The digital economy of today powers more communities, businesses, and cities across the world than they have ever had before. The need for energy to run them is increasing with it.
This is particularly true in India, which is among the fastest-growing economies globally. As a result, energy-intensive sectors such as manufacturing, mining, petroleum, natural gas, computer software, and aviation are flourishing.
But, the country’s economy has accelerated faster than its capacity to produce enough electricity to provide it. It has resulted in a national power crisis. The increasing dependence on a stable power supply to maintain companies running has led to the increased usage of polluting energy sources, such as the coal-powered power generator. Coal-fired power plants produce around 72% of India’s power.
These pollutants deteriorate air quality and cannot meet the increasing demands for electricity, which leaves companies unsure about their capacity to ensure that the lights are on for vital activities.
In 2018, the Global Competitiveness Report ranked India 80th of 137 nations for the reliability of electricity supply. Furthermore, according to the World Bank, India is losing 4% of its GDP because of distortions in the power sector that affect people’s health and productivity of businesses and productivity. It further estimated that removing power outages could save $22.7 billion in losses to businesses.
Independence from Unreliable and Dirty Power Sources
The power sources used in India, which are dirty, sources, including diesel and coal, influence air quality and public health. The burning of these fuels creates dangerous air pollutants like mercury and sulfur dioxide (which causes acid rain) and particulate matter, creating air pollution that contributes to respiratory diseases.
Based on Health Effects Institute Health Effects Institute, exposure to delicate particulate matter in coal-powered plants caused the deaths of 82,900 people in the year 2015. The pollution levels in Bengaluru, specifically, are more than three times the WHO’s safe limit. In addition, there are 14 areas identified in Bengaluru with harmful particle levels that are higher than the standard of the national government by a considerable percentage.
In the wake of this, India has made strides in developing clean energy sources, growing to become one of the world’s leading producers of renewable energy. India has an in-place renewable power capacity of around 800 gigawatts (GW) and has ambitious plans to reach 500 GW by 2030.
Renewable energy is the cleanest kind of power; however, there are not enough resources to provide power to an economy like India using renewable energy alone. In the same way, as Bloom Energy has recognized in its activities across its work in the United States, Japan, and Korea, there is a pressing requirement for baseload power produced through a stable energy source to ensure that the economy continues to grow.
Along with its green energy strategies, India has set a target to boost its natural gas power from 10% to 6% until 2030.
Natural gas-powered power allows India to keep up its fast development speed by enhancing the reliability of energy while protecting the health of its citizens by reducing the levels of hazardous pollutants in the air and greenhouse gases emissions.
The Critical Role of Government in the transition to Natural Gas
At a roundtable with journalists about accelerating the transition of India towards natural gas, the former chairman and managing director of GAIL (India’s most prominent natural gas company), Bhuwan Chandra Tripathi, stressed the importance of the change. “It’s pleasing to observe India’s plan to become an economy based on gas in light of the country’s increasing energy requirements. However, India must continue to explore renewable ways of power generation in the future as its population grows.”
Bloom Energy Chief Technology Officer Venkat Venkataraman, who was previously GAIL chairman and managing director Shri Bhuwan Chandra Tripathi Gail Gas Ltd Chief Executive Officer A K Jana, Mr. J.P. Misra, General Manager of Gas Business of Indian Oil (IOCL), along with Ms. Garima Singh, Senior Manager, Energy, and Environment of USISPF look at ways to help encourage more fuel cell energy projects in India during a press conference held in Bengaluru in August 2019.
The government is taking steps to expand the infrastructure for natural gas. For example, in 2018, The U.S.-India Strategy Partnership Natural Gas Task Force was established to look at ways the U.S. can help accelerate the adoption of natural gas within India.
“The U.S.-India Gas Task Force focuses on increasing the demand to import natural gas into India and also on improving the efficiency of the grid to support the Indian economy. This Task Force is appreciative of GAIL’s help in establishing an ever-growing network of LNG distribution throughout the nation,” said Garima Singh, the Senior Manager for Energy and Environment for the U.S. India Strategic Partnership Forum during the roundtable.
India has already constructed four LNG terminals that are vital to import natural gas and plans to make 11 additional. There are 29,000 kilometers of pipelines for gas that are in operating or approved.
A.K. Jana C.E.O. of GAIL The chief executive officer of GAIL highlighted the advances GAIL has made. company has made “GAIL has made significant progress in building a scalable distribution platform for gas with 53% of the country already covered.”
Bloom Energy Is Collaborating to provide reliable power with Flagship Development.
Within the task force’s initiatives, Bloom Energy, alongside real property developers Atelier Global, and India’s top natural gas firms GAIL (India) Limited and Indian Oil Corporation, announced the launch of a brand new commercial development that will provide the most reliable, clean power for businesses operating in Bangalore.
The rendering of Whitefield Tower business-hospitality development and Bloom Energy Server installation in Bengaluru, India.
Whitefield Tower Whitefield Tower development is a genuine collaboration effort; it is powered by Bloom Energy Servers, built by Atelier, and powered by natural gas from GAIL. This is the first realistic gas-powered project to be developed since the inception of the Task Force.
Bloom Energy’s tech is ideal for this Whitefield Tower because it uses solid oxide fuel cells that electrochemically convert energy from natural gas into electricity. The process generates electricity with no combustion and produces virtually no pollutant criteria or smog-forming substances that harm the air quality in India.
Bloom’s technology also lessens the pressure on the resources of India. Tony Kunnel, Owner of Atelier D’Arts & Architecture, highlighted, “Two important resources such as water and land are essential to the traditional process of power production. Even the process of producing solar power requires some water and land for cleaning and maintaining solar panels. Natural gas-based power generated by Bloom Energy’s fuel cells on-site protects precious resources, allowing the land for more important purposes like agriculture.”
Since Bloom Energy’s technology operates all day long all year round, It reduces the requirement to use dirty power backup and reduces carbon dioxide emissions. Bloom Energy also minimizes the need for costly and unstable distribution and transmission systems by supplying customized on-site electric power. This is vital in India since more than 20 percent of the electricity was wasted in distribution and transmission in 2016, and even higher loss rate than anywhere else in the world.
Although Bloom Energy Servers have been utilized for Fortune 100 companies at more than 600 locations in Korea, Japan, and the U.S., Japan, and Korea, It is one of the initial Bloom Energy Server installations in the Bangalore region. As a company founded and run by Indian entrepreneurs, including the founder, chairman, and CEO KR Sridhar and myself with a staff of 300 employees across India, We are thrilled to be part of this exciting opportunity and set to achieve success.
Together with GAIL as well as Atelier Global as well, our project with Whitefield Tower, along with Atelier Global and GAIL Whitefield Tower will help usher into a new age of safe, reliable energy in India and assist the country in stabilizing its grid, helping support its growing economy, and help improve the local environment and air quality.
The challenge of Indian clean cooking
The newly released ‘Roadmap to access the Clean Cooking Energy in India This document, which seeks to give direction to India’s shift to energy-efficient cooking techniques, is an admirable initiative.
Today, 1104 terawatts (TWh) in energy are used for cooking in India. The average usage of energy differs from household to. However, on average, the annual usage is described as 7-8 liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) cylindrical containers that weigh 14.2 kilograms 170 standard cubic meters (SCM) in piped natural gas (PNG) equivalent to 1,022 kilowatt-hours (kWh) in electricity.
As per Niti Aayog’s Indian Energy Security Scenario portal, The energy consumption to cook in 2047 is estimated to range from 410 TWh up to 599 TWh. That’s roughly the same as “heroic effort” and “least effort scenarios. The decrease in energy consumption, according to the report, will result from the introduction of more energy-efficient cooking equipment.
The newly released Roadmap to Access to Clean Cooking Energy in India attempts to guide this process while identifying the necessary interventions.
In its prediction, the cooking industry will remain to be heavily dependent on LPG and other cooking options, including upgraded cookers (ICS) to cook biomass biogas systems, biogas boilers, and PNG as well as electricity. As a result, urban fuel sources will receive a significant portion of electricity and PNG, which will replace some of LPG usage. However, even in the most ambitious scenario, the rural sector will experience a shallow penetration from PNG and electricity with a maximum of 20 percent.
The government insists on LPG in rural areas and PNG in urban areas.
After the introduction of the PradhanMantri Ujjwala Yojana, The amount of LPG connections has increased dramatically. The Union Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas (MoPNG), Dharmendra Pradhan, was quoted as declaring: “The coverage of LPG in the country has now reached 94 percent from about 55 percent in 2014”.
At present, as per the MoPNG, the number of consumers is 25.78 million subsidized and 1.67 crores unsubsidized LPG consumers. However, this is only a tiny amount in the absence of continuous. The national average LPG usage is 6.25 Cylinders (14.2 kg) per year, while the annual LPG consumption for the Ujjwala consumers averages 2.76 Cylinders (14.2 kilograms). The numbers for refills are also biased towards urban users because many rural Ujjwala customers are still waiting to get their third or second refill.
Two main factors have been identified as the low rate of refills in the rural area — a lack of distribution infrastructure and the cost. Distribution partners are often located far away or require days to replace a cylindrical in addition to the cost of refill cylinders. As a result, consumers frequently use stacking of fuel before slipping back into biomass or kerosene use.
The expansion of LPG usage for rural communities, while an appropriate choice, requires urban populations to cut back from their intake of LPG. Thus, as with increasing LPG consumption in rural areas, there is a push for PNG to be used in cities.
Today, in the 10th City Gas Distribution bidding round, tenders were assigned to extend the PNG network to more than 229 Geographical Areas that cover 406 districts across India, 70% of India’s population, and 53 percent of its total area.
The preliminary data from MoPNG for 2017-2018 indicate an evident, significant increase in PNG usage. However, the ground surveys reveal that efforts within the scope of PNG network expansion are slow and inconsistent. In addition, urban populations, like rural residents, have a habit of stacking and are still heavily dependent on LPG.
The reason is that it’s necessary to make behavioral changes, which may be a couple of years. This requires a two-pronged approach.
The first step is to demand the existing effective and safe cooking techniques to make the most available biomass. Improved cookers (ICS) for biomass are prioritized as a medium, with research to create cleaner, efficient ICS technology, and better pellet (read fuel) production. In advancing these technologies into higher priority, the Roadmap will ensure safe cooking conditions and lower household air pollution and its health effects.
To facilitate this and make it easier, the Roadmap must consider utilizing self-help groups to establish local production chains for pellets. Moreover, the government should encourage customers to use the most efficient ICS with a high priority. Alternatively, smaller biogas systems can be considered. However, they cost a lot and will require substantial subsidies.
The second is that government policies should be used to discourage the use by households of biomass. Instead, the government should encourage developing more extensive biogas production facilities at local businesses — livestock management, milk companies, etc. Similar to the existing programs such as “Promotion of Grid-Interactive Biomass Power and Bagasse Cogeneration in Sugar Mills” and “Programme on Energy from Urban, Industrial and Agricultural Wastes/Residues.”
If the power generated is then redirected to the local community, it could provide enough incentive to the residents to help the local landfill.
The Roadmap supports and encourages the stacking of cooking fuels. For example, rural consumers can stack their LPG usage with ICSs, or even cooking using Urban solar users can stack their PNG use by cooking with electricity.
Stacking is a way to recover if one cooking fuel is not working. But cooking with electricity, ICTs, and solar are all in the shadows. These will require concerted efforts to research and develop more efficient methods. In addition, the fuel distribution networks will require strengthening by local demand and supply Any shift in supply and demand is likely to require awareness-raising efforts.
In addition, the introduction of fuel-agnostic local intermediaries is something to consider. Based on their understanding of local fuel availability and affordability, they’re the best in a position to decide on the best mix of fuels based on local variables.
In the multi-fuel strategy that is suggested, the intermediaries create synergies between various ministries and their programs and act as nodal authorities for central or state-sponsored programs, disbursing subsidy and making sure that no household receive grants to use multiple fuels and will also help finance either via low-cost loans or other models of micro-financing.
In addition, facilitating all cooking fuels that are clean one local intermediary can lower the expense of extending a distribution system.
The Roadmap considers various factors such as affordability, availability, and the capability to sustain use in determining the amount of fuel available for a specific region. It also draws attention to the cooking habits of the users as well as the impact of cultural and social factors. Overall, it’s an excellent effort.
Offshore Wind Power Controlling Costs
The lower cost of offshore wind has made more and more projects feasible.
Offshore wind energy has traditionally been higher than onshore wind power. However, the cost has been falling dramatically in recent times. The investment price in Europe decreased by EUR4.41 million/MW back in 2013 to EUR2.45 million/MW in 2018.
Offshore wind generators’ designs are complicated because it has to contend with aerodynamic and hydrodynamic loads. Most of the foundation’s installation, electrical infrastructure, and foundation are more challenging to design and construct than offshore wind turbines. The foundation design and construction play an essential part in the operation of offshore wind farms, and the cost of foundations can reach up to 40% of all charges.
There has been significant attention paid to turbine design over the last few times. DNV GL is currently involved in the design process of a 20MW turbine model. We discover that the laws of physics are unchanged even as the size of the model increases; therefore, there is no technological obstacle to continuously expanding the size and power of the wind turbine model. However, there is the possibility of an upper limit determined mainly by logistics in manufacturing, transportation, and installation.
Gains in additional resources will not fully compensate for the extra cost in the future due to the different high rotors and huge rotor surfaces. In the past, two-bladed turbines were not famous for offshore use because they were less efficient than three-blade machines and required a faster rotation to achieve maximum efficiency. They also have more significant dynamic loading fluctuations than the three-blade designs. Therefore, two turbines with two blades are being considered for consideration as they could lower overall costs and reduce the time between the production, transport, and installation phases.
Apart from the turbine’s size and design for foundations, there are many other innovations in offshore wind. For instance, LiDAR as an offshore wind measurement tool has experienced significant advancement and research in recent years. We all know that meteorological mast measurements offshore wind measurements are expensive. However, as we advance in LiDAR technology, this technology is becoming increasingly accepted as bankable information to evaluate wind resources.
Another area that needs innovation includes direct-drive technologies as well as moderate-speed gearboxes. One way to cut down on the cost of maintenance on offshore wind turbines is to remove high moving components. Other areas of advancement are the high-temperature superconductor generation as well as the magnetic gearbox. Due to the physical separation between the output and input shafts, magnetic gearboxes have advantages, including minimal audio noise, without maintenance, better reliability, precision peak torque transmission, and built-in overload protection.
The author is the country manager of India and Advisory for DNV G-Energy.
The first time it was published was in the print edition of Down To Earth’s edition on 1-15 November 2019, Take a seat with a window when flying into or departing from Cochin Airport, and you will be welcomed by a sea of solar photovoltaic (PV) panels. Its vastness is a thing of beauty. Solar PV installations are visible on the roofs of cars, on carports on the roads, along the highways, and even on land that is not necessary for airport operations.
In November of 2018, with 40MW worth of power installations, it was the first airport worldwide to be wholly powered through solar energy.
“Under the insistence of VJ Kurian, the mastermind behind the airport, the first solar project was conceptualized way back in 2012,” says Satish Kumar Pai, the chief engineer for Cochin International Airport Ltd (CIAL).
The initial 100 kW solar PV panels, which line the international terminal’s arrivals roof, began operating in early 2013. Then came Kerala’s first megawatt-sized solar PV project — a single MW solar PV system close to CIAL Academy. CIAL Academy building — in the same year. It was installed within the airport’s premises, too.
Despite this, no one could have imagined this project could develop to the current size. However, over time the technology has built an argument for itself.
What was the secret behind how Cochin Airport did it?
First, the efficiency of the technology was rising, and the cost was falling at an unprecedented rate. Second, solar energy was growing in popularity throughout the nation, and the experience of the industry helped reduce the cost of installing solar panels further. Third, it was a less expensive energy source.
The second reason was that one of the utilities in town, Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB), increased the grid electricity tariffs. As a commercial establishment, the airport’s rates were raised to Rs 7. unit. In this case, the 1.1-megawatt solar plant that generates daily 4,400 units saved the airport an average of Rs 30,000 on electricity costs.
Each year, it was a substantial sum of 1.1 crores. However, if the money was used to pay back the costs for the facility, ranging from 7.5-8 million could put the airport utterly free of debt in just seven years. After that, the airport technically had a generator within its facilities (barring the bare minimum operating and maintenance cost that is one percent of the total costs for the equipment).
Thirdly the airport was focused on reducing its carbon CO2 emissions (and its carbon footprint), and the adoption of solar power was in line with this goal. In rough terms, every one kWh of solar energy production helps to reduce one kilogram of CO2 emissions.
The solar power plant located at the Cochin Airport produces about 1.6 lakh units per day, which means it can eliminate 1.6 lakh kilograms of carbon dioxide emissions. However, suppose the alternative is grid-connected coal generation using solar power. In that case, it also reduces one gram in particulate matter (PM) and eight grams of SOx, and five grams of NOx per kWh of the electricity generated by the photovoltaic solar plant.
The reduction in electricity costs alongside the clear environmental benefits of solar energy meant it wasn’t a mere fad but an essential requirement.
The runway was practically empty of roof space. However, it was agreed that the land designated for expanding cargo could be used to install solar PV instead.
“The ready availability of large swathes of land, acquired at its inception, removed a huge bottleneck for the Cochin Airport,” PV Sivaprasad is the director at KSERC in explaining the reasons other airports have not been able to achieve the same results.
New projects started popping up rapidly in the months following August 2015 (see the table below). Fast forward to November 2018, and the final 40MW solar power plant started producing electricity.
Pai said that because the latest systems cost significantly less and were more efficient, “their capital cost would be retrieved in 5-6 years”. Furthermore, the airport is anticipated to grow in the same way it has in the past five years. 2012 between 2012 and 2018, the number of passengers and cargo that passes through Cochin Airport doubled.
The growing demand can be met with even more affordable solar power. “The airport is looking at another 10 MW of solar PV,” Pai adds. Pai.
This means that the extra energy produced during high radiation times, usually in the daytime, can be transferred to the grid and then utilized in the future by airports during low energy, generally nighttime and overcast days. The storage of energy until it is required is referred to as banking, another service provided by the KSEB without additional costs.
Alternatives include a costly battery backup. The self-sustenance Cochin Airport boasts would not exist in the absence of these services.
Kurian has once stated: “Worldwide solar energy is the fastest-growing renewable energy source. We are in a new age, where renewable energy is the only sustainable option for better health for our planet. We’re determined to lead in the right direction and continue our technological innovations”.
The comment was spot on. Other airports across India are following suit and have embraced solar energy. The Union Ministry of Civil Aviation also, as part of its 2018 National Green Aviation Policy, intends to facilitate and promote the development and utilization of solar energy and other renewable sources of energy sources within the aviation industry’.
Today, aided by the Cochin instance, solar power is now being utilized in more airports all over India. In the end, AAI (the Airport Authority of India (AAI) and the individuals in the business have realized and are leveraging the power of solar.
More than 20 Indian airports like Delhi, Chennai, Hyderabad, and Kolkata have installed or are currently installing solar capacity on their premises. There are also examples of airports like those located in Amritsar and Coimbatore, looking at the open-source solar energy.
For an industry that contributes a significant carbon emission from humans globally, this change is positive.
Wind will become the most significant power source by 2050, claims Irena.
The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) has published a new report called ‘Future Wind.’ It suggests that wind energy may be the most critical generator of electricity in the mid-century.
The report claims that wind power can meet one-third of the world’s energy needs while reducing a quarter of the carbon emissions associated with energy. This is achievable if global wind energy installations grow by more than ten times, averaging 6,600 Gigawatt (GW) in 2050, compared to the 2018 figure that was 500 GW.
This implies advancements in certain crucial factors such as economies of scale and more vital supply chains, technological advances, and the annual investment of more than $300 billion by 2050 (from less than $100 billion in 2018.).
Asia is expected to lead with its share of over 50 percent in all of the onshore (2,600 Gw) and more than 60 percent of the offshore (600 GW) wind power capacity that is installed worldwide (see the map below). China would take the top spot in Asia, with 2,525 GW of installed offshore and offshore capacity for wind by 2050. It will be then followed by India (443 GW).
Irena’s projections appear exaggerated as they are near the accessible wind energy potential in nations that may not be economically and practically realizable. For example, according to the International Energy Agency, in its China Wind Energy Development Roadmap 2050 released in 2011, it predicted that wind power capacities in China will be just 1,000 GW in 2050. For India, India’s National Institute for Wind Energy estimates the potential for wind power at 302 GW (at 100 meters).
The wind industry is experiencing challenges in both countries because problems with land and network availability hamper projects. Developers are also facing high network congestion and the slowing of production.
China has the largest wind capacity worldwide. It added around 21 GW of power from wind in the year 2018, which brought its total wind portfolio to more than 180 GW. In addition, China invests in enhancing and adding grid infrastructure, which has led to the reduction dropping from 12 percent in 2017 to 7 percent in 2018.
The government supports the wind industry through subsidies that it plans to eliminate out in 2021. This is a significant policy change that could be disruptive.
The impact will be on the competitiveness of the market. In addition, with the dynamic changes, China will require a more systematic approach to rapid development and construction of projects to meet the aggressive targets set by Irena.
In India, the total wind installations are estimated at 37 GW. However, the sector is losing its significance and share in the renewable energy portfolio, with a negative installation growth rate over the past two to three years. The Delhi-based non-profit Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) within the State of Renewable Energy in India report examined the wind industry’s causes.
The sector has been experiencing pressure.
The reason is various factors—first, uninformed policies like reverse auctions, bidding, and the inexplicably late withdrawal of support mechanisms.
In addition, states’ insistence on the lowest possible tariffs, which leads to often-times cancellations of auctions, and their flagrant disregard for signed and enforceable power purchase agreements, which could risk the fate of existing projects, add to the mix.
The report anticipates that difficulties with the financials of distribution companies could be a significant threat to them too. Offshore wind projects haven’t been able to generate any interest as of yet. The wind energy sector in India is at a crossroads and requires a re-examination of the facts.
The traditional way of doing the business (policy preferential) is no longer applicable, and countries are trying different strategies (competitive auctions for India and reducing curtailment in China and so on). But they have yet to gain momentum.
The government must take a variety of coordinated efforts along with other stakeholders if the goals proposed in the report of Irena can be fulfilled. The wind must play a significant role in the energy transition of the world and demands efficient and cost-conscious growth.
The pursuit of tangible goals has played an essential role in pushing wind energy development in the world. A policy that is effective and innovative practices will boost growth.
Pratha Jhawar is Deputy Program Coordinator, Renewable Energy, Centre for Science and Environment, New Delhi