September 28, 2017
India@100: No More About Climate Change
As India completes 70 years of independence, the narrative of a young dynamic nation has become an integral part of discussion around the world. Since independence from colonial rule, the average income of people has increased from Rs 7,513 (in 1947) to Rs 82,269 (in 2017). In the same period, the life expectancy has gone up from 32 to 68.3, and the literacy rate from 12 per cent to 74 per cent. Today, we stand proudly as one on the most powerful economies in the world.
Our journey to self-reliance may not be perfect, but we cannot deny the fact that India’s transformation has positively impacted and inspired billions across the world. Economic liberalisation in early 90s, rise of IT firms and India’s demographic dividends have played an important role in this transformation.
As we continue to reap benefits of these ‘recognised’ factors of growth, India is fast moving towards the next industrial revolution that has the potential to alter the existing geopolitical and economic order — widespread adoption of renewable energy.
Renewable energy is no longer only about energy security and climate change, but is increasingly being recognised as an investment opportunity that provides economic advantages, propels local economy and creates significant job opportunities.
I believe increased focus on renewable energy will result in innovations that will reshape energy markets as we know them. We may soon witness some of the following developments in India and the sector in general:
Distributed generation will become the least costly way to provide electricity. For this, a number of technological advances are converging: advanced control systems; more compact, smarter, and efficient electrical inverters; smart electricity meters and the Internet of Things domain with energy apps. It is possible that in the not-so-distant future many consumers may go off the grid completely.
High adoption of electric vehicles. Due to lower acquisition and maintenance cost compared to petrol vehicles. This will happen on account of falling battery prices, economies of scale in production and core advancement in the technology itself. It is estimated that by 2025, the cost of energy storage (through batteries) and energy generation (through renewable energy), combined, will be at par with the cost of generating energy through fossil fuels.
Reduced intermittency of renewables. Advances in technology have led to the falling cost of solar modules. Soon that could also lead to the implementation of many low-cost smart technology improvements that will improve the grid of tomorrow. The hybridisation of solar and wind energy (combined solar-wind projects) have capacity utilisation factors of over 50 per cent, close to that of coal-fired power plants. This will drastically reduce the intermittency challenge, increase renewable energy as a source of available power and disrupt the existing grid models.
For all this to happen, it is imperative that we continue our focus on renewable energy as the energy choice for the future. Developed markets such as Europe, where renewables have the highest penetration rates in the power mix, are spending proportionately more to integrate renewables into the transmission and distribution networks. In comparison, the emerging markets are more focused on building new infrastructure. This is an area of opportunity for India, which is poised to be the global leader in renewable energy future.
Huge investments by private entities and a stable policy environment will go a long way in helping achieve the renewable energy targets (175GW by 2022) set by the government.