The World's #1 Renewable Energy Network for News, Information, and Companies.

Sunlight Goes To Waste: India's Grid Failure

India's recent electric grid failure on July 30 and 31 has been determined the world's largest blackout. This event will no doubt spur some movement toward efficiency and discipline. India requires new and innovative thinking and effectiveness through structural change. This is also the time to focus on renewable energy, particularly solar photovoltaics.

“India is the Saudi Arabia of renewable energy sources and, if properly utilized, India can realize its place in the world as a great power,” said Jeremy Rifkin, an economist and activist, in New Delhi in January, “but political will is required for the eventual shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy.”

Even if 10% of India’s energy needs can be met by solar, it would be a huge contribution in taking the edge off peak load on the existing grid.

Solar panel prices have dropped by over 50% during the past year, and those of the supporting hardware — including cables, connectors, inverters — will continue to drop at a slower rate. Overall, system prices now are practically at “grid parity” — the price per unit of electricity is comparable to the price of coal-based power. This is especially the case when the costs of greenhouse gas emissions from burning coal, an “externality” until now, are taken into account. And we are even closer to grid parity when the average price includes the unsubsidized cost of diesel-based generation, frequently used when power fails. 

The attributes of the two kinds of electricity are different, however — one is polluting and causes global warming, the other is clean. One is continuous, and the other is intermittent. Yet the two can work with synergy, as net metering solutions work in the U.S. The “edge” solar power generating households contribute excess power to the grid during sunny days and draw from the grid when the sun does not shine. The net electricity bill for a solar power-generating household can be zero.

In India, not only can solar generation work as a complement to the grid as above, but it can also alleviate having 400 million citizens without electricity. In the age of smartphones, broadband, HD televisions and microwaves, this absence seems hard to believe. Many of these people live in rural areas where grid extension is not economical; solar energy for self-sufficiency is one immediate and affordable solution.

What are the costs of electricity’s absence? Lost opportunities for augmenting livelihood, children forced to study by candlelight or kerosene lamps, or not at all.

There are several solar energy solutions. The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy is mostly focused on using solar energy, like any other fuel source, to feed the grid. Typically, this is through concentrated solar solutions, and recently through photovoltaic panels due to price drops. Solutions that feed power to the grid are important, but they only augment an over-stressed grid — they do not help the millions without any grid power. The Ministry mostly ignores distributed generation, the solar self-sufficiency solutions like rooftop panels or community grids.

Clean energy technologies are in the middle of unprecedented innovations. Bloomberg New Energy Finance studies show the patent growth in this space has accelerated so much that, around 2005, clean energy patents surpassed the patents generated in all other technologies combined.

India can be a part of this innovation boom, but not unless the government gets out of the way. Innovations cannot be a command performance, wished into being by government fiat. Incentives and regulations can help, but not the creation of one more Government of India “undertaking,” or the creation of an Innovation Council comprised of distinguished people, but with an agenda that does not include renewable energy.

In a follow-up article in a few days, I will address the leadership and organizational issues surrounding the energy sector in India.

Lead image: Power station via Shutterstock

RELATED ARTICLES

Rooftop Solar Panels

Hypocrisy? While Buffett Champions Renewables, His Company Fights Rooftop Solar

Mark Chediak, Noah Buhayar and Margaret Newkirk, Bloomberg Warren Buffett highlights how his Berkshire Hathaway Inc. utilities make massive investments in renewable energy. Meanwhile, in Nevada, the company is fighting a plan that would encourage more residents to use green power.
Japan Microgrid

Born from Disaster: Japan Establishes First Microgrid Community

Junko Movellan, Correspondent Although Japan's Fukushima prefecture is most commonly associated with the 2011 disaster due to the nuclear power melt-down, Miyazaki prefecture, located north of Fukushima, suffered from the largest death toll, close to 10...
Renewable Energy Finance

Clean Energy ETFs Are on a Tear

Eric Balchunas, Bloomberg Green investing used to be synonymous with losing money. But while the S&P 500 Index is up 2 percent this year, and the MSCI All-Country World Index is up 5 percent, clean energy ETFs have double-digit re...

Wheels, Towers and Trees: Unconventional Renewable Energy Technologies in the Pipeline

Andrew Williams, International Correspondent A number of companies around the world are developing novel technologies in an effort to grab a slice of the global renewable energy market.  Although many of these technologies are simple incremental improvements to e...
Mahesh Bhave is a Visiting Professor of Strategy at Indian Institute of Management, Kozhikode, India since Fall 2010. His home is San Diego. He has worked in product management, strategy, and business development positions at Hughes, Sprint, and C...

CURRENT MAGAZINE ISSUE

03/01/2015
Volume 18, Issue 3
file

STAY CONNECTED

To register for our free
e-Newsletters, subscribe today:

SOCIAL ACTIVITY

Tweet the Editors! @megcichon @jennrunyon

FEATURED PARTNERS



EVENTS

EU PVSEC 2015 (European PV Solar Energy Conference and Exhibition)

The EU PVSEC is the largest international Conference for Photovoltaic re...

Sponsor/Exhibitor: MIREC Week 2015

Solectria, Pillar, and Variadores together are co-Silver Sponsors! Come ...

More Power, More Profit Tour - San Diego

Register for the SMA More Power, More Profit Tour for free, in-person sa...

COMPANY BLOGS

EU PVSEC 2014 extends its Scope

Added focus on application and policy topicsAbstracts for conference con...

EU PVSEC 2014: Call for Papers Receives Great Response

More than 1,500 contributions apply for presentation in AmsterdamScienti...

Hawaii Solar Industry Enters Uncharted Territory

Post originally appeared on the GreenLancer Blog by Ardelia Lee In...

NEWSLETTERS

Renewable Energy: Subscribe Now

Solar Energy: Subscribe Now

Wind Energy: Subscribe Now

Geothermal Energy: Subscribe Now

Bioenergy: Subscribe Now  

 

FEATURED PARTNERS