Air pollution is the root cause behind a lot of problems in India. A report released earlier this year showed that India had the largest number of deaths (1.61 million) due to air pollution in 2016. Since then the problem has only worsened. The health and environmental impacts of it are well documented but one impact which often goes overlooked is its effect on green energy. Renewable sources of energy are facing a major setback due to air pollution.
Renewable sources of energy, especially solar energy, have made great advancements in India recently. The country’s solar energy capacity installed reached 26 GW in September 2018, increasing more than nine times since May 2014. India is home to the headquarters of International Solar Alliance and aims to have a capacity of 100 GW by 2022. However, this progress is becoming undone by the surge in air pollution.
How exactly does air pollution affect the energy generation? Concentrated dust and particulate matter in the atmosphere form a layer which dilutes the effect of the rays of the sun. This causes a considerable fall in the productive output which is most noticeable in Delhi-NCR during October-November when the whole area gets enveloped in a thick smog. Solar energy generation has reduced by 12% since 2017 in the national capital leading to a loss of 20 million dollars in the form of revenue. Similarly, Kolkata has lost USD 16 million due to the poor performance of solar panels.
Solar energy despite being highly eco-friendly isn’t a popular option yet in India. This is because installing a solar setup which can produce one kilowatt is approximately one lakh rupees. This output isn’t sufficient to power heavy appliances like refrigerators and air conditioners. Thus, the masses in the country cannot afford to power their homes with solar energy. The benefit of using solar energy is that its per unit cost is very low compared to other sources. However, this advantage gets nullified due to the reduced output because of air pollution. Added to the high cost of installation, it is understandable why people will be discouraged to use solar panels.
People will continue using traditional, environmentally harmful sources of energy if they aren’t given adequate reasons to shift to renewable sources. This, in turn, will increase the pollution leading to a deadly cycle. We must work together to break this cycle and preserve the environment for future generations. There are several hindrances in private as well as government projects in the renewable energy sector. While there is great progress on paper, there are few practical improvements visible.
The government needs to offer more incentives to organizations who are setting up solar, hydroelectric, and wind energy plants. However, it seems to be working in the opposite direction. The government purchases electricity from these private plants and supplies it to the public. In recent times the government is offering lower rates in exchange for electricity while rates charged to the public are increasing. The rates offered are so low that some industrialists are opting to shut up shop because it isn’t economically feasible for them to produce.
It is clear that air pollution in India is a major issue. Renewable is the way to go if we want to reduce our carbon footprint. We need to be more environmentally conscious and take basic steps like reducing petroleum usage and cleaning solar panels regularly to make a small contribution in the right direction. Ultimately, the environment is a communal resource and it is the community’s responsibility to maintain it.