US study says India can meet increasing electricity demand with renewable energy


The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LNBL), California, has released an in-depth study of India’s future power system investments.

The study shows India could economically meet its electricity demand, through renewables and complementary flexible resources, including energy storage, agricultural load shifting, and hydropower, and optimally utilizing the existing thermal power assets in the country.

The study was funded by the US Department of State’s bureau of energy resources. Under secretary for economic growth, energy, and the environment Jose W Fernandez and Alok Kumar of India’s ministry of power highlighted the study during a virtual launch on December 9.

The LBNL study validates the cost-effectiveness of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s goal of installing 500 GW of non-fossil electricity capacity by 2030, as India’s energy demand is expected to double.

India is the world’s third-largest energy-consuming country. This is why it has to meet these targets. Otherwise meeting global climate goals will become difficult.

This study was conducted under the Flexible Resources Initiative (FRI) of the US-India Clean Energy Finance Task Force. FRI advances cost-effective strategies to enhance the flexibility and robustness of India’s power system in support of its clean energy transition.

The study, ‘Least Cost Pathway for India’s Power System Investments through 2030’, found that dramatic cost reductions over the last decade in energy sources, such as solar, and flexible resources, like battery storage, make it affordable for India to meet its growing power demand dependably over the next decade, while at the same time reducing electricity costs by 8-10 percent and emissions intensity of electricity supply by 43-50 percent from 2020 levels.

It also finds that only 23 GW of net additions to the coal capacity will be needed if battery storage costs continue to decline, supply chain issues are addressed, and adequate financing is secured. The study is complemented by a report on important policy and regulatory recommendations, which if implemented, will enable India to achieve the 2030 goals at the lowest cost.

These recommendations include a nuanced long-term resource adequacy framework for system planning and procurement, and reforms of India’s gas pipeline operations to enable cost-effective, flexible operations of India’s existing gas power plants. These recommended regulatory changes will promote optimal investments, help avoid overbuilding assets, and assure the rapid retirement of uneconomic assets.

FRI is co-led on the US side by the Department of State’s bureau of energy resources and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, in collaboration with the US Department of Energy and US Agency for International Development. On the Indian side, there are the ministry of power in coordination with the central electricity authority, Power System Operation Corporation, ministry of new and renewable energy, Central Electricity Regulatory Commission, and the Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board.