Tech key to growing renewable energy share in India’s energy mix

Tech key to growing renewable energy share in India’s energy mix

From energy storage or manufacturing parts indigenously, renewable energy technologies will play a pivotal role in helping India get back on track in chasing its targets.

India’s run to renewable energy has been a fast and furious, propelled by Prime Minister Modi’s target of installing of installing 175 GW of renewable energy capacity by 2022.

The country was ranked third on renewable energy investment and future plans, according to a new study by British Business Energy and amongst the top ten in the world on the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) global rankings in terms of renewable energy power capacity.

As on October 2020 India has an installed renewable energy capacity stood at 89.63 GW and according to a year-end review by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, another 49.59 gigawatts of renewable energy capacity is under installation, and an additional 27.41 gigawatts of capacity has been tendered. This puts the total capacity of renewable energy projects already commissioned or in the pipeline at nearly 167 gigawatts.

But all is not sunny in the sunshine sector.

Pandemic pandemonium

For one, the coronavirus pandemic has thrown a huge spanner in India’s renewable energy works.

Analysts expect distribution companies’ annual losses to double to about $15 billion which bring challenges in attracting funds and investments in the energy sector. India’s only recent energy-generation investments were in renewables; these may also be at risk because they concern capital rather than labour.

According to Rahul Tonja, senior fellow at the Centre for Social and Economic Progress, ‘India already had surplus capacity and stressed assets before the lockdown. Decisions about adding non-renewable capacity were a few years away; COVID-19 delays them further. Pre pandemic, approx. 90% of power was coming from power purchase agreements (PPAs), but demand is down. While power exchanges now have very low prices, PPAs have limited the value of cheap third-party supply – unless distribution companies claim force majeure, the new buzzword.’

Wind Mills to produce Energy amid agricultural fields in Parigi, Vikarabad District, Telangana. Hybrid energy systems (HES) are being seen as the way ahead to meeting India’s burgeoning energy demand as opposed to dependence on one kind of renewable resource.
Wind Mills to produce Energy amid agricultural fields in Parigi, Vikarabad District, Telangana. Hybrid energy systems (HES) are being seen as the way ahead to meeting India’s burgeoning energy demand as opposed to dependence on one kind of renewable resource.

Mixing it up

Unsurprisingly, technology once again may just hold the key to solving challenges in India’s renewable energy market. More and more, Hybrid energy systems (HES) are being seen as the way ahead to meeting India’s burgeoning energy demand. HES can help integrate renewable power into the grid by overcoming intermittency and making it reliable and dispatchable when combined with utility-scale battery storage. According to Tonja hybrid energy systems can help ramp up electrification of rural and remote locations in India due to their lower costs and quicker installation, compared to building extensive transmission lines from the conventional centralised power plants.

India has only recently laid the foundation of what will be the world’s largest hybrid renewable energy park, at Vighakot village in the district of Kutch in Gujarat. On completion the park will spread over 70,000 hectares of land, equivalent to the size of Singapore, will have a capacity of 30GW of solar and wind energy.

However, the success of HES will depend on battery and energy storage solutions.

Fortunately, India seems to be already working towards this. In November last year, Tata Power, AES Corporation, and Mitsubishi Corporation inaugurated India’s first 10 megawatt (MW) grid-scale battery-based energy storage system in Delhi, which will go a long way in revolutionising energy storage in India. The Indian government has also allocated US$2.42 billion over the next five years to support the manufacture of advance chemistry cell (ACC) batteries and help both domestic and international players set up operations in India.

These are just a couple of examples of how the application of innovative tech is helping India’s energy transition from fossil fuels to renewable resources. As India’s population grows and its energy demands grow with it, technology will continue to hold the key in find new and innovative solutions to solve future challenges.

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