Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Gone With The Wind


Bob Dylan’s classic title “ …..the answer my friend is blowing in the wind” is truer than ever in present times when the whole world is looking for alternate renewable energy. ”

India ranks fourth amongst the wind-energy-producing countries of the world, after Germany, Spain and USA. The country’s estimated potential is around 45000 MW at 50m above ground level. By 2012, the country aims to produce 5000 MW of it. Wind-farms have been installed in more than nine states. Also, wind-solar and wind-diesel hybrid systems have been installed at a few places.

Wind power is a renewable energy source, which has no waste by-products, and causes no pollution. But it is quite ‘unpredictable’. When wind speed is low, less electricity is generated.

With such high hope, really we should have been doing much better, but for….

Maharashtra! It is second only to Tamil Nadu in terms of installed capacity to generate wind power; as on March 31 this year: 1,756 mw. The potential? A whopping 3,650 mw in 28 feasible sites. So what happened?

If you haven’t guessed yet, let me tell you what happened.

The sector has received huge incentives and tax holiday which pushed the business houses to take up the offer with the view of utilizing the above, starting wind farms and not meeting the optimum production required.“The incentives offered are a win-win situation for wind farm developers,” explains Mahesh Zagade, director general of Pune-based Maharashtra Energy Development Agency (meda), the state’s nodal agency promoting non-conventional and renewable sources of energy.

“We offer a differential wind power tariff of Rs 3.50 per unit with annual escalation of 15 paisa for 13 years. The sales tax subsidy has also helped. Central incentives—an 80 per cent accelerated depreciation, 10-year tax holiday—and indirect tax benefits, such as on custom and excise duties, altogether make it highly viable for business houses to enter this emerging business.”

Till 1993, the then Union ministry of non-conventional energy sources (mnes), now the Union Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (mnre), provided capital subsidy to set up wind farms. Subsequently, onus shifted to state governments. The Union government, however, continued to provide accelerated depreciation (80 per cent in the first year), virtually allowing an investor to write off its capital in a year, and a 10-year tax holiday

Now you know! Business houses have been starting Wind farms for tax relief rather than wind production, which is abysmally low at only 11. 7% only. And what’s more, companies like The Pune based Suzlon Energy Ltd, demanded and got Rs 58 crore as evacuation arrangement for its three wind farms.

Not only that “In April 2006, the i-t department in Pune began investigating Suzlon’s wind-farms as part of a nationwide operation—spanning Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Daman and Diu, Pondicherry, Delhi and Karnataka—to check for false depreciation claims, and ascertain if equipment suppliers and state electricity boards connived with equipment owners to manipulate such claims. i-t authorities believe windmill owners make false depreciation claims to evade taxes; to the tune of Rs 700-1,000 crore.”

In places like Dhule where wind farming is promoted hugely, the people of the place are agitating against Sulzon Energy Ltd. Says Raghunath Chavan, a 50-year-old villager from Dahivel village in Sakhritaluka, on whose land now a wind mill stands, “Suzlon had initially promised us a clinic and power supply to the villages/hamlets wherever towers were being constructed. Also, at least one family member was supposed to get work at a minimum wage of Rs 68 per day. None of these promises has been met till date. We continue to live in the dark while we see our land being used to erect windmills to generate power for the cities.” “Government has connived with Suzlon to transfer the land. This is adivasi land and must be handed over,” says Kishore Dhamale, coordinator of a local ngo, Satyashodhak Grameen Kashtakari Sabha, campaigning for land rights of adivasis and forest dwellers for the last 40 years.Since 1980, local tribals have been demanding that land be regularised in their name. The first petition was filed in 1982; the same land, alleges Dhamale, has been given to Suzlon in a matter of days. When the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act 2006 was finally passed, it gave a ray of hope. “But it has been thwarted by allocating land for Suzlon’s wind farm,” says Chavan.Villagers allege Suzlon is using muscle power to suppress the adivasi campaign. On July 14, 2007, police burst tear-gas shells and lathi-charged protesting villagers, injuring many. 18 people, including one girl, were detained for three days.Villagers also accuse the company of malpractice such as forging signatures of village leaders. According to Dhamale, the document, which bears the sign of the approval by the gram panchayat, has the signature of the sarpanch in English, whereas she is illiterate. Further, activists allege huge tracts have been deforested; close to 35,000 trees were cut in a matter of few days. the wind farms because, wherever the farms are situated, the companies are usurping the land.

In the light of the above, while we are desperate for alternate, renewable environmentally friendly energy, even if we have the capacity to produce it, in India it seems corruption, will fan the winds more than solutions.



References:

Gobar Times
http://www.gobartimes.org/20080815/gt_covfeature1.asp
Fanning An Alternative, Down To Earth August 12, 2008 issue
http://downtoearth.org.in/cover.asp?foldername=20080815&filename=news&sid=41&sec_id=9#
Must Watch: Clean Air Technologies
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/sun/cleanair.html
To know more about Sulzon Energy Ltd visit
http://www.suzlon.com/
Learn more...
India Environment Portal
http://www.indiaenvironmentportal.org.in/
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