Conventional energy systems include coal, crude oil, natural gas, hydroelectric power, etc. that have been used over the years as energy sources. However, these limited reserves cannot last forever. Therefore even if sufficient reserves do exist to take us into the 21st century, it would be selfish of us not to think of the succeeding generations and their energy needs. The world’s reserves of coal are estimated at 1.16X10^6 Mt., 80% of which would be consumed by the year 2025. At the same time proven reserves of oil in the world in 1993 stand at 1000 billion barrels which may last us for 50 years more. The major consumers of fuel are the automobile sector and the building industry; while the auto sector uses oil as fuel, energy consumed by buildings is mainly in the form of electricity. The estimated recoverable reserves of oil in India in 1990 were 758Mt. (India 1991,Research & Reference Division, Ministry of I & B). The present rate of production cannot be sustained for more than 25 years. India has ample resources of natural gas but a large percentage of this is wasted as it gets flared during the refining process. Hydro-electric power has the potential to provide multiple benefits such as power supply, irrigation, water supply to the surrounding villages, etc. The high initial cost is, however a hindrance along with the environmental fallout as also the social concerns for the rehabilitation of the displaced villagers and water sharing disputes between states. The energy situation in India is difficult, to say the least. Every Indian state passes through an energy crisis at some time of the year.
The consumption of power has grown in leaps and bounds and the demand for power is on a steep increase. The rate of domestic production is also on the rise but it is just not enough to keep pace with the growing appetite of the Indian consumer. The demand for energy is growing rapidly and it is estimated that the deficit between demand and supply is going to be about 10% to 15% in the next 10 year period. The present per capita consumption of electricity in India is about 250kWh while it is 10,000 kWh in developed countries such as USA, UK Canada. Even if we have to achieve 500kWh per capita consumption in the next 10 years, we would have to double our installed capacity of power generation. With the present installed capacity at 81,000MW, the present energy resources and finances are not sufficient to sustain an annual addition of 8000MW (i.e. a 10% increase per year). A number of huge so-called `fast-track` power projects are being cleared by the Govt. and river valley projects are also being implemented. The oil supplies of India are the most vulnerable as the domestic production of crude oil is negligible. In addition the environmental impact of the pollutants released in the use of these conventional systems cannot be over estimated.