Friday, November 30, 2007

India becoming a Wind Super Power

India might be painted as a pollution-spewing, global-warming economy of 1 billion people but it is also one of the world's biggest wind power users, part of a focus on renewable energy mostly unnoticed in the West.

Years of tax incentives have helped make India one of the fastest-growing markets for wind power, a major component of renewable energy that will be high on the agenda of the Dec. 3-14 UN climate change meeting in Bali, Indonesia.

The Bali conference comes as international pressure mounts on India to ensure its growth gets cleaner. The International Energy Agency (IEA) warned this month of the climatic dangers of "unfettered" energy demand growth in India.

"When it comes to renewable energy and wind power, India can look the West in the eye and say -- look at our years of progressive policies," said Santosh Kamath, a wind power specialist and associate director at KPMG consultants.

Wind power in India is still a minority sector compared with the Asian giant's overall energy needs that are dependent on coal and oil.

With its reliance on dirty fuels, India will become the world's number three carbon emitter by 2015, the IEA says.

But renewable energy, of which the vast majority is wind power, accounts for more than 7 percent of India's installed generation capacity -- a rate that compares favourably with much of the rest of the world.

India is the world's fourth largest wind-power market. "Wind power is growing tremendously. If you want a wind plant you'll have to book a year in advance," said Chandra Bhushan, associate director at the New Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment.

"There's been years of progressive policies and recognition for a long time that India will face a shortage of fossil fuels."

India, with its thousands of miles of coastline, is suited to wind power. Its wind power potential is estimated at 45,000 megawatts (MW) -- about a third of total energy consumption.
There is also little of the concern in India seen in the West over wind turbines ruining scenic vistas -- scores can be seen, for example, outside Jaisalmer's ancient fort in Rajasthan, one of India's most popular tourist sites.


The boom brings in profits, the kind of virtuous circle experts say is needed for renewable energy to really work.

At Vestas RBB India Ltd, one of India's largest wind-power firms, sales rose 30 percent in 2006 and the company forecasts growth of about 40 percent this year, company officials say.
India's rise to what supporters call a "wind superpower" is due to tax breaks in the 1990s and to Tulsi Tanti, chairman of Suzlon Energy, India's biggest wind energy company.

Troubled by power shortages in the 1990s for his textile business in western India, he bought some wind turbines and soon realised it could be a good business. His company quickly became the pioneer in the sector.

Wind power has also been helped by some states setting targets that 10 percent of their power should come from renewable energy.

As oil reaches $100 a barrel, and with India suffering shortages that see factories often relying on diesel generators, firms are increasingly looking at wind.


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