To operationally sustain a huge monthly addition of an average 1,000 megawatt — almost five times the amount of power a 250 MWe nuclear plant produces — from non-fossil fuels or renewables to the electricity grid, policy makers are of the view that India needs to urgently work on developing viable energy storage options.
In India, which is the world’s third largest producer of renewable energy, nearly 40 per cent of installed electricity capacity comes from non-fossil fuel sources. This green push has resulted in a sharp 24 per cent reduction in emission intensity of GDP between 2005 and 2016, but it has also thrown up challenges of a grid being increasingly powered by renewables.
Even as the Lithium-ion storage battery option for grid application is now being ruled out as unviable, at least for now, an emerging policy resolve is that solar and wind-based generation cannot continue to be pushed down to struggling electricity distribution companies or discoms. The renewables challenge is compounded by the fact that SECI (Solar Energy Corporation of India Ltd) — the state-owned company conducting solar auctions — has locked a number of contracts involving green developers in rigid PPAs (power purchase agreements) with no scope for innovation, according to sectoral experts.
Energy storage is needed alongside green energy sources to primarily balance out the variability in renewable generation – electricity is generated only when the sun shines or when the wind blows. This is not always in sync with the demand cycle. Storage can help tide over this shortcoming associated with renewables.
For procurers such as state-owned discoms, renewables are not always a viable option precisely due to these vagaries in the generation trends, which means they still have to depend on thermal or nuclear generation for meeting base load demand. Renewables bundled with a viable storage option help overcome this problem.