I went through my annual health medical check up recently. Thankfully, I have no lifestyle conditions like diabetes, cholesterol, blood pressure, heart disease, partly because I am quite good in taking care of my health, and also because I was gifted good genes. While I strutted into the doctors consultation like a proud peacock, after all the tests were done, knowing that everything was good, my doctor shocked me by saying that I had a Vitamin D deficiency! 'You need to respect and worship the sun more often my friend, and not take it for granted', was his friendly advice. I was blessed with good genes and in spite of that I have a deficiency?!
Most often we take for granted what has been gifted to us. The sun is a good example - not only because my doctor recommended it, but because we still do not harness the power of the sun as much as we need to for essential issues like electricity generation. Instead we rely on air polluting coal and diesel powered electricity generation plants. I worry about this because it is like refusing a gift from God. God has given India 300 days of sunlight, the highest of all the G20 nations, and we still want to burn coal or diesel to generate electricity!
Burning fossil fuels releases greenhouse gases like carbon di oxide (Co2) into the atmosphere which is the main reason for global warming, which results in extreme climate events and other devastating effects on the planet. While this has been going on since the 1930's after the end of World War 2 and has fueled prosperity that the world has seen from then on, then there were no options besides burning fossil fuels to generate electricity. Now there are options - like the Sun!
Cost of solar panels has come down to an extent where it makes financial sense to install solar panels to generate electricity. While it is a no brainer for homes to switch to solar, we have factories and an entire airport that has moved to solar completely! The Cochin airport is the first airport in the world to run exclusively on solar! This is possible because the cost of crystalline silicon solar cells has fallen from US$ 76.67 per watt in the late 70's to US$ 0.74 now and is still getting cheaper. Better electricity storage technology has brought the costs down 90% in 20 years from US$ 3,200 per KVh in the mid 1990's to around US$ 300-500 now.
Another issue that weighs against burning fossil fuels is the cost of health. According to the Better Climate, Better Growth: The New Climate Economy Report released in September 2014, in the 15 countries with the highest greenhouse gas emissions, the damage to health from poor air quality, largely associated with the burning of fossil fuels, is valued at an average of 4.4% of GDP. China's air pollution has cut life expectancy by an average of 5.5 years in the north of the country.
The Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences stated that "The pollution index (in Beijing) nears extreme levels, and is near a level that is no longer livable for human beings." Delhi is now the most polluted city in the world, where more than 40 people per day die from respiratory illnesses. 13 of the 20 worst-polluted cities worldwide are in India where more people die of asthma than anywhere else in the world.
These pollution levels in India are not about to come down in a hurry as 60% of the electricity generation is still from burning coal. The International Energy Agency estimates that by the end of the decade, India will move ahead of the U.S. to be the second-largest coal market in the world (after China). Under current plans to increase the number of coal-fired power plants in India, premature deaths linked to air pollution could double to 220,000 per year by 2030.
I am not about to ignore advice from my doctor - I am going to get energy from the sun to raise my Vitamin D levels. Let us all not ignore the advice from Planet Earth, which is Vitamin S - S for solar.
The big question for the government and indeed for all of us consumers is this - will we ignore the gift from God and continue to burn fossil fuels to generate electricity, or will we go towards Vitamin S?...