Interview

Karnataka is a leader in deploying new and innovative solutions for Renewable Energy development

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Rajnath Ram, Advisor (Energy), NITI Aayog

“I observe Karnataka as leader in deploying new and innovative solutions for RE development. Currently, Karnataka has allowed aggregation of forecasts and deviation settlement at boundary (also Andhra Pradesh) which can lead to higher accuracy for day-ahead forecasts, and thus may also lead to better grid operations and planning at DISCOMS’ end, says Rajnath Ram, Advisor (Energy), NITI Aayog in an exclusive interview with Nisha Samant and Sreetama Datta of Elets News Network (ENN).

Please share your take on the current energy quotient of India.

India is the third largest energy consumer in the world but on per capita basis, its energy consumption is just one-third that of the world’s average. This makes it imperative for India to adopt a number of measures to meet the energy needs of the growing economy in a secure, equitable and sustainable manner. India is well endowed with coal as well as renewable energy sources including bio energy. Tapping this potential through the right mix of regulatory and policy measure, technology adoption in economical manner towards cleaner fuel mix not in one go but in phases, creating investment regimes and promoting manufacturing will certainly meet its desired objective of providing people greater access, affordable and sustainable energy. India is positioning itself to be the key driver of global energy demand in the coming decades. We are preparing for a low-carbon energy future and an accelerated pace of clean energy transition, further underpinned by our government’s aim to set up about 450 GW of renewable energy capacity by 2030, thus, fuelling India’s journey towards the goal of a USD five trillion economy.

Please share an overview of your initiative of Energy Data Management. How do you envisage utilising data to develop the energy sector in India?

Data has been an integral part of Energy. Analysis and visualisation helps in making quick and informed decision. NITI Aayog is the premier think tank and has realised that data driven policy will help in transforming India. At present, we have the following projects –India Energy Dashboards which encompasses all energy related data at one place. This is a unique space where NITI Aayog has taken initiatives in pulling all data of energy to energy dashboard all the relevant ministries and departments are on board. We are intending this to be merged with a data platform being created in NITI Aayog i.e. “National Data and Analytics Platform”. IESS 2047 is another tool which provides bottom up approach to gather not only various supply as well as demand side data pertaining to energy but also generating different scenario for the energy till 2047. Besides this, NITI Aayog has developed prototype GIS mapping for energy resources.

These data would help researchers to carry out different researches and also create informed debate on energy sector apart from policy making.

What is the present status of setting up the Energy Modelling Unit within the NITI Aayog? What are the key objectives and how would it function?

We are creating India Energy Modeling Forum. NITI Aayog will partner with various knowledge partners and think tanks and act as co-secretariat for forum. This intends to take up new themes after discussing with the line ministries and departments for research and modeling activities. NITI Aayog will derive this initiative.

India has RE installed capacity of 85 GW as of December 2019. There are 18 GW projects already in pipeline. Multiple GW scale tenders are being awarded as we speak. We are on track to achieve the 175 GW cumulative targets.

Further, NITI Aayog itself would be having energy modelers housed in NITI Aayog which will also monitor the function of India Energy Modelling forum and also work on the initiatives taken by NITI Aayog i.e. Integrated Energy Modeling using MESSAGEix, IESS-2047 and India Energy Dashboard. Another activities which is based on MESSAGEix is Decision Support Tool currently being developing to make it easier for policy for understanding the simplifying the results.

Government of India aims to generate 175 GW of renewable energy by 2022. What is your take on this?

India already has Renewable Energy (RE) installed capacity of 85 GW as of December 2019. There are 18 GW projects already in pipeline. Multiple GW scale tenders are being awarded as we speak. We are on track to achieve the 175 GW cumulative targets. We might fall short on sub-sector targets like Rooftop solar, but growth in other RE sub-sector will offset the shortfall.

At present, what is the gap between demand and supply of renewable energy? How should this gap be bridged?

We must understand that electricity demand does not differentiate between RE and Non-RE as such. One cannot at this stage say anything on demand and supply of RE, because we are in the process of development of RE and market is still maturing. We observe some bottlenecks for RE deployment including lack of seamless interstate transmission across the nation, payment issues and lack of adequate energy storage to make use of surplus generation. All these issues are pointedly deliberated inside the government to come up with practical solutions. Manufacturing of solar cells and to the extend manufacturing of batteries can drive better future for RE deployment.

Also Read: Karnataka ensuring smart energy for all

What is your take on Karnataka in terms of its energy efficiency?

Karnataka is one of the top rankers in recently launched State Energy Efficiency Index 2019 by Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE). This index tracks the progress of Energy Efficiency (EE) initiatives in 36 states and union territories based on 97 significant indicators. Most of the first-generation energy efficiency policies prepared by BEE under programmes on Standards & Labelling (S&L), Energy Conservation Building Code (ECBC) 2017, Perform Achieve & Trade (PAT) and others are understood by the state. I observe Karnataka as leader in deploying new and innovative solutions for RE development. Currently, Karnataka has allowed aggregation of forecasts and deviation settlement at boundary (also Andhra Pradesh) which can lead to higher accuracy for day-ahead forecasts, and thus may also lead to better grid operations and planning at DISCOMS’ end. This is a good initiative.

“Karnataka should focus on ensuring greater compliance to achieve energy savings. Karnataka is already India’s top RE producer. It should leverage its startup and technology hub culture and support development of energy efficient machinery for the Industry sector among other sectors.”

What is your advice for the state to become a better energy efficient state and cut down the non-renewable energy usage?

As the next steps, they should focus on ensuring greater compliance to achieve energy savings. Karnataka is already India’s top RE producer. It should leverage its startup and technology hub culture and support development of energy efficient machinery for the Industry sector among other sectors. Reducing losses and making DISCOMs healthier is the way forward. Unless DISCOMs are revamped, we would still face problem of payment and integration of RE in the grid. The adoption of net metering and smart meters are some of the steps forward.

What is the way forward?

We need to think some innovative solutions to RE sectors currently facing, i.e. renegotiation of Power Purchase Agreement (PPAs), payment, 24*7 RE deployment, regulations related to storage, etc., a complete revamp is required in the sector if we really want to achieve our 450 GW by 2030.

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