Solar and Biofuel can prod us towards fossil-free future

At the 14th Darbari Seth Memorial Lecture to commemorate the Foundation Day of TERI, Prem Shankar Jha, Senior Journalist & Author says there are alternative clean, low-cost technologies available that can help the world give up fossil fuels
Solar and Biofuel can prod us towards fossil-free future

Delivering Darbari Seth Memorial lecture Prem Shankar Jha, veteran journalist and author said that Paris talks may fail, as despite the current targets set by developing countries, absolute emissions will continue to rise at an unprecendented rate.

He said that contrary to the popular belief that fossil fuel is indispensible, there are alternative clean, low-cost technologies available that can help the world give up fossil fuels. Jha was lecturing on “Climate Change is an Opportunity and not a Threat”.

He said, “Two of these technologies for harnessing solar power and biomass have over the last 40 years matured to a point where they can reliably produce both electricity and transport fuels, cheaply enough to compete with existing sources and therefore to be profitable to private investors”. These are concentrated solar thermal energy and transport fuels by gasifying biomass, not fermenting biomass.

Jha cited several instances in India where this is attainable – the solar reserve in Rajasthan earmarked by the State Goverment that has a 350,000 MW of generating capacity. “This is double the present coal-fired capacity of the nation. If the people who live on this barren land today are awarded a fraction of one percent of its annual revenues they will become the richest people in the country.”

Talking about the feasibility of biomass in transport fuels, he said that there are even greater benefits of using this technology. It will support the Goverment’s “Swachh Bharat Abhiyan” as garbage, which is the primary input required for this kind of technology, will immediately assume great importance and will disappear off the dumping grounds. Citing another example, he said “A second immediately available source of biomass is bagasse and sugar cane waste is from the sugar industry, which is in crisis. “It can meet 2.5 times of the total transport fuel consumption requirements of India.”

Presiding over the function, Chandan Mitra, MP, and Editor The Pioneer, urged for devotion of more funds by the government and private sector for research and innovations.

“We are great at imitating, but poor at innovating,” he said. While he emphasised that “inculcating scientific temper” by the government is essential at this juncture, Jha said that “we do not even have the system to identify the technology available abroad.

The Darbari Seth Memorial Lecture commemorates the Foundation Day of TERI. On this occasion TERI’s Director General, Dr. RK Pachauri, said, “Mr Darbari Seth’s legacy inspires all staff at TERI at every stage of our exciting journey. There is no more compelling an example for TERIers to draw encouragement from than the ideals, accomplishments and actions of our illustrious founder.”  

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