The energy transition in India’s power sector

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With the growth in the economy backed up by all sectors, industrial growth has put India closer to that of developed countries. Needless to say, the power and energy sector has played a vital role in this development. During the month of July 2021 India’s peak demand, which hit a new record, was 200.57GW. By B.B. Mehta, Director (SLDC) at Odisha Power Transmission Corporation Ltd.

There has been consistent growth in installed capacity in the thermal, hydro and nuclear sectors. But during the last decade the pace of growth for renewables, specifically solar and wind, has been remarkable and is expected to approach almost 100GW by the end of 2021. With this increase in the share of renewable energy, India should achieve about 30-35 % reduction in GDP emission intensity by 2030.

The national renewable energy capacity target has been ramped up from 175GW by 2022 to 450GW by 2030. Comparing the present capacity with this target, there is much work to be done along with the transition to e-mobility and digital innovation across all energy systems.

The rising share of renewables in the power system adds various challenges for system operators due to its variability and uncertainty. The call for system resilience to manage this uncertainty with more flexibility in the system is a key aspect for greater renewable integration, alongside the availability of transmission corridors, the readiness of local distribution networks and issues of behind the meter renewable generators.

Various other issues like dynamic tariffs, net metering, banking and block by block set up and forecasting and scheduling also need to be addressed.

Both at the state and national levels, electricity is a concurrent subject in India. The top down approach recognises the importance of flexibility in the system by including storage and dynamic response of conventional plants. The role of the electricity network for delivery of the energy transition needs to be stated, particularly as it is required to meet wide areal coverage, the growth in urbanisation, rural electrification and increasing per capita energy consumption.

The various policy, regulation and regulatory related norms, rules and methodology are being planned, designed and implemented both nationally and in some states. Here one needs a holistic view of growing the renewables penetration to reduce carbon emissions and provide a green tomorrow for the next generation. Both the regulation and policy should be inclusive to ensure projects are viable and sustainable. It has been observed that much renewable capacity could not be established or operated or became unsustainable due to improper policies, guidelines or regulations hampering their future.

Key initiatives like modification in the government controlling scheme for more flexibility in thermal plants, operation of pump mode hydro projects, off-grid solar projects for the agriculture sector, battery storage to meet short term peak demand and absorption of high renewable generation from demand side management with financial incentive are to be deployed by individual utilities.

A collective approach to address the basic problem of project viability, smooth integration and grid operators’ requirements is required with a positive outlook and the filtering out of speculative developers.

About the author

B. B. Mehta is in charge of efficient and secure Power System Operation and Control at Odisha Power Transmission Corporation Ltd as Chief Load Dispatcher and Director (SLDC). He has been associated with the power sector for more than 36 years.

Watch an exclusive interview with B.B. Metha on POWERGEN India and Indian Utility Week’s digital platform https://bit.ly/bbmehta.