Ambitious emissions reduction programs are pumping unprecedented amounts of renewable energy into the grid as the world strives to embrace a carbon-free energy future. Integrating renewable energy resources while improving the reliability of India’s power grid is a significant challenge and will require the use of energy storage systems and other upgraded grid improvements to accelerate a successful energy transition.
In 2021, India, an economy traditionally dependent on fossil fuels, pledged at the COP26 conference in Glasgow to increase its non-fossil energy capacity to 500 GW and meet 50% of its energy needs from of renewable energy by 2030, and to achieve net zero emissions by 2070. The commitment recognizes the deep integration of fossil fuel resources into India’s energy mix and the recurring climate challenges that put strain network assets. Both of these factors will require significant investment in new generation, transmission and distribution resources.
Wind power is seen as an increasingly important part of India’s new energy future. In June 2022, the country announced that it would auction 4 GW of offshore wind per year for a period of three years from 2022-23 for development off the coasts of Tamil Nadu and Gujarat. Large-scale solar PV generation will also play an important role in shifting the Indian economy from its historical reliance on coal power.
Over the years, India has pledged to develop nearly 500 renewable energy projects, worth around $196 billion, including wind and solar resources.
Enter energy storage
Supportive government policies such as the Offshore Wind Scheme and the Production Linked Incentive (PLI) scheme for high-efficiency solar PV modules are encouraging India’s private and public power sectors to actively pursue implementation. large-scale renewable energy projects.
As wind and solar power help solve the climate crisis by replacing fossil fuels with zero-emissions electricity, their variability creates challenges for power system operators looking to increase access to energy. reliable nationwide.
Hybrid renewable energy projects combine renewable energy from solar and wind installations with energy storage systems, including battery energy storage systems (BESS) and possibly green hydrogen storage . Such combinations improve the ability of network operators to meet customers’ 24-hour power supply (PSTN) needs. These systems reduce the risk of demand response by effectively smoothing electricity prices through arbitration, management of evening energy ramps and emergency power.
So far, several large hybrid projects using solar and wind technologies combined with storage solutions have been awarded in India. Further public tenders for hybrid projects are expected, reflecting plans by state-owned Gujarat Urja Vikas Nigam Limited (GUVNL) to enter into power purchase agreements for up to 500MW of projects renewable energy as well as energy storage systems for rural electrification of off-grid villages in Gujarat.
Different energy storage technologies will be needed to balance the demands of a population looking to drive electrification in the residential, commercial, and industrial sectors.
How much storage do we need?
Lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries, which can support up to eight hours of storage, are among the most mature and economical BESS technologies available today. Li-ion batteries are the lightest and smallest of all commercially available chemical batteries, making them a suitable option available today.
Lithium iron phosphate is also the least prone to thermal runaway, in which short circuits in a battery heat up and catch fire. Unlike other Li-ion batteries, when the lithium iron phosphate is forced to short, it stays cold and compounded.
The BESS is valued for its flexibility and ability to perform multiple functions in a single installation. For example, in a frequency regulation role, BESS can help balance electricity supply and demand, making the grid stable and reliable. In an arbiter role, BESS can help save electricity when not needed for later use when needed. That said, Li-ion batteries could face potential future supply chain challenges, as they are extremely mineral-intensive.
Other storage options include thermal storage, in which heat is stored as steam, molten salts, or other media for later use; and emerging battery technologies such as flow batteries or alternative chemistry batteries.
India also has the potential to deploy pumped storage hydropower (PSH). PSH plants are storage systems based on hydroelectric operations between two or more reservoirs (upper and lower) with a difference in elevation. PSH plants are dependent on geography and weather, have long gestation periods, and lack modularity. However, PSH plants are a very efficient and viable form of storage when conditions permit.
Hydrogen energy storage
Besides short duration energy storage, Asia needs cost effective, large scale and long duration energy storage to unlock the full potential of renewable energy to reduce carbon emissions. Hydrogen is one of these longer-lived emerging technologies.
Hydrogen, as a form of chemical energy storage, is ideal both to complement and serve as a reliable alternative to batteries, especially when hydrogen prices become more competitive in the future. Green hydrogen, produced by electrolysis of water powered by renewable energies, offers a carbon-free solution.
To be economical, traditional batteries must be charged and discharged daily. Hydrogen, on the other hand, can be continuously produced and stored, providing seasonal storage that can be used as emergency power, limited only by the capacity of the storage volume. For example, excess solar energy captured during the summer could be stored as hydrogen to be used as an energy source during months when solar energy production is more limited.
In addition to batteries, hydrogen can be obtained from production facilities and deployed when needed with rapid ramp-up times, much like the natural gas or diesel backups used today. This flexibility and its characteristic as a carbon-free, mineral-free electricity generator provides premium benefits that offset conversion losses when hydrogen is extracted from water, stored, and then used in turbines or standby engines. which are the conventional power equipment sources that generate electricity. .
Another capability offered by hydrogen that is unique to other storage technologies is its potential for direct use. For example, as a raw material in the cement, steel, chemical and petrochemical industries which are difficult to reduce to carbon; as a carbon-free fuel in fuel cell vehicles; for the creation of synthetic fuels ranging from methanol to gasoline to sustainable aviation fuel; and as “green ammonia”, an energy storage medium that can be transported more easily than liquid hydrogen. Multiple revenue streams make hydrogen even more valuable. As cost remains an issue for hydrogen today, it is essential that developers consider its full potential as an energy source.
To advance hydrogen energy storage technologies, these projects will first need to be demonstrated and scaled to reduce costs. In addition, regulatory changes and government incentives will be needed to accelerate the transition.
In 2021, India launched its National Hydrogen Mission to help the government achieve its climate goals and establish the country as a green hydrogen hub. The mission’s efforts led to the development of the Green Hydrogen Policy. The policy aims to scale up green hydrogen production and use in India by identifying green hydrogen manufacturing areas and granting concessions to developers to set up green hydrogen and green ammonia projects based on renewable energy.
Where to start?
In India, a combination of electrochemical and hydrogen storage will ultimately be needed to meet the country’s RTC energy needs. This journey is far from simple. Factors such as changing geopolitical landscape, technology maturity and costs, potential infrastructure changes, time to deployment, development of ancillary markets to monetize storage deployments as well as on-chain issues The global supply chain will all impact the optimal mix of these systems and challenge the timeline to cost-effectively integrate storage with variable renewable energy resources and create stable and reliable decarbonized power grids in India.
What is critical is that the public and private sectors remain focused on their commitments and vision for a decarbonized future and work together to achieve their goals while maintaining reliable energy systems that continue to support growth and prosperity. from the country.