At RuDiCON conference in Mumbai, Dr Abdullah, Minister for New and Renewable Energy, said this in an online address in view of the fact that coal and diesel prices are fast becoming unaffordable.At the two-day conference on Rural Energy Security through Distributed Clean Generation (RuDiCON 2011) which was organised by the Indian Merchants' Chamber (IMC), Dr Abdullah, Union Minister for New and Renewable Energy, delivered his address online via a video-conferencing facility since Parliament was in session.He said, "The Union Ministry of Renewal Energy is in consultation with the telecommunications ministry to replace diesel power generators of all mobile phone towers with solar panels." He added that India should make a gradual switchover to renewable energies, as coal and diesel prices were rising and becoming unaffordable.In view of this, the Union government had launched the Jawaharlal Nehru Solar Mission last year with an ambitious programme to set up an installed solar power generation capacity of 20,000 MW by 2022. He said, "Of this, already a total of about 1,300 MW capacity has been set up in different states and bidding will be done for an additional 300 MW capacity soon." He also emphasised the need to indigenise equipment manufacture to reduce the cost of solar panels and machinery.Dr Abdullah also announced the government's decision to make Maharashtra's popular pilgrimage centre, Shirdi, a "Green Town" which would fully rely on renewable energies. Other dignitaries at the inaugural session were Suresh Prabhu, former Minister of Power, and Shashishekhar Gavai, High Commissioner of India in Canada. Suresh Prabhu, who delivered the keynote address, said that demand for power always outgrew supply during the 11th Five Year Plan, "when India was not able to reach the Plan targets for power generation, and the average shortfall was about nine per cent and peak-hour shortage was 19 per cent".He also released a publication "India's Clean Revolution" brought out by The Climate Group. Emphasising that the government should accord top priority to bolster the power generation capacity, he said, "Today, more than 50 per cent of India's irrigation consists of groundwater tapped with the help of electric pump sets. Therefore, supply of power to farmers is of utmost importance."Prabhu said that setting up of super thermal mega power plants and centralised national grid were expensive and faced huge natural risks, besides leading to huge losses during transmission and distribution. He referred to the proposed 9,000 MW N-power plant at Jaitapur and said even a developed country like Japan could not avert the natural calamity and resultant risks."In view of this, it is of utmost importance that India should look for the option of supplying distributed clean energy to rural areas," he said and added that among such clean energies were solar wind, biomass and geo thermal energies. He urged the IMC to prepare an action plan in this respect for submission to the Union government.Addressing a session on "Policy, regulatory framework and missions", Harry Dhaul, Director-General, Independent Power Producers' Association of India, said that implementation of any plan to supply clean energy to villages would face formidable problems at the ground level which were typical to India. He said that his organisation had a lot of experience in this respect and would willingly share it with the IMC while preparing an action plan.Lawrence Van Kampen-Brooks, representative of Tricor PLC, said that many new technologies such as "wireless transmission of energy using laser beams" over short distances were now available for use in local areas and households.Pramod Deo, Chairman, Central Electricity Regulatory Commission, said the government was disbursing huge amount of subsidies for encouraging use of renewable energies, which were generally more costly than conventional sources like coal and oil."The government's objective is to achieve grid parity within next seven or eight years, when the cost of fossil fuel is expected to rise and the cost of generation of solar wind and other clean energies will decline. We need to continue the subsidy for use of clean power till that stage," he said.The objective of the conference was to bring together the various stakeholders in the non-conventional energy space to develop a cost-effective sustainable model for distributed generation and distribution of clean power. The conference focussed on queries relating to technologies available for distributed and clean energy generation based on solar energy and biomass along with current policies that govern and promote it as well as the feasibility, economic viability and limitations of renewable energy. More such conferences are the need of the hour to drive home the point that we need to make optimum use of locally available natural energy resources to bridge the demand-supply divide.
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