Future Of Energy

Hyderabad is not Sustainable

Soujanya Mantravadi

Like many big cities, Hyderabad has become unsustainable in many ways, be it water, waste management, transport or energy resources and consumption.

Electricity (electrical energy) is only one part of energy resources, as energy exists in various other forms that contribute to the total consumption. The three main activities related to energy are its generation, supply and consumption. Energy access is key for human well being, but the industrial world's way of generating and consuming energy resources has proven highly unsustainable. Since industrial energy resources are scarce, using it rationally is essential from both economic and environmental perspectives.

Energy in Hyderabad can be categorised as,
1.    Electricity: For domestic, industrial, offices, street lighting, shops and railways
2.   Fuel: For transport, industry and domestic oil, gas and firewood

The biggest energy consuming sectors in Hyderabad are transport, infrastructure and industry. Hyderabad benefits from its tropical wet and dry climate by not needing any amount of energy for space heating. Because of this, household use accounts for a small share of the city's energy consumption.

However, these days, space-cooling (air conditioning) is consuming significant amount of electric energy during summer. The city's power consumption was earlier estimated to increase at the rate of 10% per annum, but in recent years, the figure has been 18 %. Hyderabad's energy problems are directly linked to the country's energy scene.

Speaking of India's energy situation, the power sector has an important role to play. 59% of the total installed capacity of 279GW of India's power generation capacity is coal based. Coal power plants emit high levels of CO2 and coal mining has significant impacts on the landscape and infrastructure. Hence there is an urgent need to increase the share of clean energy sources in India's electricity generation mix, as well as to diversify the mix itself. However, renewables are not expected to have the capability to replace fossil fuels as they also come with certain limitations.

Today all are aware that the era of fossil fuels—coal, oil & gas—is coming to an end. So far these have been major sources of energy—primarily for transport and electricity. Urban people often forget that energy is not just electricity but includes many other forms—fuels from trees, animal power, including human (pedal power), used in farming and a host of other activities.

It is necessary to explore the implications of the end of the fossil fuel era and start preparing for what people in Hyderabad can do about it. Most future energy scenarios project a window of 10-30 years, during which the crisis will hit some and before which alternatives need to be put in place. The alternatives would essentially consist of scaling down the amount of energy usage and exploring solar and other sustainable energy forms. Alternatives like wind, tidal, micro-hydro and geothermal energy are not too relevant for Hyderabad. In solar, again, the bulk of it should come from solar photosynthesis; that is, from plants, then from solar thermal. Solar photovoltaic is applicable only for electricity and is likely to play a minor role in the energy scenario of the future.

The obvious long term solution is to reduce energy consumption, so that in the long term, the city shrinks in size so as to get rid of the many irrationalities of its present state. Rapid urbanization in Hyderabad had already caused a certain level of systemic unsustain-ability, which is quite palpable in the city's shortfall of urban infrastructure. If the trend continues at the current pace, the system will undergo enormous stress. Hyderabad's present shortfall in basic urban infrastructure like transportation, water supplies and waste management must be made up for through purposeful reform.

For the short term, the steps, (which would also help in the long term) could be :
1.    Rationalize the use of electricity or introduce Energy Audits.
2.   Reduce street lighting hours in summer, reduce advertising in late nights, use LED lamps and other energy efficient devices.
3.   Reduce oil consumption by decreasing car mileage—neighbourhood schools, car-pooling, shared autos and shared taxis and improved public transport.
4.   Improve energy efficiency.
5.   Decentralize clean energy sources of electricity generation, smart appliances and green buildings that are more energy efficient.
6.  Build awareness on energy issues amongst the public.

Work must start at the level of community—ward level. Each ward can start a clean energy club to propagate the wisdom of :
1.    Enhancing citizen's participation in local governance in order to have an energy policy that is based on sustainability and equality
2.   Green infrastructure
3.   Awareness camps in schools and colleges
4.   Rooftop PV panel installations, using solar water heaters for bathing instead of electricity
5.   Popularizing energy efficient equipment

[This is the revised version of a talk given by the author at the Future of Energy for Hyderabad workshop held at La Makaan, Hyderabad on 24.07. 2016, organized by Ecologise Hyderabad.]

Vol. 49, No.10, Sep 11 - 17, 2016