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How solar energy can help resolve Delhi’s power crisis

According to reports, in an attempt to bury Delhi’s unpredictable power situation once again and give it a temporary make-up instead of a permanent face-lift, Delhi lieutenant governor , Najeeb Jung has issued unjustified guidelines that will only add to Delhiites’ woes.

On Sunday, Jung ordered that high mast halogen lamps in the streets be switched off during peak night hours with immediate effect, power supply to malls be cut-off after 10 pm and all government offices, including Delhi secretariat, as well as universities and colleges switch off their air conditioners between 3.30pm and 4.30pm in order to conserve power during peak hours of the day.

In Delhi during peak night hours, driving the streets into darkness can lead to an escalation of violence against women. According to figures recently released by the Delhi Police, between January and April this year, six women were raped and 14 molested every day in the national capital. Last year, the Delhi Police’s mapping found 1,580 dark spots in the city. In such unsafe times, the state must immediately look towards using solar energy to improve street lighting in Delhi so that the city does not go dark during a power cut or during non-payment of bills.

Pujarini Sen, Renewable Energy campaigner for  Greenpeace India expresses her concern saying,  “Asking Delhi to switch off lights in this sweltering heat is not only torturous but the switching off of streetlights post 10 pm is an imprudent decision in a city like Delhi, infamous for crimes against women,” says Pujarini Sen, Campaigner, Renewable Energy, Greenpeace India. She further adds, “The Rs 1,000-crore Nirbhaya fund, which has remained unutilised, can be used in addition to state funds to provide sustainable and uninterrupted street lighting in Delhi,” says Pujarini.

Principal Secretary (Power) Arun Goyal , this year assured the state that discoms are capable of meeting the record power demand of 6100 MW in the first fortnight of June this summer. However, with sizzling temperature of 47.8 degrees Celsius pushing up demand, the city tripped at 5,600MW leading to a shortage of 400MW or 2-10 hours of power cuts across the capital.

Greenpeace demands that Jung look over the stop-gap arrangements and immediately call for implementation of the draft solar energy policy stuck with the state’s power department. According to ‘Rooftop Revolution’ a report released by Greenpeace last year detailing the state’s solar potential, out of 700 sq km of Delhi’s total built-up roof space, about 31sq km is available roof space that can be utilized to generate 2,557 MW electricity.

Prabu Pathanjali a renewable energy campaigner from Greenpeace India said that the  three major political parties in the state have time and time again committed to develop solar power in Delhi in their manifestoes as well as Greenpeace who in the last two years campaigned extensively with previous state governments to harness Delhi’s immense solar potential to provide electricity to households and install solar-run streetlights. But no government has moved on it except on paper.

Delhi’s RPO targets and dismal achievements further reflect on the state’s lethargic attitude towards using renewable energy to tide over Delhi’s perennial electricity shortage.

Anand said, “Delhi, despite having a good potential for solar energy, set a meager RPO target of 4.8% this year. However, the discoms wrote back to the DERC in May stating they won’t be able to achieve it. Last year, the target was set at 2% but the actual achievement was a shocking 0.01%. In contrast, Tamil Nadu set a 9% target and achieved 19.14%,”

“We have written to the previous governments demanding that under RPO guidelines in Delhi, all commercial and industrial enterprises be asked to source 25% of their electricity from renewable energy sources. If we see the current tariff rate, solar is already viable for commercial users like malls, however, there has been no compliance.”

“The team that has gone to Gandhinagar to study the Gujarat model last week had visited the state two years back on the same pretext. A solar policy was even drafted last year but it got stalled in the power department and has been gathering dust for over six months now,” says Anand.

“Irrespective of how many lights are turned off, there will be no end to power cuts unless generation and distribution of electricity is diversified and Delhi is made self-reliant via rooftop solar,” he adds.

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