India’s 2030 Climate Targets are ‘achievable’ through Renewables: Says LBNL 2030

Highlights :

  • The report claims that thermal additions could be kept down to just 23 GW.
  • As always, storage is seen playing a key role in meeting objectives

There is no doubt that India is in midst of an energy transition, with important social and economic implications depending on the pathways that are chosen. A Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) study, under the US Department of State evaluated in-depth India’s future power investments.

Giving a promising outlook on India’s future power system investments, the report reaffirms that India will be able to achieve its burgeoning power demand through renewables by 2030. As India’s electricity demand multiplies by 2030, the LBNL report states that India needs to meet the demand economically through renewables and complementary flexible resources, with a focus around energy storage, agricultural load shifting, and hydropower, and optimal utilization of the existing thermal power assets in the country.

As the world raised doubts about Prime Minister Modi’s assertion of installing 500 GW in the next nine years, the LBNL report offers support as it validates the cost-effectiveness of installing 500 GW of non-fossil electricity capacity by 2030. The study was conducted under the Flexible Resources Initiative (FRI) of the U.S.-India Clean Energy Finance Task Force, managed by the State Department’s Bureau of Energy Resources. FRI advances cost-effective strategies to enhance the flexibility and robustness of India’s power system in support of its clean energy transition.

India because of its potential is being increasingly seen as a hot bed for investments from the US, and other countries. China currently controls the solar supply chain industry accounting for more than 70% of global production. The dominance seems to be upsetting US which perceives solar market to grow exponentially as countries across the world set targets for achieving 100% renewables.

The LBNL says that the India targets are critical to meeting global climate goals as India is the world’s third-largest energy consuming country. The Under Secretary for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment Jose W. Fernandez of the U.S. Department of State and Secretary Alok Kumar of India’s Ministry of Power had highlighted the LBNL study during its virtual launch.

The study from LBNL ‘Least Cost Pathway for India’s Power System Investments through 2030’, found that dramatic cost reductions over the last decade in energy sources, such as solar, and flexible resources, like battery storage, make it affordable for India to meet its growing power demand dependably over the next decade, while at the same time reducing electricity costs by 8-10 % and emissions intensity of electricity supply by 43-50 % from 2020 levels.

It also finds that only 23 gigawatts of net additions to the coal capacity will be needed if battery storage costs continue to decline, supply chain issues are addressed, and adequate financing is secured. The study is complemented by a report on important policy and regulatory recommendations, which if implemented, will enable India to achieve the 2030 goals at lowest cost.

A Central Electricity Authority’s Optimum Energy Mix report had stated that India’s power demand will be 817 GW in 2029-30. Of this, 522 GW is estimated to come from RE sources, which includes wind energy’s 140 GW and 280 GW of solar energy.

Interestingly, another joint report from Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW), TERI and Shell had charted the pathways, providing insights on what net zero entails in terms of actions to be initiated. In a paper published on ‘Implications of a Net-Zero Target for India’s Sectoral Energy Transitions and Climate Policy’ recently in October, CEEW explored various combinations of peaking and net-zero-year scenarios for India and analysed how a combination of possible technological developments like carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS) and hydrogen production would affect the transition within the various policy scenarios.

The report from CEEW earlier had also specified that India needs to adopt a sectoral approach for achieving carbon neutrality. In sectors and industries like power, transport, new building construction and energy efficient appliances, where there are cost-competitive clean energy alternatives available, net zero can be achieved much earlier.

The report from CEEW had spelled out that the country would need to bear economic losses due to shift in investment patterns across sectors needed to achieve the peaking and net-zero targets. The shift in investments that would need to happen due to stringent decarbonisation policies implies that investment that was otherwise profitable in the absence of climate change mitigation policies would have to be forgone for the sake of more expensive low carbon choices.

Roughly 25% (100GW) of our energy requirement currently is powered from renewables, according to Ministry of Power, and this does not include hydro powered electricity. Experts have explained that to be able to meet the 2030 target of 50% from renewable energy, considering the demand stays at 817 GW, India needs to increase installed capacity from 500 GW to 700 GW.

Further, Solar segment is expected to have a huge stake of 60% (280GW) in the entire promise of 500GW by 2030. Industry estimates say that at the current pace, we need to install 25 GW of solar capacity every year. In the first six months of 2021, we added only 1GW of renewable energy capacity a month, says the data from Central Electricity Authority (CEA) data.

A lot would be required as we progress on the renewables (with a majority coming from solar) powered economy. Rapid strides need to be made on polishing policy regulations for enabling manufacturing to pick up pace, big investments, industry efforts, and most importantly mitigating loses and strain on industry due to heavy dependence of solar industry on exports – for solar panels, modules, and other accessories which have become costlier by about 25% since the pandemic. If we move ahead promptly, achieving RE targets may not be impossible.

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