Speeding up RE GENERATION is Necessary

India is one of the countries that has taken up the Net Zero target very seriously. However, owing to several reasons, we are still behind. We need to focus more on decentralised Renewable Power (RE) generation… - P. K. Chatterjee (PK)

Whatever be the global situation and progress towards embracing the carbon emission-free era, India is creditably committed to achieve its target of 500 GW of renewable energy by 2030. The recently declared government’s plan for the same has once again reiterated our keen interest to accelerate the journey towards achieving the net zero state.

Our country’s current total renewable energy capacity stands at ~168.96 GW (dated 28th February 2023) with about 82 GW at various stages of implementation and about 41 GW under tendering stage. This includes 64.38 GW Solar Power, 51.79 GW Hydro Power, 42.02 GW Wind Power and 10.77 GW Bio Power.

According to a recent report from Statista, China’s solar energy consumption reached 330 TWh as of 2021. There the second largest development has taken place in the field of wind power. Their cumulative installed wind power capacity from 2014 to 2021 stood at 282 GW.

Obviously, we need to improve much. Although there is a little different reason behind China’s development of vast solar capacity, i.e., the nation is one of the leading suppliers of solar modules globally. Thus, internally there the solar power developers are enjoying the benefits of economies of scale. So, more than looking at photovoltaic power generation from the angle of environmental improvement, they have been focusing on it from the business profitability angle.

Our government’s current plan

The Government of India has recently decided to invite bids for 50 GW of renewable energy capacity annually for the next five years i.e., from Financial Year 2023-24 till Financial Year 2027-28. These annual bids of ISTS (Inter-State Transmission) connected renewable energy capacity will also include setting up of wind power capacity of at least 10 GW per annum.

The plan has recently been finalized by the Ministry of New & Renewable Energy (MNRE) at a meeting chaired by Union Minister for Power & NRE R. K. Singh. It is in accordance with the Prime Minister’s announcement at COP26, of achieving 500 GW of installed electricity capacity from non-fossil fuel (Renewable Energy and Nuclear) sources by 2030.

Time management

Considering the fact that Renewable Energy (RE) projects take around 18-24 months for commissioning, the bid plan will add 250 GW of renewable energy and ensure 500 GW of installed capacity by 2030. The Ministry of Power is already working on upgrading and adding the transmission system capacity for evacuating 500 GW of electricity from non-fossil fuel.

A detailed Plan titled, “Transmission System for Integration of over 500 GW RE Capacity by 2030” has been prepared in consultation with states and other stakeholders by the committee constituted under Chairperson, Central Electricity Authority by the Ministry of Power. The plan was launched on 7th December 2022. Also, under the Green Energy Corridor Project, Intra-State Transmission Systems are being created with financial support from Central Government.

In addition to this, the MoP has declared a quarterly plan of the bids for FY 2023-24, which comprises bids for at least 15 GW of renewable energy capacity in each of the first and second quarters of the financial year (April-June 2023 and July-September 2023 respectively), and at least 10 GW in each of the third and fourth quarters of the financial year (Oct-December 2023 and January-March 2024 respectively).

This capacity addition is over and above the RE capacities that would come up under schemes like Rooftop solar and PM-KUSUM of the ministry, under which, bids issued directly by various states & also capacities that may come up under Open Access Rules.

The designated bid managing authorities

Currently, Solar Energy Corporation of India Ltd. (SECI), NTPC Ltd. and NHPC Ltd., are notified by the government as Renewable Energy Implementing Agencies (REIAs) for calling such bids.  It has been decided to also notify SJVN Ltd, a public sector enterprise under Government of India, as an REIA.

The targeted bid capacity for FY 2023-24 would be allocated among the four REIAs. The REIAs would be permitted to bring out the bids for solar, wind, solar-wind hybrid, RTC RE power, etc. – all with/without storage, as per their assessment of the RE market or as per directions of the government.

Steps to address the energy storage issue

As of now, our government has taken several measures including the following, to address the variability of Renewable Energy (RE) generation – caused by weather conditions and ensure smoother integration of RE generation with the grid:

  • Construction of intra-state and inter-state transmission systems for evacuation of renewable power.
  • Setting up of Renewable Energy Management Centers (REMCs) for accurate forecasting of renewable power and for assisting grid operators to manage variability and intermittency of renewable power.
  • Innovative products like solar-wind hybrid projects, Round the Clock RE projects, RE projects with energy storage systems and supply of RE power balanced with power from non-RE sources started to reduce intermittency.
  • Implementation of Green Term Ahead Market (GTAM) and Green Day Ahead Market (GDAM) for sale of renewable power.
  • Flexibility in generation and scheduling of thermal/hydro power stations through bundling with renewable power and storage power.
  • Notification of Energy Storage Obligation trajectory till 2029-30.

Major feasible options to store energy

As of now, Pumped Storage Projects (PSP) and Battery Energy Storage Systems (BESS) are the major feasible options to store RE. The PSPs have long gestation period, and their capacity is dependent on location, however, they have longer life. On the other hand, BESS have short gestation period, they are non-dependent on location but limited by availability of minerals and technology.

Under Tarif-based Global Competitive Bidding, issued by the Solar Energy Corporation of India Ltd., for setting up of 500 MW/1000 MWh standalone BESS pilot project, the lowest bid discovered is Rs 10,83,500 /- per MW/Month. To reduce the Levelized Cost of Storage, a viability gap funding scheme for 4,000 MWh of BESS has been announced in the Budget for the year 2023-24.

As per Central Electricity Authority (CEA), the present installed capacity of PSPs in the country is 4,745.6 MW and another 1,500 MW capacity is under active construction. The growth of PSPs in the country has been slow due to variety of factors, which include long gestation period, capacity being location dependent, requirement of Environment Clearance, etc.

Final words

Although it is estimated that on April 01, 2023, Indian population will exceed that of Chinese population, we are still far away from crossing their RE generation capacity. When we are planning to harness 500 GW of renewable energy (total) by 2030, in 2023 China is targeting to install ~ 95 GW to 120 GW new PV capacity (source: China Photovoltaic Industry Association, CPIA).

Of course, it does not mean that we are not progressing, but we have to ramp up our RE capacity in an accelerated way. And one most important point is, we have to focus more on decentralised generation of RE power. Government cannot do everything, the citizens also have to share the responsibility.

By P. K. Chatterjee (PK)

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