Originally published at The Hindu, India’s national newspaper
UN chief Ban Ki Moon: India taking the lead in ending energy poverty
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Sunday praised India’s ingenuity and cutting-edge technology while dedicating Gujarat’s second canal-top 10-MW solar power project to the nation.
The solar panels are arranged on top of the Vadodara branch of the Sardar Sarovar Project Canal, probably a first-of-its-kind project in the world to generate power.
In a brief address, Mr. Ban said he was honoured to inaugurate “this impressive project” and commended the vision of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
I see more than the glittering panels — I see the future of India and the future of our world. This facility shows how one project can have multiple uses of conserving land and using renewables. — Ban Ki Moon
He called on India to dramatically scale-up solar power to more than 10 percent of energy mix by 2020.
For the February event on investment in renewable energy in New Delhi, he was sending his special envoy on climate change Michael Bloomberg.
He said access to energy was important to end energy poverty.
India is taking the lead in ending energy poverty and this project shows us how. — Ban Ki Moon
He praised Mr. Modi’s leadership saying this was the kind of leadership the world needed. Action and commitment can create a safer and prosperous world, he said.
S.S. Rathore, chairperson and managing director, Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Ltd, said Mr. Modi’s idea led to a one-MW pilot project being commissioned on the Sanand canal in April 2012.
The new 10-MW megawatt project is on 3.6 km of the Vadodara branch canal of the Sardar Sarovar Project Canal which passes through the city. It saves land and also prevents evaporation losses. There are nearly 35,000 solar panels and the power generated is fed into the State grid and also to operate pumping stations on the canal.
The total cost of this project is $18.3 million and is financed by the State government. It was commissioned in November 2014. The Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam is likely to expand this project and even encourage private entrepreneurs.
‘Emerging economies must help combat climate change’ — Ban Ki Moon
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said here on Sunday that while respecting the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities, emerging economies such as India, China, South Africa and Brazil should take necessary action to combat climate change.
Interacting with the press after visiting a canal-top solar power project here, he said the developed countries had caused much more impact on climate than the developing nations and they had different capacities to tackle impacts.
India was taking necessary action by projects such as the canal-top power project, a creative and impressive one which all developing countries should emulate.
To questions, he said climate finance was the most important aspect to make combating climate change a success. India could play a vital role as one of the fastest growing economies.
He was catalysing funds into the Green Climate Fund, which had topped $10 billion last year. He was optimistic about arriving at a new, robust climate treaty in Paris.
Armed with a new sense of urgency to fix the problems of power supply, rising power costs, and increasing dependence on imported coal, the Narendra Modi-led Indian government is planning to enhance the country’s ambitious National Solar Mission. Currently, the mission entails installation of 20,000 MW of grid-connected and 2,000 MW of distributed solar power capacity by 2022.
Given the resource availability and the demand for solar power, tremendous capacity addition potential remains in India. The government has announced plans that it intends to source 3% of the country’s total electricity demand from solar power projects by 2022. To meet this target, a total installed capacity of 34,150 MW is required, the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy has determined. Thus, the current form of the National Solar Mission would fall short by at least 12,000 MW.
While the MNRE regularly comes up with innovative mechanisms to distribute and allocate solar power capacity among project developers, there are several areas that have not been addressed in the policy. Canal-top solar power projects, something pioneered in Prime Minister Modi’s home state of Gujarat, is among them. This would address yet another and more important problem faced by the country — water scarcity and over-dependence of the agriculture on monsoon.
Net metering and feed-in tariffs for rooftop solar power projects is another missing area. While the state government is likely to have the final say on this issue, the central government can certainly announce incentives to promote the implementation of this policy across the country. This policy has also been successfully implemented in Gujarat and had received financial support from international financial institutions such as the IMF.
It is very likely that the “Gujarat model” will be followed for enhancing renewable energy in India as early signs point to the same. The MNRE has scheduled an investors meet in November this year where it hopes to attract investment worth millions of dollars to boost the renewable energy sector, an approach mastered by Mr Modi during his tenure as the Gujarat chief minister.
The pumps are used by farmers throughout the country to pull in water for irrigation, and currently rely on diesel generators or India’s fossil-fuel-reliant electrical grid for power.
Pashupathy Gopalan, the regional head of SunEdison, told Bloomberg that 8 million diesel pumps already in use could be replaced right now. And India’s Ministry of New and Renewable Energy estimates another 700,000 diesel pumps that could be replaced are bought in India every year.
“The potential is huge,” said Tarun Kapoor, the joint secretary at the ministry. “Irrigation pumps may be the single largest application for solar in the country.”
The program works by subsidizing the swap, and operates in different capacities in India’s various states, sometimes subsidizing the solar pumps up to 86 percent. Thanks to that aid, and the dramaticcollapse in prices for solar power, the pumps pay themselves off in one to four years, according to Ajay Goel, the chief executive officer of Tata Power Solar Systems Ltd., a panel maker and contractor. And Stephan Grinzinger, the head of sales for a German solar water pump maker, told Bloomberg the economics will only get better: diesel prices will rise and spike during farming season, and economies of scale will help the swap program.
Two-thirds of India’s electricity is generated by coal, with natural gas and hydroelectric making up most of the rest. But the monsoon season is growing more erratic — likely due to climate change — making power from the hydroelectric dams less reliable as well. Coal is growing in economic cost for India, so power plants often sit idle, and the coal that is easy to reach would require displacing major population centers.
The national grid that relies on those fuels has seen few updates since it was constructed in they 1960s. It’s also under growing stress from India’s rising middle class, which is adopting air conditioning and running water in massive numbers — all in a country prone to heat waves, again thanks in part to climate change. As backup, many Indian residents and businesses rely on diesel generators, which leaves them vulnerable to the fuel market and contributes to fossil fuel emissions.
Even when the grid is working, around 300 million of India’s 1.2 billion inhabitants don’t have access to it. When it’s not, rolling blackouts are common. Many farmers are able to draw only four hours of power a day from the grid, and that often at night. Heat waves in 2013 were accompanied by widespread blackouts, and a two-day grid failure in 2012 left over 600 million Indians without power.
Ironically, thanks to the kind of distributed and sustainable generation the swap program represents, many of India’s rural poor actually faired much better during the blackout than the grid-dependent middle-class. It’s one of the strengths of solar in particular, even before climate change is considered: a more decentralized power system, based around “microgrids” and individual power generation, rather than a centralized system reliant on the good function of large, singular power providers. In India in particular, sunlight is most plentiful at the times when demand tends to peak. That leaves the power system more adaptable, less prone to central failures, and thus more hospitable to those still struggling to overcome poverty in particular.
Beyond India’s pump swap program, otherefforts in south Asia and northern Africa are already underway to bypass grid expansion entirely, and bring solar power and microgrids directly to poor people.
India added just over 1 gigawatt of solar energy to its electrical grid last year, a major milestone that nearly doubles the country’s cumulative solar energy capacity to 2.18 gigawatts. After a slow start to the year, solar installation picked up rapidly — a good sign that India will be able to meet its ambitious solar targets going forward. India hopes to install 10 GW of solar by 2017 and 20 GW by 2022.
The Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission,launched in 2010 by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, aims to help the country achieve success with solar energy deployment. India is currently in the planning stages of building the world’s largest solar plant, which would generate 4 gigawatts in the northwestern state of Rajasthan.
“This is the first project of this scale anywhere in the world and is expected to set a trend for large-scale solar power developments,” Ashvini Kumar, director of Solar Energy Corp, one of five public utilities that will run the plant, told Business Insider.
In the last decade India’s renewable energy capacity has gone from just under 4 GW to over 27 GW as of this month. Wind energy makes up about two-thirds of this total, with small hydropower contributing nearly 4 GW and biomass over 1 GW.
Last weekend India and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) signed a Memorandum of Understanding to cooperate to promote renewable energy, especially solar.
“The MoU has come at a time when India is struggling to implement ambitious plans to reach out to the population without access to modern forms of energy across the country,” said Jarnail Singh, India Program Manager at the Climate Group.
40 percent of rural Indian households don’t have power. India is also anxious to develop domestic energy sources to supply growing demand so it doesn’t have to import fossil fuels that contribute to trade deficits. Over half of India’s electric power capacity comes from coal, with coal imports hitting a record high last fiscal year. This is bad both environmentally and economically for India.
In a further indication that renewable energy has a large role to play in India’s future, last year the largest coal company in the world, Coal India, starting pursuing commercial solar power plants to cut costs.
The company explained its logic, in part, by saying “India has an abundance of sunshine and the trend of depletion of fossil fuels is compelling energy planners to examine the feasibility of using renewable sources of energy like solar, wind, and so on.”
When the world thinks of countries that could go 100 percent renewable, the immediate thoughts go to islands with solar and storage, hydro and geothermal rich countries such as Iceland, or even wind and wave-rich countries like Scotland.
One of the last economies imagined going fully renewable would be India, the rising economic giant that is still yet to connect several hundred million people to its mostly coal-fired grid, and is expected to have the highest growth of electricity consumption. But according to environmental group WWF, India could reach a goal of 100 percent renewables by 2050.
The study examines the possibility of a near 100% Renewable Energy Scenario (REN) for India by the middle of the century against a reference scenario (REF) in which the economy is likely to be dependent primarily on fossil fuels – coal, oil and gas.
WWF says that to get there India must make some large-scale changes to get on the right track as soon as possible. According to the report, aggressive energy efficiency improvements alone can bring in savings of up to 59 percent (by both the supply and demand sides) by mid-century.
Biofuels are set to play a large role, especially in the transport sector accounting for nearly 90 percent of the industry’s requirements. According to WWF the third-generation biofuels in question are currently still in R&D phase and for the plan to go accordingly they must become commercially viable within the next two decades.
Overall, biofuels account for 23 percent of the total commercial energy supply, most of the transportation needs. Solar thermal accounts for much of industry’s heating needs, and the electricity supply increases nearly 8 fold, with wind contributing the largest component.
The report says the reference scenario depicts an unsustainable, polluting and relatively inefficient energy future in 2051. The renewable scenario, on the other hand, presents a modern, cleaner and highly efficient India and shows that it is, in principle, theoretically feasible to achieve close to 90 percent penetration of renewable energy sources in the energy mix by 2051.
“However, there are still many unresolved questions in the REN scenario related to resource potentials, availability, commercial viability of alternative options, policy and finance mobilization, barriers of cultural and technological lock-ins, etc,” it says.
“Several feasibility studies are, therefore, needed to lay the basis for moving toward the REN scenario; these have not yet been carried out. There are many interventions that would be necessary to remove various barriers and to achieve higher levels of renewable energy deployment in India.”
Concentrated solar thermal technologies, many of which are currently still in the research and development phase, will take on a large chunk of the nations electricity needs as well as meeting thermal demand in industries that require temperatures below 700°C.
Wind is also set to push India towards its 100 percent goal. Currently India has no estimates of its offshore wind potential but the WWF predicts that it could have up to 170 GW installed by 2051.
Rural households will be forced to change their cooking habits, meeting their needs through improved cook stoves while urban households switch to electrical based cooking.
In 2010, fossil fuels accounted for 74 percent of India’s total energy consumed as well as being the world’s third largest emitter of carbon dioxide. India’s greenhouse gas emissions have also steadily risen by 2.9 percent each year between 1994 and 2007.
Much of the rural population still relies on biomass (such as firewood and agro-residue) for much of its basic cooking needs (around 24.6 percent of the primary energy supply) as well as using kerosene for lighting purposes.
Coal currently accounts for 42.4 percent of India’s total primary energy demand in 2010, with the national rail network being the largest coal consumer before 1975 – now overtaken by the power sector (87.7 per cent of total consumption).
Electricity alone plays a crucial role in improving levels of human development and the quality of modern life – with a strong positive link between human development, economic growth and growth in energy and infrastructure.
To sustain India’s own growth it requires large amounts of energy, with little oil reserves and much of its large coal reserves being inaccessible due to technological, social or geological factors, the country has many push factors to get its renewable base up and running. Due to the low oil reserves India has a high import dependence making it more economically vulnerable and well as supply issues.
India started its National Solar Mission in 2010 and is aiming to get 20 GW of grid connected solar power by 2020. As well as this, the Mission is promoting 2,000 MW of off-grid applications; including 20 million solar lighting systems and 20 million square metres of solar thermal collector area by 2022.
In general, India has a vast potential for solar power generation, with about 58 percent of the country’s total land area receiving an annual global insolation about 5 kWh/m2/day. These areas with 5 kWh/m2/day or above can generate at least 77 W/m2 at 16 per cent efficiency.
Rooftop PV is likely to play a major role in both rural and urban areas with residential, agricultural and industrial priorities reducing the amount of available land for solar programs.
It was estimated that almost 30 percent of industrial processes in India require heat below 250°C which can be supplied with heat from solar thermal concentrators. Temperatures below 80°C can be met through solar air heaters and solar water heaters. Industries – with the exception of iron, steel, cement and fertilizer – could in theory shift to CSP based heating.
Wind energy in India currently ranks second to hydro in renewable energy’s generating electricity. With 17,700 MW of installed capacity India’s rank in harnessing wind energy is fifth in the world after USA, China, Germany and Spain. Over the period of 1992-2010 the wind energy installed capacity in India witnesses an annual growth rate of 37 percent.
According to the Centre for Wind Energy Technology, most of India’s wind energy is concentrated in five states – Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Gujarat.
The WWF estimates that India’s total wind potential in megawatts stands at 49,130 at 50 metres, when taken up to 80 metres the reading more than doubles at 102,788 MW.
Hydropower is also being considered, with estimates around 148GW of energy potential. Two rivers, Brahmaputra and Indus, have the highest potential, with only 11 and 50 per cent respectively being utilized thus far.
India’s first tidal power project, with a 3.75 MW capacity, is being set up as well as the Kapasar project which involves building a 30 km-long dam. A recent study cited in the report suggested that also tidal power generation is feasible in certain areas it may not be commercially viable due to diesel costs. Currently, The Government plans to build 7 MW of grid-connected ocean tidal power plans in its 12thfive-year plan.
India’s geothermal potential is around 10,600 MW, distributed across various states and in 2009 the country’s geothermal power capacity stood at 10.7 GW. Although geothermal power development is restricted to tectonically active regions, and seeing as India lacks volcanic activity on its mainland, it also faces issues such as costs of drilling and transmission of energy.
Comparing the REF’s and REN’s final energy demands in 2050 highlights not only a stark mix of energy uses but also efficiency levels. In 2051 the REF is approximated to have increased the countries’ energy demand up to 2,545 Mtoe when compared to the REN sitting at 1,461 Mtoe – highlighting an overall energy savings of 43 percent.
Modeling done by the WWF has estimated that the total undiscounted technology investment cost for the renewables scenario is 42 per cent more than the reference (fossil-fuel) scenario, requiring 544 trillion Indian Rupees from 2011 to 2051. Although the figure sounds quite high it is only around 10 percent higher than if India was to stick to its reference scenario.
In the renewables scenario, India will have almost a quarter more electrical generation capacity (in GW) than if it continues along the reference scenario path. Furthermore, in 2051 the renewables scenario will yield less than one billion tonnes of carbon emissions, compared to the reference scenario with almost 12 billion tonnes.
WWF highlights that although the renewables scenario is preferred it will not be easy for government to get there, recommending various policy options available including; tax holidays for renewable energy uptake, creating incentives for new projects, enhancing R&D, increasing the budgetary allocation, pricing energy and technology for efficiency and strengthening policy and regulatory set-ups.