Incentivising alt energy 

Imkong Walling

Electricity shortage and load-shedding will repeat every year, announced the Department of Power Nagaland (DoPN) in a grim forecast in the early part of June 2023. It also expressed hope of supply improving with the onset of the monsoon, only that it has not affected the desired improvement. 

The announcement coincided with an intense heat wave simmering the Northeastern region, while the anticipated monsoon seemed overdue. The forecast though was not something out of the ordinary to the consumers of a place conditioned to hearing such grim news, year after year. 

It was also sprinkled with a bit of expectation, advocating the building of home-grown hydro power plants for reversing the tradition of importing 90 percent of the state’s energy requirement for meeting a load demand presently peaking at 180 MW. 

There have actually been promising proposals over the years, such as the Tizu-Zungki (150 MW), Dikhu (120-140 MW), Yangyu (40 MW) and Doyang stage III (24 MW). But building them requires hundreds and thousands of crores and going by the standard in Nagaland, it would take decades. There is the option of Joint Ventures but the government learnt the hard way in the 75 MW Doyang Hydro Project, a collaborative venture in which the developer ended up holding the majority stake. 

It is a dilemmatic situation for a state plagued by fund and trust deficit. But it does not imply sitting idle and waiting for ‘gift packages’ from Delhi and rather being pragmatic, exploring low cost and sustainable alternatives that can actually be implemented as opposed to currently unaffordable mega projects.

Among the available alternatives, hydrogers is a viable option. Developed by the Nagaland Empowerment of People through Energy Development (NEPeD), hydrogers showed potential but was inhibited by a lack of state support.  

Another, a freely available sunlight could potentially put an end to the energy crisis facing not only Nagaland but the entire planet and in the process, easing the connected challenge of climate change. 

Like gravity-powered mini hydro projects, solar plants, installed in individual homes, can lessen the strain on the public grid. Infact, one need not look far as a home in Mokokchung has demonstrated it already. With a self-funded 3 kW rooftop solar plant, the homeowner is now independent of load-shedding and cutting his power bills by more than a half. 

Installation cost remains a barrier but there is a Government of India programme promoting grid-connected rooftop solar plants with capacity upto 10 kW in individual homes. While it was not advertised by the DoPN, as it should have, the programme guarantees subsidy of 20-40 percent to any homeowner for a partial transition to solar energy.  

The programme has potential of giving homeowners the incentive for developing scaled-down solar energy farms and earn in the process. Given the potential, it would not be farfetched for the government enhancing the subsidy, making the programme more attractive. 

Imagine harnessing sunlight hitting every square metre of the planet, which according to NASA, translates into approximately 342 watts, on average, throughout the year. It equates to 44 quadrillion watts, an unfathomably mindboggling number with 15 zeros. NASA used the example of a power plant with a capacity of producing 1 billion watts, stating that it would require 44 million such power plants to equal the energy coming from the sun.  

At present, it is limited by the need for storage solutions but one that is not beyond the realm of impossibility. 

The writer is a Principal Correspondent at The Morung Express. Comments can be sent to [email protected]