Have you looked at your energy bill recently? What is the amount you pay every month for power? For water? Have you asked yourself what the break up of power used in your house is? Do you realise how much of the power bill is coming out of use of your geysers? How much is used by fans, your lighting, your TV set, the grinder and mixer in the kitchen, or worse that electric oven that your mother gifted you on your last birthday? How much of the power is used in your kitchen by the refrigerator, may be the heating plate, and such other appliances that didn't exist even 30 years ago?
Your water bill is so small every month that you don't even need to think about it. How much do we use as water in the shower, how much at the wash basin when you brush your teeth or wash your face, how much do you drain down the flush tanks, for washing vegetables and meat, for cooking, for swabbing, for your gardens, for your carwash?
If you paused and reflected on what this means to the government, it would be a sobering experience. But then you could well say, "How can what I use at my house make such a big difference for the government or whoever supplies me power and water?" Or another legitimate response could be, "Anyway I pay my taxes - income tax, property tax, development cess, and such. I should be entitled to these things from the government".
Look at it another way. If you stop using the two geysers in your house, you will drop the demand load by 4 KW. And if Bangalore's 500,000 houses did the same, there'd be a drop in demand load of as much as 2000,000 kilowatts, or 2000 MW. To give you a perspective, the city today enjoys [or suffers?] a total demand load for power of under 10,000 MW. The daily power cuts that you endure now would be almost gone, by this one act alone - no geysers, no power cuts. And if you can.t get yourself to make that effort of scrapping the geyser, at least ensure that you put it on only in the non-peak load hours, when the pressure on the system is not so high?
Every one unit that you save at home results in saving of 10 units of generation.
There is also the cost the government incurs to generate energy. It is way beyond what we pay. In Pondicherry people pay a paltry Re.1.50 per unit consumed while it costs about Rs.18 per unit for the government to produce/procure the power. Who bears the deficit? In Bangalore we pay Rs.4 per a unit on an average. In Gujarat, Kerala and AP, people pay a little over Rs.8 a unit used. In Tamilnadu the tariff for homes is about Rs.5. These deficits in cost recovered will guarantee that this route of power generation and distribution with massive subsidies will not sustain for too many years.
The solution is not generation, as much as energy efficiency: how do we change the way we do things to save energy. Every one unit that you save at home results in saving of 10 units of generation. And that's a lot of money saved on the exchequer, for every MW we have to produce as a country costs about USD 2 billion, or Rs 10,000 crores. It's a senseless number that only leaves the residual image of how many minions in the bureaucracy and starchy businessmen line their pockets with the monies that flow.
When you talk of water, again you can see that it is not about water cost as much as it is about water management. Installing a simple set of aerators or flow restrictors at every tap and shower head in your house will save up to 35,000 liters every year. If there are 500,000 houses, just this set of aerators at Rs.2000 a house can save the city up to 35-40 million liters every day - that's against the city's total demand of 800 million liters a day. If you've decided to treat all the waste water that your kitchen and toilet put out, and if you use this recycled water to meet your flush tank needs, or of your gardens, you will have dropped demand for water in your house by 60 per cent. That amounts to about 400 liters a day to a family of four. For 500,000 houses this means 200 million liters a day! This is one-quarter of today's daily demand in the city.
Two startling facts
Bangaloreans in particular will be shocked to know two very startling facts. One is that we get no more than 250 million liters a day in the city from all four phases of the Cauvery Water Supply plan. There is no more water that Cauvery can give us since it is a finite source. The rest of the water in the city is today being met with over 5 lakh borewells that have increased the demand load for power by as much as 1.2 million MW in the last 20 years alone! In every large and small city, this is the reality: 75 per cent is drawn from groundwater reserves of the earth.
The second startling fact we should know is that we pay only Rs.6 for every 1000 liters that the Water Supply Board gives us. If you bought a tanker of water, you pay up to Rs.30 a kiloliter, which is 5 times the Water Supply Board cost. The Water Supply Board itself spends as much Rs.19 per kilo liter for the water that they give you at Rs.6! Can you see the massive losses that we are all incurring as a city? Is this viable? Can you do something about it to see that you drop the demand for fresh water by 50 per cent in your house?
All this can be done by you without having to either spend too much money or forego any comfort or convenience. What is more, you save on your power
bills and water bills as you effect these savings and bring efficiency to use of water and power. In the last part of this series, we will address the
concept of being grid-free and how the world will necessarily move into such decentralized power generation systems in this decade.