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Careful management makes renewable energy a reality: Study

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A study in North Carolina challenges the conventional wisdom that argues against renewable sources of energy due to the intermittent nature of sun and wind. It suggests that backup generation requirements would be modest for a system based largely on solar and wind power, combined with efficiency, hydroelectric power, and other renewable sources like landfill gas.

"Even though the wind does not blow nor the sun shine all the time, careful management, readily available storage and other renewable sources can produce nearly all the electricity North Carolinians consume," said author John Blackburn, professor emeritus of economics and former chancellor at Duke University in Durham, N.C.. He's also the author of the books "The Renewable Energy Alternative" and "Solar in Florida."

The study was published last week by the Maryland-based Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, whose executive director, Arjun Makhijani, called it landmark research. "North Carolina utilities and regulators and those in other states should take this template, refine it, and make a renewable electricity future a reality," he said.

Blackburn used hourly North Carolina wind and solar data for a total of 123 days in the sample months of January, April, July and October, with samples taken at three wind and three solar sites across the state. Solar and wind power generation were then scaled up to represent 80% -- 40% each -- of average utility loads for the sample months, with the rest coming from the existing hydroelectric system (8%) and assumed biomass co-generation (12%).

The study figured in projected energy efficiency by assuming an annual utility load of 90 billion kilowatt-hours, slightly less than the current 125 billion kWh load, and by calculating average hourly loads from Duke Energy's 2006 load profile with modifications to show some reduction in summer and winter peaks due to more efficient buildings. It also assumed increased storage capacity from a smarter electrical grid.

In the end, with those conditions met, Blackburn calculated that the required auxiliary generation from conventional power plants to fill in the gaps would amount to only 6% of the annual total generation required to meet demand in North Carolina.

The study was released just days after a new poll from Elon University in Elon, N.C. found overwhelming public support in North Carolina for developing the state's renewable energy capacity. Nearly 80% of the poll's respondents said they favor new wind energy facilities in the mountains or on the coast, while more than 83% favor construction of solar facilities.

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Corruption Watch

The bad news is that corruption has not only sustained but has grown in size and stature in the country. With scams being a regular feature, seventy per cent respondents in a survey have rightfully opined that corruption has continued to increase in India. One in every two interviewed admit having paid a bribe for availing public services during last one year. Transparency International's latest survey reveals that the political parties top the chart for the most corrupt public institutions, followed by police force and legislatures. No wonder, India continues to make new records on the global corruption arena!

The shocking revelation is that the health and education sectors haven't remained untouched by this phenomenon. With 5th and 6th positions respectively for these sectors on the public perception chart on corruption, corruption has crept insidiously into these sectors of hope for the masses. With bureaucracy being fourth in the list of corrupt institutions in the country, corruption seems to have been non-formally institutionalized with little hope if public services would ever be effective in the country. With economic growth having literally institutionalized corruption, are we now expecting corrupt to be socially responsible - a different CSR.

Poor. Who?

Not giving 'aid' to India is one thing but calling it 'rich' is quite another. If one in three of the world's malnourished children live in India, what does average daily income of $3 indicate? It perhaps means that there is a relative decline in poverty - people are 'less poor' than what they used to be in the past. But having crossed the World Bank arbitrary threshold of $2 a day does not absolve the 'developed' countries of their obligation to part with 0.7 per cent of their Gross National Income in development aid. Should this three-decade old figure not be revised?  

An interesting debate in UK's House of Commons delved on future of development assistance by the British Government. While prioritizing limited resources has been a concern, there has been no denying the fact that development aid must be guided towards tangible gains over a short period of time to start with. There are difficult choices for elected governments to make - should they invest in long-term primary education or in short-term university scholarships? Which of these will bring gains and trigger long-term transformation in the society. As politicians continue to be divided on the matter, poverty persists!!   

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