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"Achieving Energy Independence- Address to the Participants at Power Vision Conclave 2011 Delhi, Jan 21 2011"- by Hon’ble Former President of India H.E. Bharat Ratna Dr APJ Abdul Kalam

Sustainable Development is the urgent need of humanity

I am delighted to participate at the Inaugural Session of the Power Vision Conclave 2011 here in New Delhi. I was reading about the conclave and was happy to know that it is a step towards a true Public Private Partnership to discuss important issues of the power industry including Future Outlook - Challenges and Opportunities, role of Private Sector in the Power Industry, Role and impact of Power Trading in Energy Market Development, Environment Management and Relief & Rehabilitation Issues. These are indeed very important and pertinent areas in the power sector and need multidimensional inputs from different stakeholders.

Let us start with what citizens want in the power scenario in the country? They need:

1. uninterrupted power supply

2. quality power supply with specified regulation

3. reasonable cost consistent with quality of power

4. Extension of power supply to remote villages not still in electricity map

5. Energy availability adds boost to agricultural and other activities and create more demands

6. quick restoration of supply in areas prone for natural disasters like floods, earth quake

7. corruption free service

I hope the conclave will address these issues to build the confidence of the citizens and ensuring a base for future vision. While doing so, you may keep in view two areas which have made transformational progress in our country and the power sector could see them in appropriate context. One is automobile manufacturing sector and the other is telecommunication. Both have become customer friendly, have encouraged competition, have employed new technology and have brought out structural changes in organization and management. I would be happy to get a copy of conclave’s deliberations, conclusions and recommendations.

When I am here with all of you, I would like to share my thoughts on the topic “Achieving Energy Independence”. This is a topic which has become extremely relevant and a matter of action for governments across the world, societies, institutions, leaders and individual citizens. Two months back, I inaugurated in Washington DC, what is called “Kalam NSS Initiative on Solar Power Satellite”, I will also be discussing with you.

First, let me discuss about convergence of technologies and their paradigms.

Convergence of Technologies

The 21st century Energy technologies will have to take into account all the multi-dimensions of sciences. It would be multi-dimension rendezvous of space sciences, nuclear sciences, nano sciences and eco-friendly technologies. Bio Sciences will lead to the emergence of bio-fuel. Nuclear technologies will contribute in the way of clean and efficient source of energy. It would also enable irradiation of seeds of bio fuels plants to increase the oil content in the seeds. The space sciences would enable low cost harnessing of energy from space in an efficient manner. Nano technologies will enable the increased efficiency of solar cells to 60% and beyond and the creation energy packets which can move back and forth in space. The added thrust on solar, wind and other renewable sources of energy, will lead to the increased reliance on green clean sources of energy leading to sustainable power sector. You see friends, the next generation energy challenges will require multipronged technologies, combined with a sound policy and private and research sector participation. Friends, in a decade, we are going to see emergence of convergence of technology called "energy technology with nano-bio-nuclear, solar and eco technology".

Let me now discuss about energy independence and its need in the modern context.

Leading to Energy Independence

As you are aware, there is a continuous depletion of fossil-material-derived oil, gas and coal reserves as predicted by World Energy Forum. Also, there is a continuous rise of cost of crude. I have been studying the price pattern of standard crude oil over the last five years. From under $25 per barrel in September 2003 and in 2008 it touched $147 and now is above $90 per barrel (Jan 2011). The world consumes more than 85 million barrels per day, one fourth of which it’s consumed by US. India too is a six largest consumer of crude oil. Every litre of petrol or disel not only adds to the import cost to the nation’s economy, but also, degrades the environment by adding 2.7 kgs of CO2 for each litre of fuel burnt. Thus, we are not only paying for the cost of fuel, but also paying for the continuous environmental degradation because of fossil fuel. The solution to these problems is achieving energy independence which would also act as the bridge between energy and environment. Energy independence would mean, India going beyond just energy security and realizing the vision of clean power of solar, wind, nuclear, hydro and biofuel. Let me first give you the current global energy scenario.

Global Energy Scenario

According to the Statistical Review of World Energy 2009, world is consuming about 277 billion units (in Kilo Watts -hour) of primary energy per year which is equivalent to continuous demand of 15 Tera-Watts of average power. Of this, 38% is met by Oil, 23% by gas and 26% by coal. Which means that about 87% of the total primary energy is supplied by fossil fuels? The remaining comes from Nuclear(6%), Hydropower(6%) and other renewable sources like solar, wind, tidal and geothermal contribute only 1%. Against this, the global emissions of GHG (Green House Gases) stand at over 36 Gigatons of CO2. Out of which 66% is directly attributable to energy generation requirements, either in electricity, households or transport sector. Thus, more than 20 Gigatons of GHG is a direct result of meeting our energy requirements through fossil fuels.

Let me now talk about the global energy independence vision by 2030, which is another 20 years from now.

Energy Independence Vision 2030

The Energy Vision 2030 has to be three dimensional. First, ensuring affordability in access to quality energy for all. Second, ensuring that the dependence on depleting fossil fuels is minimized thereby giving stability to the energy supply. Third, it has to be balanced against the environment aspect, by stressing on development of green thereby giving cleanliness in our energy. The Energy Independence Vision has to be global in its implementation and a priority of all nations in the world.

1. Improving energy efficiency in industrial, transport, residential and commercial sector to reduce the energy demand growth rate by 50%.

2. Dependence on fossil fuels as primary energy source to be brought under 50%.

3. Replacement of petroleum as a primary fuel source for transport by less carbon emitting or completely carbon neutral renewable fuels.

4. International collaboration on promoting green energy development methods with seamless flow of ideas and technologies.

5. Reducing the net emission per unit energy consumption to 25 percent of the current rate.

1.Improving Energy Efficiency

Currently, the global primary energy consumption is growing at about 200 GW per year which is adding the demand on fuels and adding onto the emissions. This growth can be stemmed by using energy efficient techniques in generation, transmission and consumption. Let me discuss some of them.

Distribution Efficiencies: Apart from generating power and running power stations efficiently, it is equally essential to transmit and distribute the power with minimum loss. The loss of power in transmission and distribution is very high in many countries. Globally, the transmission losses account for about 15% for a variety of reasons. This is the result of transmission loss and unaccounted loss. We need to urgently work on improving the global transmission efficiencies to ensure that energy wastage is minimized and thereby the demand for energy is also brought down.

Peak Load Balancing and Multiple Time Zones: I was discussing with my expert friends who told me that India has a shortfall of about 12% of power requirement which gets magnified during the peak loading period. There is a need for balancing the load in a way to reduce the peak loading requirement. One way of doing it could be to adopt two time zones for the nation, east and west time zones, instead of the existing single time zone. It is estimated that this division of time zones would lead to better load balancing and potential of saving about 15-20% power, especially in the area of building and lighting and hence it is option which we definitely need to consider.

Intelligent buildings and corporate: Buildings use of 50% of global energy and account for comparable of heat trapping emissions. Integrated design with multiple energy efficiency measures can reduce energy use at least half of the conventional building and gains of greater than 80% have been achieved. The emerging trends of intelligent buildings and green buildings entail the use of modern technology, smart materials and eco friendly designs. For example, I have seen the hollow building material made out of fly ash, not only is more environment friendly, but also a better insulator of heat and cold. Such eco-friendly, cost-effective material can make the building more energy efficient.

2. Alternative Sources of Energy

Let me discuss about the profile of renewable energy systems. Firstly I would like to talk to you on Solar Energy.

Solar energy in particular requires unique, massive applications in the agricultural sector, where farmers need electricity exclusively in the daytime. This could be the primary demand driver for solar energy. Our farmers demand for electric power today is significantly high to make solar energy economical in large scale. Shortages of water, both for drinking and farming operations, can be met by large scale seawater desalination and pumping inland using solar energy, supplemented by bio-fuels wherever necessary.

Terrestrial Solar Power: The current high capital costs of terrestrial solar power stations can be reduced by grid-locked 100 MW sized Very Large Scale Solar Photovoltaic (VLSPV) or Solar Thermal Power Stations. In the very near future, breakthroughs in nanotechnologies promise significant increase in solar cell efficiencies from current 15% values to over 50% levels. These would in turn reduce the cost of solar energy production. Our science laboratories should mount a R&D Programme for developing high efficiency CNT based Photo Voltaic Cells and also advance in the Solar-Thermal Technology.

The potential of the Terrestrial Solar Energy on the global arena is impressive. It is documented that concentrating solar power plants built on less than 0.3% of the desert of North Africa and Middle East to generate sufficient energy to meet the local electricity needs of these regions and that of entire European region.

Nuclear Power: Nuclear power generation has been given a thrust by the use of uranium based fuel. However, there would be manifold requirement due to increase in nuclear power generation even to attain a reasonable degree of energy independence. We would need to develop technologies for wider spectrum of fissile material found around the world. For example, India has one-fourth of the world Thorium reserves. Therefore, it is essential to pursue the development of nuclear power using Thorium, reserves of which are higher in the many nations. Also, Nuclear Fusion research needs to be progressed with international cooperation to keep that option for meeting the large power requirement, at a time when fossil fuels get depleted.

3. Replacing Petroleum

Bio-fuel - Jatropha: Let me now talk about the use of biofuels. One such bio-fuel crop is that of Jatropha. Once grown, the crop has a life of 50 years. Moreover, the plant can grow in wasteland and hence does not create substitution of food crops. Each acre will produce about 2 tonnes of bio-diesel at about half a dollar per litre. Biodiesel is carbon neutral and many valuable by-products flow from this agro-industry. Intensive research is needed to burn bio-fuel in internal combustion engines with high efficiency, and this needs to be an urgent R&D programme. India alone has a potential to produce nearly 60 million tonnes of bio-fuel annually, thus making a significant and important contribution to the goal of Energy Independence. Indian Railways has already taken a significant step of running two passenger locomotives and six trains of diesel multiple units with a 5% blend of bio-fuel sourced from its in-house esterification plants. What is needed is a full economic chain from farming, harvesting, and extraction to esterification, blending and marketing. Apart from employment generation, bio-fuel has a significant potential to lead towards energy independence.

Algae Oil: One of the best and most efficient bio-fuels available is Algae Oil. Algae Oil is far superior in terms of yield per hectare and compared to conventional bio-fuel crops like corn, which generate about 172 liters per hectare, Algae Oil can generate more than a hundred times that yield. Moreover, it can be grown in marshes and shallow regions of the sea which are otherwise un-utilized. The challenge is to develop better technologies which can bring down the cost of generation of Algae oil.

4. Reducing Emissions

Friends, the vision for energy independence will not be complete without stressing on the need for reducing the emissions and thereby protecting the environment. With my team I calculated that currently the emission per unit of energy used through various means comes out to be around 1.3 Kg of CO2 per Watt of power per year. Through a multipronged effort this should be brought down to under 0.65 Kg of CO2 per Watt in the next twenty year which will also bring down the global emissions of GHG. This will include development and implementation of bio-fuels and alternative sources of energy and also improvement in the efficiency of energy usage.

5. Energy Independence as a Global Mission

The challenge of reducing our dependence on fossil fuels and conserving the environment is a global challenge which would necessarily require global platforms for evolving and implementing solutions which are efficient and economical in all the nations across the world. Energy Independence thus, has to be shared mission of all the countries and societies each working according to their core competence. Integrated international platforms for research, development and implementation of solutions for energy independence using green sources need to be evolved. Joint research missions need to be carried across different countries towards finding common solutions which are not only effective but also economical. Global corporate should aggressively seek opportunities to support green enterprises as a viable business model and the young students should be encouraged to take up entrepreneurial ventures which help spread the mission of energy independence.

We can further consider the creation of a World Energy Independence and Environment Platform which would facilitate the research, development, marketing and deployment of all aspects of alternative and green energy and lead to sustainable environment. Such a platform can have global participation from governments, corporate, academic institution, social organizations, R&D agencies as an integrated international social and environment responsibility mission. The contribution towards this program could be a nominal 0.1% of the GDP of every member nations which will enable mobilization of over $60 billion at the current GDP estimates.

Friends, let me now discuss on a futuristic space solar power mission which may be the answer to our need to replace dependence of fossil fuels as the primary source of energy.

Space Based Solar Power:

On the 30th May 2010, I addressed the International Space Development Conference (ISDC) where I talked about the possibilities of harvesting energy from space through space based solar power. This conference was attended by many of the experts from the space community, who got interested with the presentation I had made. This led to further discussions and formulations which culminated into the evolution of the idea of Kalam-NSS Energy Initiative with the focus on convergence of competencies from different nations towards the realization of a futuristic mission for green energy from space. On the 4th of November 2010, this initiative was declared to the global audience by National Space Society of United States and was participated by representatives from Indian Space Research Organization and Artemis Innovation Management.

The sun, as you all know, radiates about 10 trillion times the energy which human consumer across the world today. If we are able to extract even a small portion of this energy from the sun, it would be sufficient to secure the energy demands of our future.

Friends, space based solar power has many advantages over traditional terrestrial based solar plants. First, the level of Solar Irradiance is about 1.5 times in extraterrestrial level than at the surface of the earth. Second, in case of surface based solar power plants the panels can collect solar power for about 8-10 hours a day, whereas, in the case of space based power plant, the collection time is full 24 hours. Also, the space based solar power plants are not affected by the weather conditions, which may bring down the efficiency in case of terrestrial power plant. Thus space based solar power plant would be far more effective in their efficiency and power generation than the land based systems.

There are three major focus areas in the space based solar power plant. First component is the space based solar power plant. Second, is the earth based collection system. And the third important aspect is the medium of transmission from space to earth.

The aspect of safety and efficiency has to be paramount in the way energy is transmitted from space back to earth – either through microwave or any other technology. Careful research of the impact and safety concerns would have to be conducted. One way to increase safety and improve efficiency could be the evolution of nano-packets, which are reusable, and can move like small batteries carrying charge back and forth from space solar station to ground reception. Another, approach could be to make the reception centres as pre-designated offshore sites to reduce the safety issues.

Another important factor is the cost of the space based power plant, which given the current launch technologies, would be very high and needs to brought down. The largest cost of installing a space based solar power plant will be in the form of the launching cost of the components into the orbit. The current estimates range from about $10 billion to more than $100 billion for an average plant size. There is a need to bring down this cost. The long term cost of a space solar power plant for time period of 20 years of operation has to be brought down to under $0.10 per Kw-h to make it economically sustainable. Can we do this? It has to come through a multi-pronged approach.

Hyper-planes, with an efficiency of 15% (payload to overall weight) from the existing 2% and with the ability to be relaunched multiple times would certainly be instrumental in bringing down the cost of placing the solar power station into the orbit from existing $20,000 per kg to less than $2,000 per kg. By smart designing of the material being used for solar power plant the weight of solar panel needs to be brought down from 20Kg/Kilowatt to less than 1 kg/KW. Similarly, the efficiency of solar collection efficiency also needs to be enhanced using nano technologies. Lastly, for the transmission of the energy and component design nano-packets needs to be evolved which can move back and forth between space and surface of the earth, which I have already discussed. A combination of these efforts, along with many other research possibilities, should be capable of bringing down the cost of the space solar power installation to reasonable limits within near future.


As we are setting your goals in the Power Sector for the twenty first century, with the application of minds and dreams, I would like to share with you a thought.

History echoes to us, that those who have courage to imagine the impossible, are the few unique personalities who broke all human limitations of thought and action. In every field of human efforts, whether science, technology, environment medicine, arts, sports, industry or even in developmental politics, the names of the people who imagined the impossible, are engraved timelessly in our human history. By breaking the limits of their imagination, they transformed the world. This conclave, through its ideas, innovations and policy discussions can be instrumental in realizing transformational aims and missions.

My greetings and best wishes to all the members present here for success in the mission of becoming leaders pioneering towards the development of sustainable power for all.

May God Bless you all.

By Dr. APJ Abdulkalam

The information and opinions expressed here are believed to be accurate, based on the best judgement available to the authors. The statements or opinions or views are those of the author and are not necessarily agreed or authorised or endorsed by IndiaCore. IndiaCore acknowledges occasional differences in opinion and welcomes the exchange of different viewpoints., India Core Publishing, International Publications & Information Services (IPIS) and/ or the authors cannot accept legal liability for any error nor do we assume any responsibility or any liability for any reliance thereon or for any loss to any person/ organisation caused by inaccuracy in the information available. Any discrepancy found may be brought to our notice at

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