TAG: GS 3 ECOLOGY AND ENVIRONMENT
CONTEXT: Despite India’s push to increasing green capacity in line with its nationally determined contributions (NDC), the policymakers in India have realised that unless viable energy storage options are available, green energy addition will not make any sense. In view of this, the COP28’s decision to stick to ‘transitioning away from fossil fuel’, and not the complete ‘phase-out’, has come as a breather for India.
- There was a strong pushback by India and countries like China to a proposal stipulating that no new coal-fired power plants can be commissioned without an in-built carbon capture and storage facility.
- Their opposition, ultimately, led to the omission of the clause from the final climate deal of
- Recently, the Union Power Ministry has decided to step up its coal-powered generation capacity, with plans to add at least 80 gigawatts (GW, where 1 GW is equal to 1,000 megawatts or MW) by 2031-32.
IS RENEWABLES’ PUSH WANING?
- As part of its emission-reduction resolve, the government stepped up renewable capacity addition over the last decade.
- Now, more than 40% of installed electricity capacity comes from non-fossil fuel sources. Solar and wind capacity is now more than 30%.
- With this, the grid is increasingly powered by renewables now, which creates the problem of intermittency, a significant challenge from a grid management perspective.
WHAT IS ‘INTERMITTENCY’ IN RENEWABLES
- Renewable energy cannot always consistently produce energy at all hours of the day. Energy production fluctuates with renewable energy. This is termed as Electricity is generated only when the sun shines or when the wind blows, which is not always in sync with the demand cycle.
- On the other hand, power output generated by fossil fuel-based power plants using coal or natural gas is constant. This has often been referred to as base-load energy.
- Hence, to counter the problem with renewables, power utilities are forced to keep old thermal units on standby — but that involves high fixed costs payouts.
INDIA’S NEW COAL THRUST
- Although the plan to increase coal-based capacity is broadly in line with the National Electricity Plan for 2022-27, the new blueprint for the country’s power sector marks a discernible pivot and a policy reversal from earlier years.
- It underscores the country’s resolve to revert to coal for desperately-needed baseload capacity.
- Without storage, incremental renewable power capacity poses problems for grid managers.
- Renewables are not always a viable option for procurers such as state-owned distribution companies (discoms), due to vagaries in the generation trends.
- It means they have to depend on thermal or nuclear generation to meet the base load demand.
- Storage is expensive currently, and the Lithium-ion storage battery option for grid application is being ruled out as unviable.
WHAT IS THE WAY OUT?
- Hydrogen and hybrid generation models blended with off-stream pumped storage are being cited as two alternatives.
- The government is also looking to mandate renewable energy projects with more than 5-megawatt (MW) capacity to install energy storage systems (ESS).
- However, there is a recognition that coal-fired capacity needs to stay as base load for the time being.
- More steps are required to be taken at the policy and regulatory levels for ensuring an enabling ecosystem for storage systems.
CONCLUSION: While cutting down on fossil fuel usage is imperative to meet the Paris Climate Agreement goals, access to viable storage technology is equally important. The breather may have been given, but the developed countries need to accelerate their mitigation efforts to allow a fair share of remaining carbon space to be available to developing countries.Spread the Word