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Home » Opinion » Driving factors and challenges in our renewable energy surge

Driving factors and challenges in our renewable energy surge

September 4, 2023 11:44 am

Driving factors and challenges in our renewable energy surge
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COP21 and cost-effectiveness drive India’s renewable growth, although it confronts seasonal generation and transmission challenges. Mr. Mahesh Paranjpe, CEO of Tata Power Solar, briefly dispels myths while developing a greener future in the face of problems.

The proliferation of renewable energy sources in India can be attributed to three driving forces. First and foremost, ratifying the Paris Agreement (COP21) and India’s Internally Determined Target (IND DT) has spurred governmental support for renewable energy. This impetus has translated into directives to distribution companies (discoms) and regulatory bodies to incorporate renewable energy sources in the national energy mix, thereby establishing renewable energy obligations. Simultaneously, the economic aspect of renewables, particularly the cost of electricity generation, has been a critical factor. 

Solar power, for instance, has witnessed a drastic reduction in generation costs from around ₹7.91 per unit in 2011 to as low as ₹2.50-₹3.00 per unit today. This dramatic cost reduction has fueled the growth of renewables. Additionally, many corporations have embraced the RE 100 initiative, committing to sourcing their energy exclusively from green sources. “Despite these encouraging developments, integration challenges loom large, and seasonality and cycle generation issues are some of the key issues to be addressed”, says Mr. Mahesh Paranjpe, the CEO of Tata Power Solar.

Navigational challenges in renewable energy integration

Solar power, dependent on daylight hours and wind energy, is influenced by monsoon patterns and exhibits inherent seasonality. Unlike conventional power generation, renewable sources lack the flexibility to tailor output to demand. Hybrid systems, coupling wind and solar, or incorporating batteries, pump storage, or thermal elements, partially address this challenge, albeit with limitations. Paranjpe says, “The key to mitigating this challenge lies in fostering ancillary services and policy frameworks that facilitate their growth. As the share of renewable energy in the grid increases, ancillary services become crucial for maintaining grid stability.”

Connectivity amid transmission complexities

Transmission connectivity presents another hurdle. While entities like Power Grid Corporation of India (PGCIL) have proactively expanded transmission networks, further visibility and clarity are needed. The strategic placement of renewable assets necessitates a well-defined transmission network, enabling developers to make informed decisions about locations and resource allocation. For instance, Ladakh, contrary to conventional assumptions, boasts optimal solar generation conditions due to its low cloud cover frequency and ambient temperature. However, realising its potential requires a dependable transmission infrastructure.

Although regulations favour renewable energy, regulatory uncertainties persist. Changes in distribution network charges and enforcing reactive power compensation regulations can disrupt business models. Stable regulatory frameworks are imperative for fostering a conducive environment for renewable energy growth.

Opportunities to shape the future

Addressing solar module disposal concerns is paramount in India’s advancing renewable energy sector. The perception of environmental harm from disposal must be dispelled, given promising recycling options that can recycle up to 80 percent of materials in an eco-friendly manner. This gains urgency due to projected major module disposals in 2036, amenable to rectification through informed policies and business models.

TATA Power Solar’s significant role encompasses solar, wind, EPC services, and module manufacturing. International commitments, economic viability, and corporate initiatives propel India’s renewable drive. Yet, challenges persist: mitigating cyclic generation, refining transmission infrastructure, establishing regulatory stability, and managing module disposal.

Unlocking India’s renewable potential requires nurturing ancillary services, optimising transmission networks, and stable regulations. Dispelling module disposal misconceptions and recognising solar modules’ positive energy contribution are pivotal for sustainable growth. Amid challenges are opportunities; TATA Power Solar and its stakeholders shape India’s renewable energy future by adeptly navigating and capitalising on them. The unwavering commitment to surmount challenges and seize potential underpins India’s journey towards a greener energy landscape.

(This article has been extracted from an individual submission delivered by Mr. Mahesh Paranjpe, CEO of Tata Power Solar, during the EPR Power Talk focused on “Exploring the Future of Alternative Energy). 

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