India's energy crossroads so as not to become the new China of pollution |MIT Technology Review

An old man wakes up on the floor of a cabin in a village in southern India.Is wrapped in a fine cotton blanket.Beside him, a transistor radio emits soft music.A small wood bonfire burns on the ground, filling the space with a nebula light.Up, the bamboo roof of the cabin looks black and chamuscado.

His name is Mallaiah Tokala, and he is the head of the Appapur village, located within the Tigres Amrabad reserve in the state of Telangana.On his forehead he carries Vibhuti, the sacred brand of white ash.He does not know his exact age, but he has entered his tenth decade.He has lived in the village all his life, a period that covers the tumultuous history of the twentieth century of India: the uprising of Gandhi, the march of Salt, the end of the raj and the arrival of independence, partition and spillof blood that followed it, the murder of Rajiv Gandhi and the dawn of a new era of sectarian violence and terrorism.And now he has lived enough to witness the arrival of electricity to Appapur, in the form of lights, radios and televisions fed by solar energy.

On the wall of the cabin, a single LED bulb shines gently, connected through the roof to a black wire that lengthens to a solar panel of 100 watts placed on the roof of a nearby concrete house.It is the direct result of central government policies, 1.000 miles (about 1.600 kilometers) to the north, in New Delhi.APPAPUR is a "solar village", one of the windows for the impulse of the government to bring solar energy to small villages without electricity throughout India.

Photo: Some miners extract coal in one of the numerous mines of the Khasi mountains in the state of Meghelaya.

It is a huge task.Of the 1.250 million inhabitants of India, at least 300 million of them live without electricity supply, such as Aldeans of Appapur until a year ago.Another 250 million Indians only have an intermittent supply from the decrepit power grid of India, which is available for only three or four hours a day.The lack of electricity affects rural and urban areas equally, limiting efforts to improve both the quality of life and the manufacturing sector.

Since he assumed the position in May 2014, the Prime Minister, Narenda Modi, has made universal access to electricity a key piece of the ambitions of his administration.At the same time, he has promised to increase the capacity of renewable energies of India until reaching 175 gigawatts, including 100 gigawatts of solar energy, by 2022.(That represents approximately the total energy generation capacity of Germany).And there is the energy dilemma of India.

Already the third country more emitter of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the world, India tries to do something that has ever made any nation: build a modern and industrialized economy, and bring light and electricity to its entire population, without increasingdramatic its carbon emissions.Only to meet the demand for electricity, you must add about 15 gigawatts every year over the next 30 years.The country receives most of its electricity from ancient and dirty coal plants.(It has little domestic production of natural oil and gas).And its energy infrastructure are in bad conditions.The obsolescence of his electricity grid was demonstrated by a mass blackout in 2012 that left more than 600 million people in the dark and attracted attention to a public service sector in disorder, with an estimated accumulated debt of about 70.000 million dollars (about 62.311 million euros).

If the current trend is prolonged and India follows the traditional path through which emissions increase while the standard of living rises, it will be disastrous not only for the Indians but for the entire planet.As an illustration, let's consider what has happened in China.Between 1980 and 2010, while GDP per capita of the country grew for $ 193 (about 172 euros) to reach 4.514, its emissions increased from 1.49 tons per year to more than six tons per year (these encrypts from the World Bank and the Cait Climate Data Explorer, maintained by the World Resources Institute).Now China is the world's first carbon issuer.The per capita emissions of India in 2012, the last year for which these statistics exist, were 1.68 tons per year, and its 2014 GDP was 1.$ 631 (about 1.452 euros) per person.Its population is expected to add another 400 million people during the next three decades, reaching a total of 1.700 million in 2050.If India follows a path similar to that of China, it will add another 8.000 million tons of carbon to the atmosphere every year - more than the total emissions of the United States in 2013.

Such growth could easily counteract efforts in other parts of the world of limiting carbon emissions, condemning any possibility of tackling the serious effects of global climate change.(In general, the world will have to reduce its current annual emissions of 40.000 million tons between 40% and 70% before 2050).By 2050, India will have approximately 20% of the world's population.If these people depend strongly on fossil fuels such as coal to expand the economy and raise the standard of living to the level enjoyed by people in the rich world during the last 50 years, the result will be a climate catastrophe regardless of efforts of effortsUnited States or even China for reducing their emissions.Reversing these trends will require radical transformations in two main areas: how India generates its electricity, and how it distributes it.

The coal puzzle

The man in charge of solving this puzzle is Piyush Goyal, the Minister of Energy.(Its full title is Minister of State with an independent charge of electricity, coal and new and renewable energies).With his political inheritance (his father, Ved Prakash Goyal, was a member of Parliament and Minister of Maritime Traffic under the government of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in the early 2000s), his skillful disposition and his experience in investment banking, Goyal, 51, represents a new generation of Indian politicians of the Bharatiya Janata (BJP) party who have come to power during the decline of the long -term dominant congressman party.

Despite the origins of the BJP in the Hindu Nationalist Party that emerged in opposition to the most secular congressman party, these younger politicians tend to be pragmatic, seeking to promote economic growth through neoliberal policies such as deregulation and privatization of state industries.Since his appointment, Goyal has raised as a defender of renewable energy, asking for investments of 100.000 million dollars (about 89.000 million euros) in renewables and another 50.000 million dollars (about 44.500 million euros) in improvements for the wobbly Red Eléctrica.Almost every week in the newspapers cutting the inaugural tape of a new solar or wind plant or hydroelectricity installation.

Photos.Above: A miner prepares to enter a cats of the Khasi mountains.Below: several miners classify coal for their quality in the Khasi mountains fields.

But it is also still a staunch defender of coal.He was exultant with the approval of a bill in March to guide the expansion of the country's coal mining domestic industry, saying that it would boost the economy and create thousands of new jobs.While electricity prices from renewable sources have fallen dramatically in recent years, coal remains the cheapest source of energy, and the Indian coal industry has embarked on a construction boom, folding the installed capacitySince 2008.India consumes about 800 million tons of coal per year, and that figure could become more than double by 2035, according to the worldwide energy forecast of BP.To meet that demand, and to limit coal imports, Goyal has plans to increase domestic coal production to 1.500 million tons per year by 2020, from 660 million tons of 2015."Increase domestic coal production will represent an important step towards the Longeva Energy Security of India," Goyal said in a January tweet.

"The puzzle of India is a coal puzzle," says Jairam Ramesh, a former Minister of Environment.Ramesh was the main negotiator of India at the United Nations Conference on Climate Change held in Cancun (Mexico) in 2010 and is the author of Green Signals: Ecology, Growth and Democracy in India.Last August, he welcomed me to the reduced foller of books of his house in Nueva Dehli and reviewed with me the figures of the energy resources of India.

Almost 70% of India's electricity today comes from coal plants.Around 17% comes from hydroelectricity, in large part of large dams in the country.Another 3.5% comes from nuclear energy.That leaves approximately 10% from renewable energy that varies depending on the weather conditions - especially wind facilities.

During the next 25 years, "with the most aggressive forecasts when renewable, we could reach between 18% and 20% renewable," Ramesh told me."Hydroelectricity takes longer - includes the displacement of people and the submersion of land, but we could expect that 17% contribution to rise to 25%.Nuclear energy is now at 3.5% and, under the most aggressive forecasts, could reach 5% or 6%.So in the best scenario - the most aggressive programs for nuclear, solar, wind and hydroelectricity energies - the damn coal will continue to represent 50%".In other words, while the sources of casualties - or zero - carbon emissions would represent a larger percentage of the energy supply of India, in general carbon emissions would almost be folded: from about 2.100 million tons in 2014 to more than 4.000 million tons by 2040, according to the International Energy Agency.

That a discouraging conclusion.Modi and Goyal's response has been embark on the most aggressive energy capacity increase program in the world for the generation of low carbon emissions energy.It was shortly after assuming his position when Modi announced that he would try to add another 100 gigawatts of solar energy capacity by 2022.(India has about four gigawatts of solar capacity currently).The 57 gigawatts of the new plan.'Ultramega' barely does justice at the scale of such colossal solar parks;The largest solar plant, the desert light plant located in the Mojave de California (USA) desert, is 550 megawatts.And 25 of these huge projects are projected to enter line for 2019, with the support of 40.500 million rupees (about 554 million euros) in financing from the central government - an insignificant figure since the construction of desert light cost more than 1.500 million dollars (about 1.335 million euros).(In 2012, when Modi was the head of the state of Gujarat, he presided over the larger solar installation in the world: a set of plants that together add up to almost a gigavatio).Another 75 Gigawatts of wind energy are also planned.

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Photo: Electric Towers Border the roads in New Delhi.

Together, these projects would boost the capacity of renewable energies of India from about 10% of the total to 32%.At the same time, the Government prepares a nuclear plants construction program that, approximately, would triple the capacity for 2024 and satisfy a quarter of the country's energy demand by 2050.India also aims to further capitalize on its abundant potential for hydroelectricity, particularly in the states of the northeast distant, where rivers fall in cascade from the Himalayas plateau.

The fourth branch of the low carbon emissions platform will be natural gas - if the country is able to find sufficient amounts to import.Domestic natural gas reserves of India are small, and imports have been limited by the spending of the transport of liquefied natural gas in tank trucks.But the closure of an international treaty to limit the capacity of nuclear weapons of Iran, which would lift the international sanctions that have restricted Iranian energy exports, would provide a new impulse for the planned construction of a gase pipeline to great underwater depth by the Arabic Sea,From Iran to the west coast of India.

Foreign companies queue to invest in the renewable energy sector of India (SoftBank, from Japan, recently announced that it will invest 20.000 million dollars - about 17.792 million euros - in solar projects in India).But to really build all these projects will be extremely expensive, and will require a level of fiscal discipline and political will that has rarely achieved the Disco and Corrupt government of India.Modi, which has been surrounded by a group of trained and mostly respected technocrats as Goyal, has a limited capacity to force states to implement and enforce clean energy mandates, beyond the promise of generosity by the central government.

The regulations that force public services to use a minimum amount of renewable energy have especially been ignored.Key laws, including important modifications of the 2003 energy law, are stuck in Parliament because few politicians in the country are willing to address the key issue: public services are currently required to sell electricity at prices lower than costs.The efforts to modernize the outdated public services - as it should be done so that there is any possibility of implementing the ambitious energy agenda of modi - do not seem to be closer to the success of what they were when they assumed their position.

And then there is the question of how to pay all new renewable energy facilities.Installing 100 gigawatts of new solar capacity will carry a cost of the order of billion rupees (tens of billions of euros), requiring both higher electricity rates and massive investments by the central government.A 200 rupees tax (about 2.75 euros) per ton of coal produced is allocated to the National Clean Energy Fund that now adds about 2.600 million dollars (about 2.311 million euros), pero de allí poco ha llegado a los promotores y constructores.

At the same time, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, under the direction of Modi, is determined to reduce the deficit of the Indian budget, which currently represents approximately 4% of GDP.To overcome this expected deficit, Modi and Goyal are, in essence, demanding that the countries of the West intervene and finance renewable energy programs in India and other developing countries."West will have to pay for the damages they have caused to the world and the planet," Goyal said in a discourse of climate change made in London (England) in May.

Another obstacle to Modi's plans is that India imports almost all its solar components.The campaign that has launched to foster domestic manufacturing called "Make in India" (a word game that refers to the famous label of "Made in India" that appears in so many products manufactured there, which would translate as "do it in India") Includes provisions to develop a solar manufacturing sector, but it will be difficult to compete with China's cheap imports in a country with a squeaky industrial infrastructure, and little experience with this technology.

In short, Modi tries to create a first -time renewable energy industry while trying to reform a corrupt public and bankruptcy services sector, expand the country's manufacturing sector, maintain deficit at low levels, and sustain growthEconomic of 8% Annual.If all that is achieved - if the great solar plant is built, and the new dams to the north, and the nuclear plants are financereform your energy generation system.That, however, would still leave a big problem unsolved: the transmission and distribution of all that electricity to consumers.

The last mile

Kishan Lal ran into an dishonorable end.On the night of June 24, the 40 -year -old fruit bowl went to attend the call of nature in public bathroominterior of the toilet.He was electrocuted and died instantly.India's electricity grid is dangerous because it is random and improvised.The theft of electricity, known as Katiyabaaz, is gallopant;Even legal facilities are often made in any way.Cable tangles wrap the tops of the inclined electrical posts and are an ubiquitous view in each city of India.

Photos.Above: a residences colony awaits the end of a blackout in New Delhi.Below: some children study in the light of a LED lamp fed by a micorred in Biswan, Uttar Pradesh.

The energy losses in transmission and distribution throughout India are, on average, of approximately 25%, and in some areas they can reach up to 50%.That means that half of the electricity that is generated or never reaches the end user or used without paying for it.Energy losses in the developed world rarely reach 10%.For an electricity network about to be tested by the addition of large amounts of energy from renewable and intermittent sources, this outdated infrastructure represents a huge problem.

It is exacerbated by the fact that many of the citizens of India are not even connected to the network (there are no precise figures, but the number is probably between 300 and 400 million people).Not only does the network not reach many rural areas, but many of those living in the poor neighborhood of the cities also lack an electricity supply (often they simply cannot allow the approximate cost of about 93 euros that would cost to connect to thenetwork, even when these connections are available).The Indian Electricity Corporation operates about 112.000 kilometers of transmission cables that extend for most of the continent.What were previously five regional networks have joined to form a single national system that reaches a distance of a few miles from almost the entire population, a process completed in 2013.The transmission connections of the electricity grid between regions remain inappropriate however - this was the main cause of the great blackout of 2012 - and little has improved the technology of switching and control India during the last two decades.

Moreover, the accumulation of generation capacity during the last decade has not been matched by investments in electrical wiring and substations.The Operator of the Indian Electric.700 million euros) over the next few years to add nine high capacity transmission runners - an important part of the 44.500 million euros that Goyal has said that they will go to the modernization of the electricity network during the next decade.

In theory, such investments should facilitate the work to people such as Pawan Kumar Gupta, the General Director of the State Center for Cargo Shipments, the main operations center of the Capital Electricity of the Capital of the country.Outside the shipping center, I saw the same tangled and hanging cables that reach almost any New Delhi building;Inside, the halls were empty and dusty until we passed a series of security doors to reach the control room.There, a wall screen of the entire wall tracks the various feeders and substations of the five energy companies that serve the metropolis.On the screen, flashing numbers in green and yellow showed the amount of electricity that flowed through the system.The function of the shipment center is to marry the supply with the load, or demand.

Demand grows and decreases, but the supply is fixed.At the national level, the country maintains an annual energy deficit of 5%;That is, it only generates 95% of the energy you need.In many large cities, the deficit grows to 20% or 25%.When electricity is not available, the shipping center slows the supply;The result with intermittent and daily tension falls that torment Nueva Dehli, along with most Indian cities.With the uncertainty of the supply of the Electricity, some of the main Indian companies, such as the Information Giant Infosys, have installed their own energy plants: Infosys is planning a 50 megawatt solar park to serve their offices in Bangalore, Mysore andMangalore.

Under the so -called renewable energies, established under the predecessor of Modi, electric distribution companies, which deliver electricity to end users and are known in India by the name of "discoms" (an abbreviation of the termsdistribution and communications), have the obligation to provide certain levels of electricity from renewable sources (7.3% of the total supply in 2014-2015; the level rises every year).Their real progress towards compliance with these objects have been limited, however, and the penalties for not complying are almost non -existent.

If the discoms manage to use more renewable energies, they will need significant improvements in local distribution networks to be able to balance the loads and ensure that the electricity supply is stable even when the sun does not shine and the wind does not blow.Will the money arrive in time, if it arrives?When I asked Gupta, she laughed out loud and shrugged."It will be a very difficult job, no doubt," he said with a smile.

The practical work of dispensing energy has been more difficult for victory in municipal elections in February of the AAM AADMI party, whose electoral campaign relied on a platform of discounts on water and light services.Promise free water and light, without specifying how to pay them, it represents an old tradition of political campaigns in local and state elections in India.Under the AAM AADMI party platform, New Dehli families would receive 20.000 liters of water without cost per month, and those that consume less than 400 kilowatt-Electricity hours per month will have a 50% discount on their light bill.Those subsidies will cost the government around 16.700 million rupees (about 228 million euros) per year - and will not help discoms to operate profitable businesses.

Photo: Clothes dry in electrical cables in a poor neighborhood in New Delhi.

New Delhi's discoms, however, are models of financial stability compared to many of their counterparts in India, especially those that serve rural areas.Under the agricultural subsidies that have become the third raíl of energy policy in India, farmers receive free electricity, which means that the energy companies that give them service lose money with each client.Part of the losses are compensated in subsidies of the central government - but improving the electricity network will be little unless it is that companies can develop viable business models.The sector has been rescued twice during the last 13 years with amounts that amount to billions of rupees.Cumulative losses have increased so drastically that they could "collapse the full growth agenda" of the Modi government, says Praveer Sinha, the Tata Power Delhi Distribution CEO, one of the main discoms in New Delhi.

The important energy law of 2003 introduced certain broad reforms, privatization elements and created more constant national standards to govern the generation and transmission of electricity, but its provisions have been implemented scarcely in some states, and not at all in others.In May of this year, Goyal announced the National Mission of Smart Network, which will provide subsidies of up to 30% for improvements in regional and local electrical networks.Two months later, it revealed a 20 -year plan to improve the national transmission network, including an exemption from interstate energy transmission positions from renewable sources.The Discoms of many states have announced rates increases between 5% and 45%.

A complete reform, however, will require measures that remain politically impossible for the moment: the complete privatization of the sector, a minor interference by state governments in the operation of public services, and, above all, the end of theFree electricity for farmers.

Meanwhile, in cities the discoms determined to modernize - and to get customers to really pay for their electricity instead of stealing it - they have been forced to expand their reach.Tata Power Delhi, a subsidiary of the giant conglomerate Tata, has launched a series of social programs, including life insurance, medical insurance, and free literacy and vocation classes, in order to try to persuade people to stop stealingenergy and pay for accountant electricity.

In one of the literacy programs financed by the company, in a poor neighborhood of Puram Pura, northwest of New Delhi, a dozen women crowded in a small room inside a concrete building on a Tuesday of last summer.An archaic table computer occupied a small table in a corner.Outside, the usual electric wiring nest led to a counter placed on the outer facade of the building.Kusum, who only wanted to facilitate her first name, said that she and her family began paying for electricity a year ago, along with most of her neighbors.

Katiyabaaz's previous system "was simply common practice," he said through an interpreter."We didn't think we did anything wrong - it was simply the norm".

Photos.Above: a poor neighborhood where Tata Power provides electricity supply.Below: the Khan market, a luxury shopping area in New Delhi at night.

Her husband is a day laborer who works when he finds a job.The monthly income of Kusum's family - her husband, her three children and a granddaughter, who live in a room of about 14 square meters - is about 10.000 rupees (about 136 euros).Of that salary, the family now pays about 510 rupees (about 6.9 euros) in electricity.This hinders their lives."But I no longer live with the fear of suffering an accident [electrical]," he adds."We feel more in peace, and safer, and we have more pride in knowing that we are not stealing".

Incorporating more customers such as Kusum to the Electric Red, legally, represents a step towards the rationalization of the energy business.But such anecdotes are always eclipsed by the immensity of India.The poor neighborhood of Kusum is relatively small of perhaps about 21.000 people.That is a small fraction of the population of the second largest city in India, and not all energy companies have the necessary resources to become a social services agency in addition to providing electricity.

In any case, reduce the theft of electricity among the poor of the cities will only solve one of many of the problems of the Indian Electricity.In many places, villagers who can see electrical posts and cables from their homes could expect decades for wired to reach them.Expanding the network to get to each house and business would require many billions of rupees that state governments and central government simply do not have.For many, acquiring access to electricity through solar micro -redes and other local energy sources that circumvent the traditional electricity model is a much more practical option.

"I do not agree with the unique size mechanism," Goyal told the National Business Standard newspaper in June, and added that individual reform plans of the energy sector would be published for mid -2016.The broader involvement is that India's energy problems will require solutions adapted to the country's history, its technology and economy, and its site in the world.

The solar bubble

Although APPAPUR is within a tigras reserve, the real problems are leopards, snakes and wild boars.Leopard kill between 10 and 15 domestic cows and goats per year, as their inhabitants told me when I visited him at the end of July.Javelís destroy the little orchards of the villagers.Poisonous snakes lurk in the grass, a danger to those who walk in the dark.The night solar lighting, provided by the panels of 100 watts and batteries of lead-acid, have reduced these problems but has not eliminated them;Leopard sometimes hunt day besides at night, and wild boars are shameless at all hours.A solar electricity fence would stop the problem of animal threat, they told me, but they realize that there are missing years, at least, to see it performed.

The most dramatic changes that have contributed solar systems to the community focus on education and social life.Children now have light to read and study at night.A few televisions provide a connection with the outside world (there was hardly any Internet service and no computer in APPAPUR when I visited it).Exterior lighting, although scarce, gather people to relax, make social life and discuss the problems of the village of ways that were impossible in crowded cabins, full of smoke and illuminated by querosín.

"We can communicate more with our neighbors," says T.Jaya Lakshmi, the granddaughter of the chief of Aldea Mallaiah Tokala and the director of the school of a single classroom of Appapur."We have a greater feeling of community because we are not afraid to go out at night".

Now, the most urgent need is water.Before the solar panels were installed, a team went and dug a well near the huge sprinkler tree that marks the center of the town.Later, a couple of panels connected to operate the pump, but proved insufficient.The authorities promised to return with more panels.That was more than two years ago.Today, most people still have to travel two kilometers on foot to get water.

India has thousands of villages without electricity where people still live in the dark.Most will never connect to the electricity grid.The solar roof energy - or, alternately, the micro -redes fed by several combinations of small renewable facilities and diesel generators - represent the only way in which its inhabitants get a reliable supply of electricity.Several Indian and abroad suppliers, including rapid expansion companies such as Visionary Lighting and Energy and Greenlight Planet, are distributing small domestic solar systems by Southeast Asia, driven by government incentives, the downward prices of technology and high demand.

Photo: A community surrounded to the Tata Plant in Mundra, Gujarat.

But small -scale solar energy is a hard business of small margins.Money, at least for now, is in the large solar parks supported by the government.The race to build solar projects in India has officially started.This year analysts expect the country to add 2.5 gigawatts of solar capacity, more than double the total added in 2014.In the first phase of the National Solar Mission, the Government asks for budgets to build 15 capacity gigawatts throughout the country.

The results of the government's first auctions have been shocking.In one, held in Madhya Pradesh, Canadian promoter Skypower won the auction with a budget of 5.05 rupees (about 7 cents) per kilowatt-hora.That auction, which offered the opportunity to build 300 megawatts of solar capacity, was so promoted that it attracted bids for a total of 2.200 megawatts, with rates well below 7.04 rupees per kilovatio-hora that the Central and Regulatory Energy Commission has determined as the viable threshold for photovoltaic projects.

In other words, solar builders in India are bidding with prices illusoryly low for these projects, counting that the Indian government covers the difference.In fact, the Government has established a financing program for the viability deficit for public-private infrastructure projects, which will provide subsidies for solar promoters "to promote infrastructure projects that are justified economically but do not reach financial viability".

Not knowing if this financing will suffice to make these projects viable or profitable in the long term, the solar bubble in India continues to grow.When he met with the SkyPower CEO, Kerry Adler, he strongly defended the Indian strategy of the company based in Toronto (Canada) and the prices he plans to build the solar parks."There are some suicidal thriving there," Adler acknowledged, but "SkyPower has never signed a contract that has failed to build.We have never lost money in one of these projects, and we have no intention of starting now ".

Be that as it may, some of the solar projects at the network of India's network currently planned will never be executed.And even those who succeed will not be enough to solve all the energy challenges of India.Jairam Ramesh, the former environmental minister, suggests that the country has to think differently in renewable sources and not expect to serve mainly to "this model of vertical integration of energy generation, where the larger [the project], better".In some cases, smaller will be better.

Brick factories

This transformation is already taking place.In cities in southern India such as Bangalore, many roofs already have water deposits that are heated with solar energy, and the number of states that require solar roofing facilities in the new constructions is multiplying.Each town in India, even the most dusty village of road, has posters and advertising fences that announce small battery and investor systems.A new energy ecosystem is emerging in complex and not always predictable ways.

A day of last summer, I visited a site of solar tests in a walled enclosure near the town of Challakere, in the dry thickets several hundred kilometers north of Bangalore.Operated by the Indian Institute of Science (IISC), it is a set of concentrated solar energy tests.Ranks of shallow parabolic articles, made of aluminum, are lengthened during a distance of 2.5 times a football stadium.The sunlight that is reflected in the articles is concentrated in water pipes placed on top.The system heats the water at a temperature of 200 ºC;The hot water is heading to a heat exchanger connected to a small turbine that produces 100 kilowatts of electricity.

Founded by the Government of the State of Karnataka and the Institute for Solar Energy Investigations of India and the United States, this set will be used to test various reflective materials and heat transfer fluids (including, for example, the molten salt in addition to water).The objective, according to Materials Engineering Professor of the IISC Praveen Ramamurthy, is to find the best combinations of specific components for Indian conditions, a process very required for photovoltaic solar technology also.

"No one is testing the aging [of solar teams] in India," says Ramamurthy."We receive solar panels, but they are certified for moderate climates such as the United States and Europe, and we simply adapt".

Among the dangers for solar sets in India are high temperatures and humidity, which tend to cause adhesives that unite conventional solar panels rotting.Dust and degradation also represent important challenges.Ramamurthy is developed polymers compounds to seal and protect photovoltaic cells.Solar photovoltaic will be the main source of solar energy generation in India, but concentrated solar energy is also of an important interest, because it can be used in other ways in addition to generating electricity.Throughout India, for example, there are small independent factories that make bricks with wooden ovens.This contributes to deforestation and high carbon dioxide emissions.Using solar concentration technology for barking would be a huge benefit to the environment.

Such custom solutions may seem inappropriate for the problems scale.The combination of diminishing public services, the high dependence of coal, the defective electricity and an energy sector disabled by the subsidies and interference of the government seem to argue that India has no possibility: any path towards economic growth and abundanceenergy except one that will be disastrous for the environment.But on the ground, the photo is more complex and less discouraging.

Photos.Above: An engineer inspects solar panels on the roof of a warehouse in New Dehli.Below: a farmer returns home near the wind farms of Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu.

"The central government and external investors are, naturally, on these huge megaprojects that receive ridiculScience, and policies, a new Dehli Think tank."The way of greatest impact is to develop a large number of projects of 100 kilowatts and a half megavatio that are distributed throughout the country, near rural loads".

Finally, some combination of distributed solar energy will be needed, local microredes and large renewable energy plants to address the energy needs of India during the next 50 years.The network cannot be expanded to reach each village and cabin of India, but neither can a 21st century manufacturing base be developed and operated with the use of unpredictable distributed solar energy.The key will be to find out what works in each state, each city and each village.

This work is already being carried out in the state of Bihar by a team of researchers related to the Tata Center for Lay the design of the Massachusetts Institute (MIT, USA).Bihar is a typical Indian state: it has more than 100 million inhabitants, 20% of which have access to a reliable electricity supply.The State Discom is more or less bankrupt, the subsidized light invoices are artificially low and the electricity losses of the network reach almost 50%.The coverage of the network is random, says Ignacio Pérez-Arriaga, a MIT visitor professor and the leader of the electrification reference model, which focuses on planning access to electricity for India and other developing countries.

"I visited a village today that does not have electricity," he told me in July, "and 100 meters away, the next village has a good electricity supply.It's confusing.I may arrive next month, during the next decade, or never ".

Paradoxically, the mere size of the task he faces - the fact that India is in the early stages of improving and modernizing its energy system - is somehow an advantage.It turns out that it is embarking on the modernization of its energy system at a time when the prices of renewable energy generation, and technology that will make it work at the local level, begin to match the prices of the traditional energy of fossil fuels.

BMW, for example, said this year that he will build a solar plant to meet 20% of his energy demand in his factory near Chennai.Indian Railways, who operates the world's largest rail system and is the largest employer in the country, has plans to build a solar capacity gigavatio over the next five years.By avoiding the cost of providing a universal electricity supply based on the electricity grid, India can concentrate on what works best for each local site and for each specific need.Each microred and local solar system deployed by a fraction the need to expand the network;Each new renewable energy system installed by a business or factory reduces the pressure to build ultra mega energy plants.

Photo: A family in the Sureshpur village in Biswan, Uttar Pradesh.

Since it is now industrialized, India has the opportunity to reinvent itself through technologies that are improving at high speed.Today, it requires that new construction buildings are equipped with solar technology and deploy business distribution models that circumvenate broken public services.Tomorrow, it could depend on the concentrated solar energy for small factories, or small nuclear reactors, or some other type of generation and distribution model still to emerge.

That air of dynamic possibility and improvisation was evident in all the places I visited in India, from the poor neighborhoods of Nueva Dehli to the villages of Telangana.Indian ingenuity for adaptation and survival in chaotic and difficult conditions hope that the country can solve the apparently insurmountable challenge of expanding its economy in a clean and sustainable way.In many ways there is no alternative."India cannot be allowed to replicate the American or Chinese model of 'grow now, pay later'", says Jairam Ramesh."We cannot afford to say, 'we are going to have 25 years of a GDP growth of 8%, to do a cleaning exercise later'".

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