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Can India Go 100 Percent Renewable by 2050? 10 Strategies to Make it Happen

3p Contributor | Friday May 9th, 2014 | 0 Comments

Editor’s note: This is the second post in a two-part series on renewables in India. In case you missed, you can read the first post here.

2621890270_b5600cde7a_zBy Darshan Goswami, M.S., P.E.

In the coming years, India will face seemingly insurmountable challenges to its economy, environment and energy security. To overcome these challenges, India needs to shift to non-polluting sources of energy. To reach the goal of 100 percent renewable energy by 2050 the following steps are recommended.

1. Expand large-scale deployment

Aggressively expand large-scale deployment of both centralized and distributed renewable energy, including solar, wind, hydro, biomass and geothermal, to ease the strain on the present transmission and distribution system, and allow more off-grid populations to be reached. Facilitate growth in large-scale deployment by installing 100 million solar roofs and large utility-scale solar generation, through both centralized and distributed energy within the next 20 years.

2. Set a standard

Enact a National Renewable Energy Standard/Policy that calls for 20 percent renewable energy by 2020 – to create demand, new industries and innovation, and a new wave of green jobs.

3. Put the policies in place

Develop favorable government policies to ease the permitting process, and to provide start-up capital to promote the exponential growth of renewable energy. Create and fund a national smart infrastructure bank for renewable energy.

4. Increase demand

Accelerate local demand for renewable energy by providing preferential Feed-in-Tariffs (FIT) and other incentives such as accelerated depreciation; tax holidays; renewable energy funds; initiatives for international partnerships/collaboration, incentives for new technologies; human resources development; zero import duty on capital equipment and raw materials; excise duty exemption; and low interest rate loans.

5. Phase out conventional subsidies

Phase out all conventional energy subsidies. Force petroleum products to compete with other fuels like biomass and biogas, etc.

6. Increase energy efficiency

Accelerate the development and implementation of cost-effective energy efficiency standards to reduce the long-term demand for energy. Engage States, industrial companies, utility companies and other stakeholders to accelerate this investment.

7. Electrify automobiles

Initiate a move to electrify automotive transportation or develop electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids – such as the Nissan Leaf, Tesla Model S, or Chevy Volt, etc. Develop and implement time-of-day pricing to encourage charging of cars at night. Adopt nationwide charging of electric cars from solar panels on roofs, and solar-powered electric vehicle charging stations around the country. Thousands of these solar-powered recharging stations could spread across India just like the present public call office (PCO), giving birth to the “Green Revolution.” These recharging connections could be deployed at highly-concentrated areas including shopping malls, motels, restaurants and public places where vehicles are usually parked for extended periods.

8. Invest in two-way and micro-grids

Aggressively invest in a smart, two-way grid (and micro-grid). Invest in smart meters, as well as reliable networks that can accommodate the two-way flow of electricity. Such networks need to be resilient enough to avoid blackouts and accommodate the advanced power generation technologies of the future.

9. Develop solar manufacturing

Develop large scale solar manufacturing in India (transforming India into a global solar manufacturing hub). Promote and establish utility-scale solar and wind generation parks and farms. Also, establish R&D facilities within academia, research institutions, industry, government and private entities to guide technology development.

10. Work towards a hydrogen economy

Work towards a hydrogen economy development plan. Hydrogen can be fed into fuel cells for generating heat and electricity – as well as for powering fuel cell vehicles. Produce hydrogen from renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. If done successfully, hydrogen and electricity will eventually become society’s primary energy carriers for the 21st century.

Conclusion

Renewable forms of energy (especially solar and wind) could enhance India’s energy security and represent a bright spot in its economic and environmental future. If India switched from coal, oil, natural gas and nuclear power plants, it is possible that 70 percent of the electricity and 35 percent of its total energy could be derived from renewable resources by 2030.

Excess energy generated from renewables could be stored in various forms such as molten or liquid salt (a mixture of sodium nitrate and potassium nitrate); compressed air; pumped hydro; hydrogen, battery storage, etc. This stored energy could then be used during times of peak demand.

India can ramp up its efforts to develop and implement large utility-scale solar energy farms to meet the country’s economic development goals, while creating energy independence and bringing potentially enormous environmental benefits. Both issues have a direct influence on national security and the health of the Indian economy.

Supplying almost 100 percent of India’s energy demand through the use of clean renewable energy from solar, wind, hydro and biogas, etc. by 2050 is technically and economically feasible. But, a number of political barriers must be overcome. As examples of needed reforms, Denmark’s Parliament has passed the most ambitious green economy plan to generate 35 percent of its energy from renewable energy by 2020 and 100 percent by 2050. Iceland, Scotland and the Philippines, have recently announced impressive plans to obtain 100 percent of their power from renewable energy. Three years after Japan’s nuclear meltdown, the Japanese province of Fukushima has pledged to switch to 100 percent renewable energy by 2040.

A future powered by renewable energy is already here, not decades away. Comparisons of costs per kilowatt hour of electricity produced show that newly built solar and wind plants are already considerably cheaper than new nuclear plants. In coming years solar and wind energy will compete more and more favorably with conventional energy generation and, in places such as California and Italy, have already reached so-called “grid parity.”

Renewable energy (especially solar and wind) is a game-changer for India: It has the potential to re-energize India’s economy by creating millions of new jobs, achieve energy independence, reduce the trade deficit and propel India forward as a “Green Nation.” Providing 100 percent renewable energy is not a fantasy for someday, but a reality today. India has a golden opportunity to solve three huge problems — reducing poverty, ensuring energy security and combating climate change. But it must act soon! India can no longer afford to delay renewable energy deployment to meet its future energy needs.

Image credit: Flickr/vax-o-matic

The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the writer and are not intended to represent the views or policies of the United States Department of Energy or the United States. The article was not prepared as part of the writer’s official duties at the United States Department of Energy.

Darshan Goswami has over 40 years of experience in the energy field. He is currently working as a Project Manager for Renewable Energy and Smart Grid projects at the United States Department of Energy (DOE) in Pittsburgh, PA, USA. Previously, he was a Chief of Energy Forecasting and Renewable Energy at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in Washington, DC and spent three decades at Duquesne Light Company, an electric utility company in Pittsburgh, PA, USA. Darshan is a registered Professional Electrical Engineer with a passion and commitment to promote, develop and deploy Renewable Energy Resources and the Hydrogen Economy.


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