermal or nuclear power plants. The risks associated with on-site job is also lesser.
Also, the renewable energy systems are more resilient and reliable energy systems.
Therefore, inspite of having some constraints in using renewable energy sources (for example,
they are not available in same degree throughout the year), attempts must be made to the
installed capacity of renewable energy systems and slowly the energy reliance should be shifted
from exhaustible and polluting sources like coal to non-exhaustible and non-polluting sources
like sunlight.