Vantage point

Friday, June 27, 2003


I am talking about the Law of Conservation of Energy. I have made two obervations at two different levels which make me wonder if people are even aware of such a law.

The first observation is about the whole inverter issue. For the uninitiated, many parts of India suffer from power shortage due to which the local Electricity Boards, mostly run by the government, have to employ a method known as load-shedding. This means that they shut off the power for some hours. This duration varies from 6 hours a week in Maharashtra, to 8 hours a day in Madhya Pradesh. There are regions where the situation is even worse.

Now very often, you are working on a computer, or are using a machine that will be damaged without a proper shutdown. There are industries which need to keep production going at all times. To solve such problems, we have generators, UPS' and inverters. So if you are working on a very important project on your computer, the UPS will keep it working for a fixed time until you can save the file, and shut it down properly. Many industries work round the clock thanks to gen-sets.

However a recent trend has been to purchase inverters that are available at a very affordable price these days. People buy inverters that can work for upto 6 hours, in case of a power failure. So whenever there is load shedding, the inverters keep the electricity in their houses flowing. How nice and convenient.

But if the root cause of the problem is insufficient electrical energy, how the hell will an inverter solve the problem? After all you connect the inverter to your main line, right? What happens as a result is that you are not really shedding any load during the load shedding. You are just saving up extra energy and then using it up. Right now very few people have bought inverters. But the prices are falling and very soon at least half the households will have such inverters. Then the electricity boards will realise that the load shedding is not having any effect at all.

See what I mean? An inverter is just a short term solution, which may even end up compounding the situation. It is not like a generator. In a generator, the source of energy is external. You pour diesel in it and the thermal energy gets converted to electricity. So you are adding to the energy that your electricity board produces and so are not burdening during load shedding. But the inverter gets electrical energy from the board.

It is like trying to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps!!