India's national transmission grid must urgently modernise to increase rate of renewable energy adoption

Kolkata: India's national transmission grid must urgently modernise to increase rate of renewable energy adoption, a study by Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) suggests. “This is a key prerequisite for achieving renewable energy investment ambitions while accelerating its progress,” the study indicated. As of December 2019, India had installed 86 gigawatts (GW) of renewable energy capacity. The country has an ambitious target of 175GW of variable renewable energy by 2022, rising to 450GW by 2030. “Renewable energy resources are abundant in India, but not evenly spread. While some states have plentiful wind and solar endowments, most demand growth will come from states with less renewable energy potential. New renewable energy infrastructure can now be built within two years from initial plans through to completion, years faster than any new coal- or LNG-fired plants. However renewable energy is intermittent, requiring balancing from peaking power supply, electricity storage like batteries and pumped hydro storage, and/or demand response technologies, as well strong interstate grid connectivity. The complexities of India’s grid mean that transmission is a major hurdle and is materially slowing the adoption of renewable energy, the study mentions. Moreover, there is a growing risk that variable renewable power may be under-utilised, and/or its development grid constrained in the absence of both grid discipline and a modern, upgraded transmission network. A transparent planning process is needed for a well-designed, forward-looking grid. The national grid must be able to rapidly embrace evolving new technologies. Transmission capacity must be added quickly and, in the locations, best suited to exploit renewable energy. The Central Electricity Authority's National Electricity Plan highlights the urgent need for more transmission lines. An additional 1.1 lakh (110,00) circuit kilometres are required by financial year 2024 to manage the annual peak load demand of 225.7 GW, and to absorb the increasing share of variable renewable energy in the total electricity mix. Transmission access is also considered a potentially serious bottleneck for speeding up the deployment of renewable energy. IEEFA notes that increased competition in the transmission sector can help to achieve the twin objectives of increasing renewable energy generation, without these assets becoming stranded. Expansion of private sector investors has brought increased competition for new tenders, helping drive down the cost to consumers. This has also increased India’s access to global debt and equity capital.  


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Smart Grid Bulletin September 2020

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