India’s Shortcut To An Emission-Free Future

Scientists in Finland have projected that India can function on a fully renewable electricity system by 2050.

AsianScientist (Oct. 5, 2017) – By the year 2050, India could function on a fully renewable electricity system, according to research by Lappeenranta University of Technology (LUT) in Finland, published in PLOS One.

The majority of India’s electricity is produced by coal and crude oil, but it has an abundance of renewable resources that do not produce heavy emissions. This means that India has the potential to leapfrog Western countries in terms of inexpensive and sustainable energy production.

In this study, a team of researchers led by Professor Pasi Vainikka of LUT’s School of Energy systems recommended a renewable system that works mainly on solar energy and batteries to put India on track to a completely emission-free future. Solar photovoltaics (PVs) are the most economical electricity source and batteries satisfy the night-time electricity demand. In addition to covering India’s electricity demand for power, the system simulation also covers for seawater desalination and synthetic natural gas in three decades.

“The possibility that a country like India could move to a fully renewable electricity system within three decades and do it more economically than the current system shows that the developing countries can skip the emission intensive phase in their economic development. It is a competitive advantage to avoid the road taken by the developed world”, said Vainikka.

India’s idiosyncratic feature is its monsoon season. The monsoon period in India is the only time of the year when solar power is reduced. In the renewable system, the lack of solar power would be compensated with increased wind and hydro resources as well as solar power from less monsoon-affected neighboring regions via power lines. This way, the system stays functional during the monsoon season.

The proposed system is cheaper than India’s current system, which runs primarily on coal. The cost of electricity in the renewable system would be 3,640 Indian rupees (52 euros) per megawatt-hour (MWh) in 2050 when only the power sector is taken into account. When the demand for seawater desalination and industrial gas sectors are accounted for, the cost is 3,220 Indian rupees (46 euros) per MWh. In comparison, the cost of the current system is 57 euros per MWh.

To achieve its renewable energy goals, India needs to invest in solar and wind energy technologies. The total investment needed would be around 3,380 billion euros. This reflects the strong increase in demand from 1,720 million MWh in 2015 to about 6,200 million MWh in 2050.

People are at the heart of the proposed energy system. The system creates solar self-consumption for end-users such as private households, commercial companies and industry. They are the so-called PV prosumers. They will close the supply gap by creating a more distributed and resilient energy system. Prosumers can contribute to about 15 to 20 percent of the total electricity demand of India. This may also enable a faster transition to electric vehicles, which is set as an ambitious target by the government.

“Given India’s burgeoning electricity demand and the persistent supply demand gap along with the summer shortages and outages, solar PV prosumers will have a crucial role in enabling the country’s transition to a fully sustainable energy system,” said Professor Christian Breyer of LUT who is a corresponding author of the paper.

India would benefit in multiple ways from the suggested system. Firstly, the suggested system would help the country to meet its climate change targets. Secondly, there are real benefits for people: moving to a fully renewable system would bring improvements to health.

“Not to mention benefits from reduced health costs or even substantial reduction of pre-mature deaths due improved air quality,” said first author Dr. Ashish Gulagi of LUT.

This is the first time when researchers have been able to demonstrate India’s transition towards 100 percent renewables in full hourly resolution and high geographic detail.

The article can be found at: Gulagi et al. (2017) Electricity System Based on 100% Renewable Energy for India and SAARC.


Source: Lappeenranta University of Technology; Photo: Shutterstock.
Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of AsianScientist or its staff.

Asian Scientist Magazine is an award-winning science and technology magazine that highlights R&D news stories from Asia to a global audience. The magazine is published by Singapore-headquartered Wildtype Media Group.

Related Stories from Asian Scientist