Potential of renewable energy to fill the gap created by Coal shortage in India

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Potential of renewable energy to fill the gap created by Coal shortage in India

  • Earlier this week, coal stocks in more than 100 thermal power plants in India fell below the critical mark (less than 25% of the required stock) while it was less than 10% in over 50 plants across India.
  • Decline in coal stocks and the resulting power outages in several States have spurred queries of renewable energy’s potential to fill in for the conventional resource.

Coal- Prominent energy source

  • Coal accounts for 55% of the country’s energy needs
  • According to the India Energy Outlook 2021 report of the International Energy Agency (IEA), energy use in India has doubled since 2000, with 80% of demand still being met by coal, oil and solid biomass.

Reasons for low availability of Coal

  • Prevention in stock-up of coal due to pandemic-related disruptions
  • Halting of mining operations to curb the spread of the virus.
  • Hampering in mining activities during the monsoons,
  • Delaying the arrival of stocks.
  • Demand-supply mismatch due to household demand for power picking with arrival of summer combined with the sudden acceleration in economic activity

About consumption pattern of Coal

  • Coal is abundantly available, has shorter gestation periods and coal-based plants have lower capital costs than hydel and nuclear plants, therefore, making it the most viable enabler of energy security in the country.
  • The conventional resource’s capacity addition is further helped by the increased participation of the private sector in power generation.

India’s status regarding renewable energy sources

  • The report of the Central Electricity Authority on optimal generation capacity mix for 2029-30 estimates that the share of renewable energy in the gross electricity generation is expected to be around 40% by that financial year.
  • The Union government has spent ₹3,793 crore until March 14 in 2021-22 for implementing varied renewable energy-related schemes and programmes.
  • A total of 152.90 GW of renewable energy capacity has been installed in the country as per government figures.
  • This includes 50.78 GW from solar power, 40.13 GW from wind power, 10.63 GW from bio-power, 4.84 GW from small hydel power and 46.52 GW from large hydel power.
  • In accordance with the Prime Minister’s announcement at COP26 (the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference), the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy aspires to install 500 GW of electricity capacity from non-fossil fuel sources by 2030.

Associated Challenges

Use of renewable energy would essentially require a balancing act due to following challenges

  • Transmission losses: The capacity of a plant does not necessarily translate into the actual power it generates for the grid, some of it is lost owing to external factors such as heat or transmission losses.
  • This applies for both renewable and conventional sources
  • Variability: Solar and wind energy are variable resources with ‘variability’ being particularly exposed during periods of peak demand.
    • For example, solar energy is abundantly available during daytime in summers.
    • However, domestic consumption peaks in the evenings ACs are turned on after returning from work.
    • With no sunlight outside then, energy requirements and supply face a mismatch.
  • Seasonal variation: In monsoons, solar energy is barely available with wind energy available in abundance.
  • Location: Regions near coastal areas enjoy more wind and therefore, possess greater ability to produce wind energy, like Gujarat, in comparison to States which are drier and experience more sunlight, like Rajasthan.

About transmission and storage

  • Transmission and storage are central to addressing variability issues.
  • They help cope with the ‘duck curve’ power demand among consumers in India.
  • Duck curve: resembling a duck, the curve is a graphical representation exhibiting the difference between the demand and availability of energy through the day.
  • With both wind and solar being variable sources, it becomes imperative to establish a complementing model.
  • This would require import and export technologies between States as well as optimising the trade between those with differing demand and production profiles.

Factors responsible for efficient transition to renewable energy

  • Inculcating energy-efficient behaviour such as operating ACs, both for commercial and domestic usage, more flexibly through the day and opting for energy-efficient products.
  • A demand response programme in the direction would help address such issues keeping external factors constant.
  • Lifestyle changes to reduce energy demand too would be essential
    • For example: Japan’s ‘Cool Biz Campaign’ permitting employees to wear light and casual clothes at work instead of the conventional jackets and ties in order to reduce the need for air-conditioning.

Exam Track

Prelims Takeaway

  • Renewable and non renewable sources of energy
  • Duck curve
  • India Energy Outlook 2021 report

Mains Track

Q. In the wake of recent coal shortage , Discuss potential of renewable energy to fill this gap and the challenges associated with it.