Looking into the future : From Supply chain disruptions to Energy blackouts

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A recent news on a TV channel has made us anxious to say the least. According to this report the earth is completing its revolution in less than 24 hours. This means that the earth is rotating faster than usual and there is a significant drop in its orbital rotation. Scientists have attributed this to climate changes that have affected the poles which have become less in weight due to snow melting. Only someone as foolish as one can be would l;ike to discard such incidents. The wise will however look for corrections and solutions at the earliest. Unfortunately we the living beings on Earth are so tied to the notion of Insurance that we think that everything is protected. However nature doe snot have any such agreement with us and can do what it wants to do and when it wants to do. Therefore to play with nature will be the biggest folly that mankind can ever have.

But it seems that we humans are drifting in our own ways unaware of all such issues. The Ukraine Russia crisis has almost brought the world on its knees which was only walking lamely after covid. The world is experiencing the first truly global energy crisis in history. And as the International Energy Agency has been warning for many months, the situation is especially perilous in Europe, which is at the epicentre of the energy market turmoil. I’m particularly concerned about the months ahead.

The natural gas prices along with Brent crude topped prices and broke previous records over the year. The present Brent crude price around 99 dollars is said to be bottomed out. The Biden administration in the US faced tough times as citizens felt the pinch of high gasoline prices and inflation pressures. India was lucky to get its energy needs fulfilled from discounted Russian  sources.

Countries like Sri Lanka succumbed to this energy pressure while Pakistan as usual is begging all around the world for survival.

The last nail in the coffin could be the visit of US Congress Speaker nanci Pelosi to Taiwan which China considers as part of mainland. 

An uncertain Future:

With such an uncertain future that can have existential crises to many countries it is imperative to look into the energy resources and solutions comprehensively. Further there is challenges arising from climate change and on other side geo politics.

India has committed to reach net zero emission by 2070 at Glasgow. Much before that time, India can be expected to reach annual per capita energy consumption of 2400 kgoe (28000 KWh), minimum consumption level necessary to achieve a very high quality of life. The total energy consumption would then be 44800 TWhr/yr. (up from present
level of 6830 TWhr/yr).

Total assessed renewable energy potential in India @ 5855 TWhr/yr* (*Sukhatme, Current Science, Vol. 103, No. 10, 25
November 2012 —- includes Solar, Wind, small and large Hydro, Biomass and Tidal ) is considerably short of the energy needed.

While there may be additional renewable energy potential (particularly the potential of bio-energy @ 2500 TWh/yr as against 60 TWh/yr factored in above assessment), the gap is too large to bridge. The only other non-emitting energy source is nuclear. It can meet our needs and is also inevitable for optimum & stable grids.

While total energy consumption would increase ~ 4 to 5 times (at a rate consistent with economic growth) Clean energy consumption would need to increase ~ 70 times (at a rate consistent with reaching net zero target). The increase has to come primarily through Renewable (including Bio-energy) and Nuclear

Except Biomass, Solar thermal* and High temperature nuclear reactors*, all other clean energy sources first produce electricity (*both yet to be developed, even bio-energy calls for major development thrust)

Share of electricity would thus need to go up from ~20% to ~35% (If hydrogen is
produced by thermochemical splitting/radiation dissociation of water – potentially a cheaper option) or ~80% ( If Hydrogen is produced through steam electrolysis ) in a net zero emission scenario

We need an optimum mix of electricity generating systems to assure diversity of
supply, optimum peak capacity investments and stability of grids.

Other critical technologies to be deployed

1. Steam electrolysis ( and also SOFC)

2. Thermo-chemical splitting of water (Radiolysis of
water could also be explored)

3. Energy storage

4. Production of hydro-carbon substitutes using
hydrogen and bio-mass

5. CCU&S to meet energy needs, meet emission
targets and produce value

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