India’s delicate energy security is under critical pressure from its rising dependence on oil, regulatory uncertainty and opaque natural gas pricings, small pool of skilled manpower and poorly developed upstream infrastructure and dependence on fossil fuels as the dominant source of energy. Currently, a move towards a diversified fuel basket, together with a focus on efficient exploration and consumption of energy resources, is needed.
The Energy Security
The growth of the modern economy is fuelled by access to uninterrupted availability of energy resource at an affordable price. However, uneven distribution of energy generation has led to vulnerability to an extent. Energy Security, an association between national security and the availability of natural resources for solar energy consumption, will play a pivotal role in shaping the future of solar energy India, unlike other super-economies, is using far less energy per capita. The TOE (tonnes of oil equivalent) per capita in the US is 6.7 whereas India is 0.65 and China is 2.15. With the highest GDP growth rate (6.6% annually, source: World Bank), the growth potential of Indian Energy Sector is immense and energy security will be critical for India’s economic growth. Even though India has installed capacity of more than 300 GW, it could not fulfill the demand of electricity of the entire country.
Short Term Vs. Long Term
In spite of the rise of Solar Power, Wind, and Hydropower, fossil fuel is the dominant factor in generating electricity in India. Thus, for short term solution on energy security, fossil fuel is critical while maintaining optimum balance with natural resources. As of now, coal is accounted for 70% power generation of the country. According to the latest statistics, the new installation for coal has been reduced significantly in recent years where solar has increased in the exponential curve. A long-term transmission towards renewable energy is visible in India. This will further sustain energy security while balancing the economic growth and optimum usage of natural resources.
Another way to view this long term sustainability is the CO2 emissions/GDP VS. Population figure. According to IEA, India has reduced CO2 emissions per capita as high as 25% from 1990 – 2016. The trend shows going further, India will shift to its energy balance more towards the renewable sector.
Affordability VS. Reliability
While the Industrial sector uses more than 40% of energy generated, 24% of energy is consumed by the residential sector. In the industrial sector, beating the Duck Curve is essential for affordable and uninterrupted power supply. Large thermal power plant and utility-scale solar in the vicinity of an industrial area are the key enablers for energy security in the industrial sector. Moreover, with the growing share of renewable energy, the grid stability is a concern, as renewable sources are periodic and unpredictable in nature.
To tame the “duck curve”, the best bet is to deploy “Battery Energy Storage System (BESS)” in a strategic location which will, in one hand work for smoothing the unpredictable power generated by renewable resources and solve the periodicity problems of solar, wind, and hydropower plants. Having said this, India’s residential sector is distributed all over the country and serving such wide range, India invested hugely in transmission and distribution. However, the transmission and distribution loss is as high as 21%. This distribution problem leads to low reliability and increase in tariff.
Distributed Energy Generation
To reduce the transmission loss, distributed energy generation could be an option to achieve energy security for the residential sector. If power can be produced within a small community or in individual residence, the residential sector will be self-sustained for power demand and will be immune to transmission and distribution losses. However, since the area and resource availability is low, the appliances should be highly energy efficient to convert more than 90% generated power. The present appliances are run by AC power because the loss of AC distribution is low. However, DC powered appliances are more energy efficient than AC powered appliances.
Solar, by nature, enables distributive power generation because of small setup requirement and affordability of solar modules in present price fall. Solar generates DC power primarily and then the inverter converts to AC power. If hybrid appliances could be developed (an appliance that could run both by DC and AC power), the energy efficiency will increase manifold and energy security could be achieved in the residential sector.
Lastly, while distributive generation is an enabler for energy security for the residential sector, it may lead to volatility and congestion in the flow of electricity. Short-term balancing will be required at local grid level, distribution grids, and transmission grids.
This balancing requirement enables energy trading throughout the sector. Today, the DISCOMs are a revenue generator for transmission and distribution of energy throughout the sectors. However, to run millions of transactions every second without the problem of double payment, block-chain based architecture will play a critical role in India’s energy future.