Almost the entire year 2020 has been lost from the global productivity enhancement target to fight against the man-made killer virus COVID – 19. It is one of the most maculated years in the history of human civilisation when a country’s ongoing devastating research work based on malintent – suddenly escaped from the confinement of laboratories and caused 1,453,355 deaths globally till the end of November 2020 (Source:World Health Organization, 10:23am CET, 30 November 2020).
The economy of almost all the countries has been affected – because of the unforeseen closures or scaled down operations of many industries due to a prolonged lock-down period. Some of the countries that have a resilient economy have started recovering whereas others are still in doldrums. It is quite natural when the industrial activities slow down, the demand of power also reduces. The situation often becomes more complicated during the recovery period, several unforeseen challenges come to the way – especially in many cases the unpredictable load management poses a big challenge.
Recently, during the compilation of IEA’s Energy Technology Perspectives (ETP) 2020, discussions were held on the power scenario, drives and requirements in several countries across the globe. It was found through the IEA’s review analysis that transforming the power sector alone will only get the world one-third of the way to net-zero emissions.
Highlights of the major findings
The recent IEA report highlights a few vital points that global experts feel are absolutely essential to address the growing demand of power without causing further deterioration of the climate. They feel that a major effort to develop and deploy clean energy technologies worldwide is urgently needed to meet international energy and climate goals, particularly in order to reduce carbon emissions from areas beyond the power sector such as transport, buildings and industry.
“We need to tackle emissions from the vast amounts of existing energy infrastructure in use worldwide…”
– Dr Fatih Birol Executive Director, IEA
With global carbon emissions at unacceptably high levels, structural changes to the energy system are required to achieve the rapid and lasting decline in emissions.
The IEA report has suggested 800 different technology options to assess what would need to happen to reach net-zero emissions by 2070, while ensuring a resilient and secure energy system.
However, as stated above, it is not only the power sector that can alone transform the scenario. The IEA report also states that transitioning just the power sector to clean energy would get the world only one-third of the way to net-zero emissions. Completing the journey will require devoting far more attention to the transport, industry and buildings sectors, which today account for about 55% of CO2 emissions from the energy system. Much greater use of electricity in these sectors – for powering electric vehicles, recycling metals, heating buildings and many other tasks – can make the single largest contribution to reaching net-zero emissions. Thus, many more technologies will be needed to achieve the ultimate goal.
Although, in the post-COVID scenario, apparently it is a very difficult task to transform all sectors and implement sustainable practices everywhere, the global leaders are quite optimistic on achieving the goal – at least in the energy sector. Confirming the positive outlook, Dr Fatih Birol, the IEA’s Executive Director, said, “Despite the difficulties caused by the Covid-19 crisis, several recent developments give us grounds for increasing optimism about the world’s ability to accelerate clean energy transitions and reach its energy and climate goals. Still, major issues remain.”
He finds that solar is leading the renewables to new heights in markets across the globe, ultra-low interest rates can help finance a growing number of clean energy projects, more governments and companies are throwing their weight behind these critical technologies, and all-important energy innovation may be about to take off. But highlighting a gap in initiatives, he said, “We need even more countries and businesses to get on board, we need to redouble efforts to bring energy access to all those who currently lack it, and we need to tackle emissions from the vast amounts of existing energy infrastructure in use worldwide that threaten to put our shared goals out of reach.”
The Energy Technology Perspectives 2020 (ETP 2020) has identified some of the major areas of inefficiency, which need to be addressed urgently. It states, “The challenge of long-lasting energy assets already operating around the world – including inefficient coal power plants, steel mills and cement kilns, most of which were recently built in emerging Asian economies and could operate for decades to come,” needs to be taken care of.
As per the report, the power sector and heavy industry sectors together account for about 60% of emissions today from existing energy infrastructure. That share will climb to nearly 100% in 2050, if no action is taken to manage the existing assets’ emissions, underscoring the need for the rapid development of technologies such as hydrogen and carbon capture.
Necessities at the moment
Highlighting the present shortcomings, the IEA report states that – ensuring that new clean energy technologies are available in time for key investment decisions will be critical. In heavy industries, for example, strategically timed investments could help avoid around 40% of cumulative emissions from existing infrastructure in these sectors. Accelerated innovation is crucial for this – and for scaling up the clean energy technologies needed across the energy system.
While listening about the need for huge transformation, naturally the question arises what the anticipated or expected future scenario is. The IEA report has drawn a nice landscape on it. It states, “Hydrogen is expected to play a large and varied role in helping the world reach net-zero emissions by forming a bridge between the power sector and industries where the direct use of electricity would be challenging, such as steel and shipping.”
“New technologies will be vital in the future to reduce carbon emissions but those technologies must be accessible, affordable and appropriate to country contexts…”
– Prakash Javadekar, Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (and Minister of Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises), India
In the IEA’s Sustainable Development Scenario – a pathway for reaching international energy and climate goals – the global capacity of electrolysers, which produce hydrogen from water and electricity, expands to 3 300 gigawatts in 2070, from 0.2 gigawatts today. In 2070, these electrolysers will consume twice the amount of electricity that China generates today. Carbon capture is also employed across a range of sectors in the Sustainable Development Scenario, including the production of synthetic fuels and some low-carbon hydrogen. And modern bioenergy directly replaces fossil fuels in areas like transport and offsets emissions indirectly through its combined use with carbon capture.
What should be done?
Everywhere, reaching the expected goal needs chalking out a time-bound plan beforehand. The IEA report has talked about the blistering pace of technological transformation that would be necessary for the world to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. It states, “To meet the huge increase in demand for electricity, additions of renewable power capacity would need to average around four times the current annual record, which was reached in 2019. Governments need to play an outsized role in accelerating clean energy transitions towards meeting international goals.”
According to IEA, the economic stimulus measures in response to the Covid-19 crisis offer a key opportunity to take urgent action that could boost the economy, while supporting clean energy and climate goals.
The Indian stand
Now India is at fifth global position for overall installed renewable energy capacity. The IEA held the India launch of ETP 2020 during a webinar on 19th November 2020. In the event, Prakash Javadekar, Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (and Minister of Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises) delivered the keynote address. He highlighted the Government of India’s commitment to fighting climate change while providing clean and affordable energy to all Indians. Welcoming the new IEA report, the Minister also reiterated that new technologies will be vital in the future to reduce carbon emissions but those technologies must be accessible, affordable and appropriate to country contexts.
Praising India’s nitiatives in this regard, Dr Birol highlighted that India has moved to the centre of global energy markets due to the government’s continued success and leadership in energy access, energy efficiency and renewable energy. He also noted that clean energy transitions need to happen in all parts of the energy sector, which will require the development of low emissions technology solutions at commercial scale. He committed the IEA’s ongoing support for India in continuing its move towards a sustainable, secure and affordable energy system.
Commendable progress despite COVID-19
As per the data released by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) for the period starting January 2020 till Sep 2020, about 2,320 MW of solar capacity comprising 1,437 MW of Ground Mounted Solar and 883 MW of Rooftop Solar was added in India.
A recent research work by JMK Research reveals more details on solar installation. It gives a state-wise break up: Rajasthan (360 MW), Tamil Nadu (341 MW) and Maharashtra (165 MW) were the leading states with most of the large-scale solar installations during this period.
Before the COVID-19 outbreak, JMK Research had projected nearly 7-8 GW of utility-scale solar capacity addition in 2020. However, only 1.4 GW capacity commissioned in the first nine months. Because of COVID 19, there were construction delays, restricted movement of equipment supply, and labour shortages eventually leading to project delays. To compensate for this, MNRE has issued a blanket extension of five months to all project developers. Now, most of this delayed capacity is likely to come up in the first half of 2021.
On the rooftop solar side, Gujarat ranks first with 380 MW capacity addition, contributing nearly 43% of the total rooftop installations in the first nine months of 2020, followed by Rajasthan (150 MW). The primary reason behind the significant capacity addition in Gujarat is the “Surya Urja Rooftop Yojana – Gujarat” that targets installation of solar rooftops for eight lakh consumers by March 2022 in the residential sector. This scheme provides 40% of state subsidy on installation of systems up to 3 kW of size and 20% subsidy for 3 kW – 10 kW.
The JMK Research report cites another reason for this upsurge in rooftop activity in Gujarat. It states that the MSME policy introduced in September 2019 by the Gujarat state government, as part of which MSMEs are allowed to install solar projects with more than 100% of their sanctioned load or contract demand. Earlier, the permitted installation limit was 50% of the sanctioned load. As per the new policy, MSMEs are also able to sell excess solar energy to the state government at a price of Rs. 1.75/ kWh. The policy also permits MSMEs to buy solar power from third parties. After Gujarat, Rajasthan (150 MW) and Tamil Nadu (92 MW) are the leading states, who have added the highest rooftop solar capacity.
As JMK Research report has shown above, around 20 – 25% of the predicted solar installation has been possible even during the restricted period of lockdown imposed in the country because of COVID – 19 pandemic. Our country is expected to bridge the gap in the first quarter of 2021. If no other interference comes up in between, and we can keep the expected deadline, then India will easily catch up with the preset time-frame.
By P. K. Chatterjee (P. K.)