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A taste of India’s renewable power: the storage slip between the cup and the lip

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At the UN Climate Change Conference (COP23) in Bonn last year, a coalition led by Canada and Britain jointly launched the Powering Past Coal Alliance with more than 20 partners, including India, to move away from coal, as a fuel, since it is a major source of air pollution. It was also announced at the conference that India is on track to catalyze USD 200-300 billion of new investment in its renewable energy infrastructure in the next decade with global capital inflows playing an increasingly crucial role.

By 2030, India’s dependence on energy imports is expected to exceed 53% of the country’s total energy consumption. Greater import dependence is a threat to India’s energy security as it introduces global market volatility into the mix. Nothing warrants the nation’s focus to shift towards the renewable energy sources more than the huge import bill that fossil fuel threatens our economy with. Energy from renewable sources like solar and wind is also the best option to augment India’s power supply requirements.

The reality, however, poses huge challenges. Only a true understanding of the challenges and impediments can pave the way for the much-hyped 275 GW renewable power generation that the government of India has targeted by 2027, 175 GW of which is to be achieved by 2022.

India’s dependence on fossil fuel will continue for a long while as it takes decades for an energy source to provide a significant share of energy supply. Globally, it took almost 60 years for coal to become 40% of the energy supply. Renewables supplies only ~5% of global power generated today and ~7% of electricity generated in India.

The biggest impediment for making renewable energy a viable alternative to fossil fuel-based power is storage. Research on storing power to be distributed at will is going on at a frenetic pace all over the world. Development of storage technology will significantly help in reducing dependence on fossil fuel-based power. If renewable energy has to become the primary source of energy, then storage technology has to be beefed up.

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