Transitioning a fast growing economy like India from fossil fuels to renewables is not simple. Especially in the times of global political and economic upheaval– partly caused by the pandemic that is slowly waning, and partly because of the Russia - Ukraine conflict– which is choking the fuel supply chain resulting from political tensions and economic restrictions.
India, at the COP26, announced that it’ll go carbon neutral by the year 2070 and it will cut half of its carbon emissions by the year 2030 which involves creating an infrastructure for producing 500GW of renewable energy to fulfill domestic demand.
India’s peak power demand hit a high of 201.06 Gigawatts this year on 26th of April, the country's power consumption has been soaring as the economic activity is getting back on track after having been slowed down by the pandemic for about two years. The reason for peak demand is also the heat wave that has gripped the nation, and if projections are any good it isn’t going away anytime soon as the power ministry has projected the demand to hit another peak in May-June.
“The rising power demand reflects the economic growth in the country. In the month of March this year, the growth in energy demand has been around 8.9 per cent,” Power Ministry said in a statement.
On the supply side of things India relies heavily on coal which is a carbon intensive resource but that’s not the only problem, the procurement of coal is also part of the issue. India’s problem at this time is not only that its energy sources are carbon intensive, but also the struggle to meet the rising energy demands of the country. India is set to see the sharpest rise in power consumption in 38 years according to the power ministry. The government on 5th May invoked emergency law to restart idled coal power plants that had been shut due to unfulfilled coal demand or because of rising import prices of coal. Over 43% of the plants fired by imported coal, which have a total capacity of 17.6 gigawatts (GW) and account for 8.6% of India's total coal power capacity, are currently idle. Energy production through these is going to cost higher than usual and the cost of generation will be passed on to the consumers.
In the longer term, the obvious solution of temporary power overload on the grid and the unfulfilled surging demands of power is renewable energy sources, and as the political and social momentum has been driving the establishment of power generation infrastructure, the storage and supply infrastructure at a large scale is still not there.
The energy generated through renewable sources need to be consumed instantly, government had projected in 2013 that the renewable energy contribution to the nation will be about 15-20GW by 2020, but since the 2015 UNFCCC summit things got accelerated and now India is looking at 50% non-fossil based energy by 2030 but that energy cannot be consumed instantly, we need to build systems to integrate it into the national grid.
India has reached the milestone of 150GW of installed renewable energy capacity, which is just 25GW short of its target capacity of renewable energy for 2022. Union Minister Nitin Gadkari at India Energy Storage Week (IESW) 2022, stressed the problem of storage and encouraged involved parties to come up with solutions of energy storage which is also important for the EV market to grow because India will need charging stations.
India has, in the year 2021 invited bids to construct about 3GW of storage systems in the country. Central Electricity Authority (CEA) has started creating rules for enabling the integration of storage and demand response in ancillary services market. Ancillary services refer to the systems that help maintain the proper supply of electricity from a grid, it involves tackling problems like minor surge in demand, equipment failure in grid, or in the event of failure of the whole grid or regulating supplies for longer periods of increased demands
Tata Power last year started building the country's largest solar powered storage plant that has 100MW capacity and a Battery Energy Storage System(BEES) with 40MW supply capacity which will last for about 3 hrs of supply. This is a part of Solar Energy Corporation of India’s initiative of establishing a 1000MW battery based storage system, it is now inviting bids for 2000MW capacity BEES systems on Build Own Operate basis for next 25 years. NTPC has also invited bids for establishment of 1000MW capacity BEES based systems across its grids in the country.
There are other types of storage systems coming into picture, the Department of Heavy Industry (DHI) invited bids for making Advanced Chemical Cells(ACC) type storage systems, it has plans to incentivize the domestic manufacturing of ACCs. Hydrogen fuel cells are also going to come into picture as green hydrogen becomes more available.