On July 30th and 31st, the world’s largest blackout – The
Great Indian Outage, stretching from New Delhi to Kolkata – occurred. This
blackout caused by northern power grid failure left nearly 700 million people
– twice the population of the U.S. – without electricity. A grid failure of
this magnitude has thrown light on the massive demand for power in a country and
its struggle to generate a much-needed power supply.
aims to expand its power-generation capacity by 44 percent over the next five
years. In June, the country’s power generation fell short by 5.8 percent
against a peak-hour demand for 128 gigawatts, according to government data.
India is divided into five regional grids, which are all interconnected, except
for the southern grid. All the grids are being run by Power Grid, which operates
more than 100,000 kilometers of electricity transmission lines. Serious concerns
have been once again raised about the country’s growing infrastructure and
inability to meet its energy needs. Government officials have concluded, “The
grid failed because of the overloading of power,” and contend that “many
states” try to take more power than they are allotted from the grid.
The country’s lack of energy security is a major constraint
to its capacity to generate power. The slow pace of tariff reforms is hindering
infrastructure investment at the state level in most parts of the country. The
centralized model of power generation, transmission and distribution is growing
more and more costly to maintain at current levels to meet increasing energy
needs. The blackout and shortage of power are hampering India’s economic
growth and its capacity for growth.
So what can the world’s biggest democracy do to help
eliminate such wide-sweeping outages in the future? Government should assess how
best to address the power needs to meet the future growth and prevent such
massive power failures. India’s power blackout is an opportunity for
developing sustainable energy. India urgently needs to develop and deploy
large-scale renewable energy to end its power grid outages. I have addressed
these concerns in my presentation, Renewable Energy Solutions For India – A
Strategic Development Plan, and in the following published papers: How
Concentrated Solar Power Can Meet India’s Future Power Needs, Solar Farming
Potential in India, How To Empower India With Big Solar Energy Plans, and Full
version: India’s Solar Sunrise – Renewable Energy Focus.
economic as well as environmental reasons, India needs to shift to non-polluting
renewable sources of energy. Renewable energy is the most attractive investment
because it will provide long-term economic growth for India. Decentralized
off-grid renewable distributed generation sources like solar, wind, hydro,
biomass, biogas, geothermal, hydrogen energy and fuel cells are the answers.
These sources have the advantage of empowering people at the grassroots level
and utilize distribution and transmission methods with little to no emissions.
India should consider developing targets for electrification that include
renewable off-grid options and/or renewable powered mini-grids. This will take a
substantial electrical load off the existing power grid and also reduce the need
for installing additional transmission and distribution systems.
Deployment of large-scale solar and wind projects are needed
to begin a smooth transition from fossil fuels and nuclear power that is harming
both communities and the environment. India can use renewable energy for meeting
all future energy needs because it is sustainable, locally available free of
charge, eco-friendly and eliminates global warming.
How solar energy can work for India
Solar is the prime, free source of inexhaustible energy
available to all of us in this universe. India is one of the Sun’s most
favored nations, blessed with about 5000 TWh of solar insolation every year.
Even if a tenth of this potential was utilized, it could mark the end of India’s
power problems – using the country’s deserts and farmland. India should tap
this vast resource to satisfy its growing energy demand – and time is of the
essence. India could lead the world by embracing the power of the sun, if smart
business models and favorable policies are developed and implemented nationwide
as quickly as possible.
Energy has the potential to re-energize India’s economy by creating millions
of new jobs, achieve energy independence, reduce the trade deficit and propel
India forward as a “Green Nation.” In short, solar offers too many benefits
for India to ignore or delay its development.
India imports oil, coal, and natural gas and millions of
rupees are spent on it, but enormous renewable resources of solar and wind
energy goes to waste because it remains unused. India’s present generation
capacity is about 186,000 MW. India could potentially increase grid-connected
solar power generation capacity to of over 200,000 MW by the year 2030, if
adequate resources and favorable policies can be developed.
In addition, wind energy is a viable energy source in India
and has a potential to produce over 100,000 MW by 2030. All new energy
generation in India could be renewable and all pre-existing energy production
could be converted to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050 while maintaining a
reliable power supply, if all available renewable energy sources like solar,
wind, hydro, biomass and biogas are properly developed and utilized. The
government of India is taking many measurable steps toward improving
infrastructure and power reliability, including the development of renewable
energy from solar and wind. But clearly more needs to be done, and fast. One
step in the right direction has been the establishment of the Jawaharlal Nehru
National Solar Mission (JNNSM), which was launched in late 2009. However, the
present JNNSM target of producing 10 percent of its energy, 20 GW by 2022, is
inadequate. JNNSM needs to take bold steps with the help of central and state
governments to play a bigger role in realizing India’s solar energy potential.
India needs a plan, it’s just like the case of personal
computers, which were very expensive to begin with, but with mass production,
the cost has come down dramatically. The technology is well established and
available today for solar and wind energy. All that is needed now to make this
concept a reality is political commitment and appropriate investments and
funding to harness the solar and wind energy resource to reduce the India’s
dependence on fossil fuels.
One step toward achieving this goal would be to start a
nationwide solar initiative to facilitating growth in large scale deployment of
100 million solar roofs and large utility-scale generation installations within
the next 20 years. India can become a major player and international leader in
the solar energy for years to come. Now is the time for the country to make the
shift towards more sustainable renewable energy power sources.
Here are 10 strategies that India can implement, beginning
First, aggressively expand large-scale deployment of both
centralized and distributed renewable energy including solar, wind, hydro,
biomass, and geothermal to ease the strain on the present transmission and
distribution system and reach more off-grid populations. Facilitate growth in
large scale deployment by installing 100 million solar roofs and large
utility-scale solar generation of both centralized and distributed energy within
the next 20 years. Second, enact a National Renewable Energy Standard/Policy of
20 percent by 2020 – to create demand, new industries and innovation, green
Third, develop favorable government policies to ease the
permitting process and to provide start-up capital to promote the exponential
growth of renewable energy. Create and fund a national smart infrastructure bank
for renewable energy.
Fourth, accelerate local demand for renewable energy by
providing preferential Feed-in-Tariffs (FIT) and incentives (e.g., accelerated
depreciation; tax holiday; renewable energy fund; initiatives for international
partnerships/collaboration incentives for new technologies; facilitate human
resource development for solar revolution; zero import duty on capital
equipment, raw materials and excise duty exemption; and provide low interest
Fifth, phase out all energy subsidies. Force petroleum
products to compete with other fuels, like biomass, biogas, etc.
Sixth, accelerate the development and implementation of
cost-effective energy efficiency standards to reduce long term demand for
energy. Engage states, industrial companies, utility companies, and other
stakeholders to accelerate this investment.
Seventh, initiate a move to electrify automotive
transportation or develop electric vehicle (EV) – plug-in hybrids such as the
Nissan Leaf or Chevy Volt. Develop and implement time-of-day pricing to
encourage charging cars at night. Adopt nationwide electric car charging from
solar panels on your roof and solar-powered electric vehicle charging stations
around the country. Thousands of these solar-powered recharging stations can
built across India, just like the present public call office (PCO) giving birth
to the “Green Revolution.” These recharging connections can be deployed at
highly concentrated areas including shopping malls, motels, restaurants, and
public places where cars might be parked long enough to get a jolt of needed
power for electric vehicles.
Eighth, aggressively invest in a smart, two-way grid and
micro-grid. Invest in smart meters; reliable networks that can accommodate the
two-way flow of electrons, and resilient networks that do not result in
cascading blackouts will be in a better position to accommodate the advanced
generation technologies of the future.
Ninth, develop large scale solar manufacturing in India (make
India a global solar manufacturing hub). Promote and establish utility scale
solar generation parks and farms. Also, establish R&D facilities in
academia, research institutions, industry, government and civil society to guide
Tenth, work towards a Hydrogen (H2) Economy development plan
(H2 as the fuel of the future). H2 can also be fed into a fuel cell, a
battery-like device that generates heat and electricity. Develop fuel cell
vehicles. Produce hydrogen using renewable energy with solar and wind power. If
done successfully, hydrogen and electricity will eventually become society’s
primary energy carriers in the twenty-first century.
For more details, see my publications: Hydrogen Economy – A
Revolutionary Vision for the Future of Energy, and How to Eliminate America’s
Addiction to Oil.
Benefits of renewable energy
Create millions of new good paying jobs
Renewable energy is environmentally friendly
Zero emissions while generating electricity or heat
Boost the rural economy by providing much-needed energy
for basic needs at affordable prices
Avoid the high costs of new transmission capacity
Avoid distribution losses
Avoid recurring fuel costs
Enable rural village co-operatives to supply their own
Renewable energy bring gains for Indian economy by way of
Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) projects
Solar energy represents a bright spot in India’s economic
future. If India makes a massive switch from coal, oil, natural gas and nuclear
power plants to solar energy, it is possible that 70 percent of India’s
electricity and 35 percent of its total energy could be solar-powered by 2030.
Excess daytime energy can be stored in various forms such as molten or liquid
salt (a mixture of sodium nitrate and potassium nitrate), compressed air, pumped
hydro, hydrogen, battery storage, etc., which would be used as an energy source
during nighttime hours.
Solar energy will be competitive with coal as improved and
efficient Photovoltaic (PV), Concentrated Solar Power (CSP), and Concentrated
Photovoltaic (CPV), enter the market. I predict that solar farming advancements
and growth would empower India’s rural economies. To take advantage of low
cost renewable solar energy, companies will move their operations from urban
areas to rural areas due to cheaper land and labor within the solar belt. I
personally think there are no technological or economic barriers to supplying
almost 100 percent of India’s energy demand through the use of renewable
energy from solar, wind, hydro and biogas by 2050. It’s time to recognize that
our energy must ultimately come from renewable resources, and we must accelerate
the deployment of renewable energy.
India can ramp up its effort to develop and implement large
utility-scale solar energy farms to meet its economic development goals. Solar
energy will create energy independence and bring potentially enormous
environmental benefits. Both issues have a direct influence on national security
and the health of the Indian economy. India needs a radical transformation of
its energy system to the use of renewable energy, especially solar to “End
Massive Power Grid Outages.”
By using renewable resources, India can realize its full
economic potential and achieve its key social, political, and environmental
objectives. The Indian government should develop favorable government policies
to ease the permit process and to provide start-up capital to promote the
exponential growth of solar energy to make India’s bright future.
The favorable renewable energy policy could create economic
stimulus of at least $1 trillion and perhaps much more if all indirect economic
(ripple) effects are included. “India is the Saudi Arabia of renewable energy
sources and, if properly utilized, India can realize its place in the world as a
great power,” said Jeremy Rifkin, an economist and activist, in New Delhi in
January 2012, “but political will is required for the eventual shift from
fossil fuels to renewable energy.”
Solar energy is a game-changer for India: It has the
potential to re-energize India’s economy by creating millions of new jobs,
achieve energy independence, reduce the trade deficit and propel India forward
as a “Green Nation.” Solar energy offers too many benefits for India to
ignore or delay its development.