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Can India’s solar power outshine coal?

Can India’s solar power outshine coal

Discussion on how solar power can outshine coal
  The solar sector has picked up tremendously in India. The country has achieved a major milestone in solar capacity addition. India is also expected to be the largest solar hub in the coming years. To further drive the growth in solar industry the government has been active in increasing price competitiveness for solar, developing solar parks, as well as the country is participation in solar alliances. Recently, the government also sanctioned huge amount for solar cities programme.
Though the solar power is considered to be cheaper but can the country entirely depend upon renewable energy is a big question. To understand how India’s solar power can outshine coal experts will share their views and suggestions. 
Ashok K. Puri, Managing Director, Hinduja National Power Corporation Ltd believes that looking at current scenario we cannot completely depend upon renewable energy and hence solar outshining coal is not possible. He said, “Although solar power in India will be cheaper than imported coal replacing fossil fuels totally with renewable energy in the near-term is not feasible.” Currently, solar merely equals the amount of electricity that the nation generates by burning natural gas captured from landfills. Solar energy is currently being used to supplement coal energy.
“This will ease the enormous pressure on coal-fired thermal power and that generated through other fossil fuels. The other issue that is yet to be resolved sustainably is that solar power can be harnessed only during daytime, but there is no inexpensive storage technology available as of now where the energy generated could be stored for later use. It means that the power can be generated only for so many hours (during sunshine period) during the day, whereas coal-fired thermal power can be generated round the clock,” he adds.
With the ratification of the COP 21 agreement and India`s perseverance to adhere with its commitments, solar power is going to play a significant role in power generation portfolio. There has been a persistent growth in the sector supported by falling costs and larger volumes, creating a shift from viewing solar energy as a supplementary source of power, to a primary energy source.
Globally solar is the fastest growing form of renewable energy, with net solar generation increasing by an average of 8.3 per cent per year. In India, last year alone there has been 50.9 per cent growth, making solar the fastest growing sources of renewable energy with an installed capacity of 8.72GW.
“Although solar is set to become a source of a major chunk of our energy requirement, it is still far from over taking the top spot of 58 per cent held by conventional thermal power (Coal), amounting to a total generative capacity of 185GW. With the world`s third largest coal reserve (14 per cent of global coal resources) India constitutes a total of 10 per cent of total coal consumption globally. Governments are pushing for policies and regulations intended to increase the pressure on generators to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from electric power plants by decreasing the use of fossil fuels. As a result, the role of coal as a dominant fuel for new electric power plants is being reduced,”  informs Uday Doshi, Founder, Excelsior Engineering Solutions.
Solar generation being capped by hours of daylight and with energy storage systems still far from main stream implementation in India, discoms have an uphill task to have a stable grid in place to absorb such a large volume of transient power. This has led energy intensive industries to still be dependent on coal, which unlike solar is not affected by seasonal weather patterns. “We may have a time where installed capacities of both sources are at par with each other, but solar alone dominating the energy market in India is not a portrait of the immediate future,” he points out.
“A sustainable future is where we generate more cleanly solar power through a combined humane effort to curb global warming and recover the damaged ecology,” he adds.
In his views, Ajay Kumar Dixit, CEO, Power, Vedanta Ltd shares few points how solar can outshine coal.

The government has made clear its objective to ensure ‘24/7 Power for All’. The government is also committed to energy security and energy sustainability while supporting the economic growth in the country and building the support structure for the ‘Make in India’ program to promote local manufacturing.
The government has committed in the COP21 climate talks in Paris, its targets to reach 40 per cent of cumulative electric power installed capacity from non-fossil fuel energy resources by 2030. It has announced as part of its COP21 submission, its target to install 175GW of renewable capacity by 2022, therein 100GW shall come from solar and 60GW from wind.
“There is no doubt that as we move forward, the government focus to drive renewable especially solar will pay its own dividends. Solar tariffs have dipped through a competitive transparent tender system and as we go forward in the future, scale will have a large role to play in bringing down costs and reduce gap with coal based tariffs,” states Dixit.
Coal has by far been the most important fuel in the national energy mix till date. Coal based power generation contributed to over 186 GW of electricity generating capacity in the country, covering over 60 per cent of the country’s installed capacity as of August 2016.
As is well known, the country has the third largest coal reserves in the world (around 12 per cent of world total). The sector employs roughly 400,000 people.With abundant coal reserves and being a growing economy and the government commitment of affordable prices in the future, India will need to continue to rely on coal however on a reducing extent than in the past. Further, India has also resolved to do so in a much cleaner and more efficient manner through the use of higher efficiency supercritical and ultra supercritical coal fired power units.
In the medium term, a convergence of costs between coal and solar looks likely, this will in turn result in much greater focus on solar.
This steady ramping up of renewable power plants will diversify the energy mix. At the same time the integration of large amount of fluctuating renewable energy in the grid will need to be technically addressed.
The grid will need to have improved transmission and distribution monitoring to ensure proper working of the two systems together to meet the base and peak power needs. In this, grid storage will be an important and critical factor in ensuring grid stability with higher percentage of renewable capacity.
In the long term, the ability of coal to remain a part of the energy mix will be driven by commercial viability of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) systems and the development of adequate carbon sinks.  
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Solar tariffs have dipped through a competitive transparent tender system and as we go forward in the future, scale will have a large role to play in bringing down costs and reduce gap with coal based tariffs.Ajay Kumar Dixit, CEO, Power, Vedanta Ltd_______________________________________________________________________
Although solar is set to become a source of a major chunk of our energy requirement, it is still far from over taking the top spot of 58 per cent held by coal.
Uday Doshi, Founder, Excelsior Engineering Solutions.
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Although solar power in India will be cheaper than imported coal replacing fossil fuels totally with renewable energy in the near-term is not feasible.
Ashok K. Puri, Managing Director, Hinduja National Power Corporation Ltd

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