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

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

Untitled Document

RELATED ARTICLES

Why the Future of the Yieldco Is at Risk

Haresh Patel In the past two years, the proliferation of YieldCos, and their ability to open new sources of capital for renewable energy projects, has captured the attention of the energy industry. While a YieldCo’s potential to catalyz...

Schneider Electric and Saft Partner on Corsican Solar-Energy Storage Project

Andrew Burger Lithium-ion batteries will be used to store PV energy produced by two new solar energy installations and dispatch it to the grid on the French Mediterranean island of Corsica. Supplied by Saft, each 1-MWh advanced battery s...

Listen Up: Vampires Sucking Power from your House

The Energy Show on Renewable Energy World Here’s a nightmare for you: at night, when you’re asleep and you think things are quiet, there are vampires sucking power out of your house and increasing your electric bill. The fact of the matter is that every plugged in ...
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

Volume 18, Issue 4
1507REW_C11

STAY CONNECTED

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

SOCIAL ACTIVITY

Tweet the Editors! @megcichon @jennrunyon

FEATURED PARTNERS



EVENTS

Grid-connected and Off-grid Photovoltaics

This training covers all aspects of planning, installation, maintenance,...

2015 Green Energy Expo

Stop by and visit Canadian Solar at the Green Energy Expo in Mexico City!

2015 Intersolar-South America

Canadian Solar will be exhibiting @ Intersolar-South America. Stop by an...

COMPANY BLOGS

Fort Collins Residents Help City Reach Climate Targets While Saving...

Fort Collins resident Norman Illsley, 90, is making a statement. He purc...

6 Tips For Finding Great Leads

Embrace and cultivate all of the empowering qualities of a sa...

Compression: That’s What It's All About

With Intersolar already 2 weeks behind us (how did that happen...

NEWSLETTERS

Renewable Energy: Subscribe Now

Solar Energy: Subscribe Now

Wind Energy: Subscribe Now

Geothermal Energy: Subscribe Now

Bioenergy: Subscribe Now  

 

FEATURED PARTNERS