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EDITORIAL ANALYSIS–Why we need to look beyond the ‘electric’ smokescreen

The Editorial covers GS paper 3 [Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways Etc.]

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Introduction

  • The obsession with electric mobility makes it look as if it is the only solution for India’s transportation problems.
  • We still cannot ensure a 24×7 electricity supply to hospitals. 
  • All our villages still do not have a reliable electricity supply.

Why to not push to EVs?

  • Close to 80% of the electricity generated is from coal and gas. Yet another 50,000MW of coal-fired power plants are being set up under the National Electricity Plan.
  • More than 20% of all the electricity generated goes into “transmission and distribution losses”.
  • Due to inadequate and irregular last-mile supply, close to 15 million tonnes of diesel is used by local generators to produce 80 billion KWh of electricity. 
  • Close to $2 billion worth of battery storage capacity is imported every year.
  • Most independent power plants operate at 12-15% below their declared capacity as they over-invoice plant costs. 
  • There will be immense pressure on the power grid that is not yet fully reliable.

What are the other solutions available?

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  • Construction dust, road dust, thermal power generation, diesel generators, traditional cooking fuels, stubble burning and open waste burning also contribute. 
  • Need action against each of these sources.
  • Dependence on fossil fuels can be cut down not just by banning diesel, but by other more sane and immediate measures. 
  • Upgrade to the latest diesel-engine technology in public transport, reduce traffic congestion, ensure adequate power supply and get into diesel-blends.
  • Ban all Bharat Stage 3 (BS3) vehicles and below.
  • At once, close to 40% of all the 300 million vehicles on the roads will be gone. 
  • There’s no “vehicle scrappage policy”.

What needs to be Public Transport?

  • Assure top-notch public transport in India’s top 24 cities. 
  • A multi-modal grid of trains, buses, taxis, three-wheelers and two-wheelers could achieve this.
  • Incentivize the manufacture and purchase of public transport vehicles through lower GST and cheaper loans.
  • Encourage greater use of public transport among citizens through redemption and loyalty programs. 
  • Get all organizations with more than 100 employees to use bus fleets.

Way forward

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  • Decongest the 60 top smart cities. 
  • They constitute almost 90% of our vehicular population and thus vehicular pollution. 
  • We need to focus on smoother traffic flow, better parking management and pedestrian movement. 
  • Close to 12% of vehicular fuel is wasted on idling and traffic snarls. 
  • Expand the traffic police strength by four-five times in over-jammed cities.

Conclusion

  • Create and mandate dedicated parking spots for shared mobility services.
  • Create vast grids of pedestrian skywalks. 
  • Operate multi-level parking lots.
  • Each of these measures would show an immediate impact on vehicle-caused pollution and the use of fossil fuels.

Source: Live Mint.