Move beyond pastas and risottos and indulge in an authentic feast at this new specialty dining spot in town.
By Avinash Kumai
After Earth Hour — a global campaign that successfully compelled people to switch off non-essential lights for an hour, now the eco buzz is focussing on Earth Day (April 22). The good news is that solar energy is getting cheaper and smart cars and refrigerators are reducing our carbon footprints. And innovators in the field are finding broad-based solutions. We talk to people who are serious about the green energy business, not just for a day or an hour but as a way of life.
Sanjith S Shetty, a valedictorian of Duke University and alumnus of Harvard, firmly believes that hydro-electric power is ‘one of the cleanest sources of energy, the most reliable and costs the least’. He has already completed the Ambuthirtha Power Project Limited (APPL) at Jog Falls in 2007, the Soham Mannapitlu Power Private Limited (SMPPL) near Moodabidri in the Dakshina Kannada in November 2009, and has five more projects in the pipeline. “My father (Sadananda Shetty) encouraged me to build a business that was sustainable. One that would last a long time, employ a lot of people, reward the shareholders and build a reputation with banks,” he shares. In the late nineties, solar energy required a lot of investment, so he turned his interest to clean energy, a segment his father predicted would be the energy of the future. Today, his company has provided electricity to more than 6,000 families in remote village of Karnataka, and helped over 9,000 students through their corporate social responsibilty initiative.
The other side
? Our projects are strictly eco, environment and people friendly.
? Our most challenging project was our first one at Jog Falls because we had to drill and dig for almost four kilometres. It took three years to build it and we had to cope with floods and landslides.
? India will go through an energy challenge, because of the way our plants are built. I am not saying that renewable energy will solve our problems, but it is an important aspect to solving our problems.
Company: Pollinate Energy
This non-profit social entrepreneurship based in Australia (June 2012) and Bangalore since June 2013, has helped 260 communities, reached 12,756 people, installed 2,773 energy solutions, saved 93,795 of kerosene, prevented 2,25,107 kilograms of carbon dioxide and retained Rs. 48,77,321 in just eight months.
The company manufactures low-cost LED lights and wood-based stoves for India’s urban slums. They have already distributed their products in Bangalore says Monique Alfris, the co-founder and director of operations, who talks poignantly about her impoverished grandmother who lived in Greece before immigrating to Australia. Pollinate Energy grew out of a primal urge to do something for people. “I was working with energy-based companies across Asia, but was disappointed by the quality. Then a cousin invited us to be part of a project on the outskirts of Bangalore.
This is when we realised we enjoyed working together and also helping other communities suffering from scarce energy,” she says. When we asked her why India and not Africa or Latin America, she simply replied – “India found us!” Alfris finds it hard to come to terms with people in the city living in tents the size of a regular dining room with no electricity. Her firm introduced efficient cookstoves into their product range in September, but while solar lights sold like hotcakes, they’ve had less success with the cookstoves. They are also looking at water filtration products, improved shelter and toilets for underdeveloped communities. Their products start at Rs. 550 and have a warranty of one year. The company plans to expand to Chennai in the next six months. By 2015, they plan to reach five more cities.
? There is no panacea for poverty but green energy can play a role – by giving people better access to electricity. This can improve their safety, help children study at night and assist people in increasing their income.
? I would love to collaborate with Sanergy (saner.gy) in Kenya. They have developed a unique way of providing better sanitation to Kenya’s urban slums.
Dhivik Reddy CEO, Go Green BOV
“When this battery-operated scooter hit the market in April 2010, the demand was about two to three units a month. Now the number has shot up to 700 units every month. The scooter caters to two segments of people – ones who care about the environment and those who look at cutting costs. With seven hours of charge, the scooter will give you about hundred kilometres costing about Rs.150 – a saving of Rs. 3,000 per month.”
Avinash Gautam, CEO, Silvan Innovation Labs
“Clunky systems with exorbitant prices, needing professional installation are passe. As smartphones and tablets become increasingly prevalent, smart home-tech is now easy to use and dramatically more affordable, the initial investment will quickly turn into savings. An energy efficient home can reclaim the amount spent on automation within two to three years from the reduced
power consumption alone.”
Amura Renewable Energy
Cyril Mathias remembers his early schooling in Chickmagalur surrounded by greenery, even after he later relocated to Bangalore known for it gardens and flowering trees. Impacted by all this green awareness growing up, he wanted to tap into nature in some way, he tells us. Sensing his passion, his late father, a businessman and coffee planter, urged him to follow his dreams. Mathias, a qualified lawyer, had already joined the multi-national workforce completing stints with multi-nationals in the Philippines and the Vietnamese government in India and in Oman. But his eureka moment came when he made a trip to Australia and “really got my hands dirty on a solar project and decided to go into partnership.”
Amura is headquartered in India and Malaysia and manufactures home renewable energy solutions, LED lights, borewell solar pumps as well as wind and hydro power installations. “Taking Indian green technology to the Southeast Asian region was a dream,” he tells us. One that came to fruition when they recently installed the first wireless cloud energy management system at the National University of Malaysia (Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia). “As a nation, we are noted for software technology, so why should our green technology lag behind,” he reasons. Setting up green energy bases overseas did pose a few challenges.
Language being one of them. “Plus, it was tricky educating 250 engineering students about the benefits of our systems,” he smiles. His company is currently monitoring energy consumption for the main incoming transformers at the Kempegowda International Airport. Plus, providing solar lanterns for the households of the indigenous people of Peninsular Malaysia.
Right on track
? I was first influenced by the European nuns at St Joseph’s Convent in Chickmagalur. They used to convert cow dung to cooking gas way back then.
? LEDs save 60 per cent of your lighting bill and the green energy sector is growing at 65 per cent every year. We just need more infrastructure like charging stations and initial government subsidies to give it an impetus.
? The one thing I dislike about my job is paperwork!