A healthy mix is the answer to Indias energy needs

A healthy mix is the answer to Indias energy needs
A healthy mix is the answer to Indias energy needs

The biggest challenge for India's Renewable Energy targets is the intermittent nature of Wind and Solar technology, writes a power sector expert.India remains the fastest growing economy with GDP upwards of 7 per cent and growing population. With increasing urbanisation and growing needs and demands, the energy requirement is also growing at a CAGR of 5 per cent from FY2010.The capacity addition in the 11th plan (2007-2012) has been 50GW and that in 12th plan (2012-2017) and beyond is close to 130GW. The main contribution for this significant capacity addition (CAGR 10.5 per cent) has come from the private sector, which now has the largest share of 145GW followed by state sector with 104GW and remaining with central sector. With the significant capacity addition, the energy deficit which was 10 per cent in 2009-10 has reduced to 0.6 per cent in 2017-18 and the peak power deficit from 12.8 per cent to 0.6 per cent in 2017. The present energy generation in the country is close to 1300TWh with 330GW of operational capacity comprising mainly fossil fuel 225GW, Hydro 45GW and Renewables 55GW. Renewables comprise Wind, Solar Bio mass and Hydro <25MW. With 1.3-billion population, the per capita consumption of electricity is close to 1000KWh/annum - a third of global average.Energy is acknowledged as a key input towards raising the standard of living of citizens of any country, as is evident from the correlation between per capita electricity (a proxy for all energy forms) consumption and Human Development Index (HDI). Accordingly, energy policies of India have over the years directly aimed to raise per capita energy (and electricity) consumption, even while the main focus of the country's development agenda has been on eradication of poverty.India has a vast natural reserve to meet its energy demand and has significant potential to harness from various technologies. Apart from vast coal reserves and the possibility to import coal, India has an estimated potential of 150GW of Hydro, 750GW of Solar and 302GW of Wind (Hub height >100m). With not much of this capacity being harnessed as of now, there is huge potential together with increasing demand.Power in India is primarily sold through long-term contracts or PPA (Power purchase Agreement), ranging from 13 years to 40 years at a pre-determined price mechanism. Almost 90 per cent of the total generation is through long-term contracts while the remaining through short and medium term. With the allowance of Open Access >1MW consumers the bilateral market has been increasing while just 3 per cent power is traded in Exchange. While supply to large industrial and commercial off-takers is typically liberalised, smaller consumers continue to be supplied by distribution companies with monopolies on the distribution grid and supply. With the unbundling of the power sector into Generation, Transmission and Distribution, the distribution sector continues to suffer huge losses due to higher technical and commercial losses and health of the distribution companies continues to remain poor.Renewable EnergyThe adverse effects of climate change are much more discernible than ever before, with a better understanding of the relationship between energy use and poor environmental outcomes. While the global agenda is of common concern, there is heightened consciousness of the need to fix poor air quality standards in Indian cities, which is being reflected in tough administrative actions and court mandated orders.The world is moving away from overwhelming dependence on fossil fuel, and within the fossil fuels, away from coal and oil in favour of gas. Against an 88 per cent total share of fossil fuels globally in the primary energy mix in the year 2005, the same fell to 86 per cent in the year 2015. The share of oil has, in particular, fallen from 36 per cent to 33 per cent, while that of natural gas has increased from 23 per cent to 24 per cent, and that of Renewable Energy (including nuclear and large hydro) has gone up from 12.5 per cent to14 per cent in the period 2005-15. The above trends are principally owing to climate change concerns and India too made a pledge through the Paris agreement (COP21) to reduce emission intensity by 33 to 35 per cent by 2030, compared to 2005 levels. Accordingly, it had set up an ambitious target of adding 175GW of renewable energy by 2022. The target being to add 60GW of large Solar plants and equal amount of Wind with 40GW of rooftop installations.India is the fourth largest importer of oil and the 15th largest importer of petroleum products and Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) globally. The increased use of indigenous renewable resources is expected to reduce India's dependence on expensive imported fossil fuels. The government of India through the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) is playing a proactive role in promoting the adoption of renewable energy resources by offering various incentives such as Renewable purchase obligation, Solar purchase obligation, Formation of SECI and centralised bids, bids for wind energy, generation-based incentives (GBIs), capital and interest subsidies, viability gap funding (VGF), concessional finance, fiscal incentives etc.The National Solar Mission aims to promote the development and use of solar energy for power generation and other uses, with the ultimate objective of making solar energy compete with fossil-based energy options. The objective of the National Solar Mission is to reduce the cost of solar power generation in the country through long-term policy, large scale deployment goals, aggressive R&D and the domestic production of critical raw materials, components and products.With scale and falling equipment prices (especially solar), Renewable Energy is now close to grid parity. Low construction time, low construction risk, low feedstock risk, low technology risk, coupled with sizable individual project size, ease of approvals and payment security enables quick scalability and ramp - up in short time. Solar parks further provide a platform to develop mega solar power projects. The recent auctions in Solar saw a tariff of INR 2.44/KWh and that of Wind to INR 3.46.Globally too, over the last three to five years, wind and solar energy have become mainstream, driven by incentive schemes to meet environmental concerns. Due to continued technological advancements and increase of scale, the costs for these technologies have continued to decline. Incentivised investment has resulted in significant overcapacity in many markets and the zero marginal generation cost has resulted in steeply declining energy prices impacting generators across technologies. In many markets wind and solar have become the most competitive technologies for generation expansion on a per MWh basis, which will further accelerate renewable energy investments, also in emerging markets.Future and ChallengesAs per the energy modelling exercise undertaken by the NITI Aayog - India Energy Security Scenarios (IESS) 2047, the energy demand of India is likely to go up by 2.7-3.2 times between 2012 and 2040, with the electricity component itself rising 4.5 fold. With the ever increasing need to use renewable energy, significant cost reduction of these technology and ambitious targets and plans, the capacity addition in renewable energy forms will by far outpace conventional energy like Thermal and Hydro. If the target of 175GW is met by 2022, a significant portion of renewable energy will be part of energy mix.Fast paced electrification of villages to serve 200 million people without access to electricity, UDAY scheme to improve health of distribution companies with targets to lower T&C losses, strengthening of transmission network, 100 smart cities and significant urbanisation will further the demand. The energy demand may not see a big surge due to affordability issues and India may soon be in a power surplus scenario.The biggest challenge though may arise due to the nature of Wind and Solar technology, which is intermittent in nature and infirm. India typically sees an evening peak in which Solar capacity will not be available and hence there will be a strong need for balancing power. Due to general oversupply and a still relatively low system share of such intermittent generation the need for more balancing capacity has not yet emerged. It is possible that the value of flexible balancing capacity will increase between technologies including gas, hydro and batteries. If balancing power is not addressed in the early stage, as these technology takes a significant time to mature, then India will still see load shedding even beyond 2022 and significant capacity back down and inefficiency.Rahul Varshney has worked in the power sector for 25 years and is a regular speaker at seminars and conferences on renewable energy. He is currently working as Director, Business Development, Statkraft India.

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