By moving away from thermal power production, Karnataka is taking a progressive step, in keeping with its green strategy set in motion around seven years ago. The plan to phase out thermal power plants is a welcome step, triggered by the Central government’s Budget announcement to gradually move towards clean energy. Thermal and hydel plants in Karnataka continue to meet the bulk of energy demands, with the major thermal plants of Raichur, Bellary and Yeramarus accounting for a gross generation of 10,362 GWh per annum.
While the aged units do not function to full capacity, they also fail to conform to green standards. These coal-fired plants, which emit sulphur dioxide, mercury and fly ash into the atmosphere, are water-intensive too—a combination that spells disaster for an increasingly fragile ecosystem. The government, which was scrambling to ensure that the plants meet carbon emission norms, requires investment running into crores of rupees, pushing up maintenance costs. Instead, the state should invest in more viable renewable energy options.
Karnataka is one of the few states with a well-formulated green policy and is ahead of the curve on this count. As an early adopter of renewable energy sources, the state is rich in wind farms and is the leader in harnessing solar energy, generating 7,346 MW in its various solar parks. Solar energy now meets 20% of daily power needs and holds the promise of cheap power bills for the citizen. In keeping with its policy, the state should encourage clean energy generation, providing entrepreneurs with incentives, subsidies and cheap land, to achieve the national goal of keeping global warming below 2°C of pre-industrial levels.
In fact, every state should look towards renewable energy to keep the environment clean and act in a concerted manner to lower emissions and temperatures. At a time when damning reports of climate change come as harbingers of disaster, we should swiftly move towards change. Annual floods, landslides and searing summers are signs of a change for the worse, as is the first-ever rain on the peak of Greenland’s ice sheet.