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EDITORIAL ANALYSIS : Storage Hurdle On Net Zero Track

 

Source: Indian Express

 

  • Prelims: Current events of international importance, renewable energy, Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (CERC), COP, IPCC, G20, GCF etc
  • Mains GS Paper II: Bilateral, regional and global grouping and agreements involving India or affecting India’s interests, Important international institutions etc

 

ARTICLE HIGHLIGHTS

  • India’s push towards decarbonisation has to be backed with adequate storage facilities, without which it clearly cannot go forward beyond a point.

 

INSIGHTS ON THE ISSUE

Context

Renewable energy:

  • They are natural and self-replenishing, and usually have a low- or zero-carbon footprint.
  • Examples of renewable energy sources:
    • Wind power
    • Solar power
    • Bioenergy (organic matter burned as a fuel)
    • Hydroelectric including tidal energy.

 

Need for adequate storage facilities:

  • Storage will handle the intermittency problem (due to sudden cloud cover or drop in wind velocity) of renewables.
  • Coal-based generation cannot be phased out till such time as we can rely on stored energy to provide electricity in the non-solar hours.

 

Current renewable energy scenario:

  • More than 200 GW of coal-based capacity.
  • The Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (CERC) recognises 55 percent as the technical minimum — which means that a 1,000 MW plant can run at 550 MW.
  • The additional operating cost for running the plant at 55 percent capacity (on account of higher auxiliary consumption or self-consumption by the generating plant amongst others) is allowed by the CERC as legitimate expenditure

 

Advantages of adequate storage:

  • Some of the coal-based units would generate at the technical minimum and the extra renewable energy (over and above what is required by the grid) would be used to charge the batteries.
  • The stored energy could then be used to supply electricity during the non-solar hours
    • In a situation where the coal-based generating units would be phased out gradually to enable us to become net zero by 2070.

 

Factors needed to maintain storage capacity:

  • Demand for power existing at that point in time
  • The shape of the load curve
  • The cost of generation from each source
  • Cost of batteries.

 

Storage options available:

  • Hydrogen-based storage:
    • It is feasible for long-term storage, meaning across seasons.
    • For example:
      • in situations when coal mining goes down (which happens during monsoons) affecting thermal generation
      • when hydro generation depletes due to low reservoir levels etc.
    • Lithium-ion batteries:
      • For day-to-day storage and dissipation, batteries are the ideal source.
    • Pump storage plant:
      • India has a total capacity of about 7(four point seven) GW (out of a worldwide capacity of 169 GW, China alone accounting for about 32 GW)
      • only 3(three point three)GW is functional.
      • CEA survey estimated a pump storage potential of about 100 GW.
    • Pump storage plants have not grown in India due to several factors:
      • high investment costs
      • long gestation periods
      • non-remunerative pricing models
      • lack of adequate sites having the topography that is required for operating a pump storage plant.
      • Tehri pump storage project is yet to be commissioned though construction began in 2011 and was to be completed in four and a half years.

 

What are the hurdles?

  • The financial condition of our distribution companies (discoms): The additional solar and wind capacity has to come from the private sector and no developer is going to come forward unless there is some credible payment security mechanism.
  • Problems with land acquisition, and securing the right of way for laying down transmission lines will also continue to hinder progress.
  • Inadequate storage capacity: India’s growth in renewable capacity is likely to hit a roadblock after some time due to inadequate storage capacity.
    • India would not be able to phase out our coal-based generation and would need thermal support during the non-solar hours.
  • The lack of storage capacity will affect our resolve to go net zero by 2070 unless battery costs go down in the years to come.
  • Batteries will not only adversely affect phasing out our coal-based generation but will also affect the pace of introducing electric vehicles (EVs) since batteries account for about 30 to 40 percent of the cost of EVs.

 

Way Forward

  • Efforts are on right now to ascertain whether the technical minimum can be further brought down to 40 percent.
    • All this requires a detailed study in consultation with the original equipment manufacturers to assess the loss of life to these machines, if any, by operating at such low capacities.
  • Some minimum coal-based generation would still be required for meeting a part of the base load and one has to rely on the available carbon sinks to neutralize the carbon dioxide emissions.
  • India needs to enhance storage capacity through not only batteries but also pump storage plants.

 

QUESTION FOR PRACTICE

Explain the purpose of the Green Grid Initiative launched at the World Leaders Summit of the COP26 UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow in November, 2021. When was this idea first floated in the International Solar Alliance (ISA)?(UPSC 2021) (200 WORDS, 10 MARKS)