US study validates Narendra Modi’s green energy goal
India would be able to cut electricity costs, meet its doubling power demand and reduce emissions if it meets its target of installing 500 GW of renewable energy by 2030, according to a new US study.
India would be able to cut electricity costs, meet its doubling power demand and reduce emissions if it meets its target of installing 500 gigawatts of renewable energy by 2030, and without having to shut down polluting coal- and gas-based power plants, says a new US study released on Thursday.
But there are conditions to this optimistic projection. The costs of battery storage and wind and solar energy technologies should continue to fall as they have over the past decade and should be accompanied by complementary flexible resources, such as efficient energy storage, agricultural load shifting, and hydropower, and optimally utilising the existing thermal power assets in the country.
The study by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LNBL), which is a US department of energy’s office of science lab managed by University of California, projects that if India achieves the target of installing 500 GW of renewable electricity capacity by 2030, it could reduce electricity costs by 8-10%, provided the renewable energy and battery storage prices continue to decline. And it will be able to reduce the carbon emissions intensity of its electricity supply by 43-50% by 2030 over the 2020 level. Emissions Intensity is the unit of Green House Gas emission relative to the GDP, a measure preferred by India for fixing its mitigation targets under the 2015 Paris Agreement called Nationally Determined Contributions. Other countries - specially developed countries - have committed themselves to reducing just emissions, irrespective of the size of their economy.
The study validates the cost-effectiveness of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s announcement at the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow recently that India would have installed 500 GW of renewable energy production capacity by 2030.
“We found that building such high levels of renewable energy would actually be economical for India, thanks to the cost reductions in clean technologies that have occurred much faster than anticipated,” said Berkeley Lab scientist and the study’s lead author Nikit Abhyankar, an Indian-American. “However, the key to achieving the lowest costs, while maintaining grid reliability, lies in complementing the renewable energy buildout with flexible resources such as energy storage and demand response, and utilising the existing thermal power assets in the country in the most efficient manner.”
The study’s two others researchers are also Indian-Americans, Shruti Deorah and Amol Phadke. It was funded by the US department of state, Bureau of Energy Resources, under the Flexible Resources Initiative of the US-India Clean Energy Finance Task Force.
India has committed itself to installing 175 GW of renewable energy capacity by 2022, up from the current 100 GW, and eventually to 500 GW by 2030.
The study demonstrates that if India hits the 2030 target, 50% of its electricity supply could come from carbon-free sources compared to only 25% in 2020.
This would require, though, quadrupling total renewable energy capacity, the study said. But that would still be cheaper than building coal- and gas-based plants if the transition was supplemented by, the researchers found, flexible resources such as shifting agricultural electricity consumption to solar hours, using batteries to store four to six hours of daily energy for nighttime use, and utilising flexibility in existing thermal power plants is cheaper than building new coal- or gas-based plants.
This does not have to come at the expense of traditional coal- and gas-based energy plants. India does not have to shut them down immediately, a prospect that confronts many developed countries such as the United States, accompanied by the closure of mines and job losses. This would give India time to plan its long-term transition from these polluting energy sources.
But, as stated earlier, there are certain conditions for this least-cost optimism. Worldwide price in battery storage and wind and solar technologies should continue to fall. And for its own part, India will require to make certain regulatory changes, in an enabling policy and regulatory framework.
This framework, the study says, should include enabling states to share resources with each other, integrating reliability and cost-effectiveness in electric utilities’ planning and procurement practices, widening and deepening the electricity markets, ensuring that energy storage is appropriately valued and compensated for, and coordinating between power and gas sector operations for efficient utilisation of the existing gas pipelines and gas power generation assets.