India has an ambitious renewable energy target of 175 GW by 2022. However, installing such a large renewable energy capacity has its own set of problems, with power evacuation and grid integration being the key among these.
The intermittency of renewables and grid integration challenges pose a heightened risk of curtailment, in terms of technical issues and misalignment with demand-supply forecasts. There have already been instances in some states where solar and wind power plants have been asked to restrict generation, resulting in financial losses to the developers.
On the project development front, transmission connectivity constraints are leading to increasing instances of tendering and project development delays, as well as downsizing of tenders. Meanwhile, anticipating the challenges in integrating intermittent renewables into the grid, a number of states have proposed deviation charges.
All these problems will only get exacerbated with the increase in the quantum of renewable power available for grid injection. In order to address these challenges, a comprehensive plan covering transmission and control infrastructure was formulated as a part of the Green Energy Corridors programme. This programme includes an intra-state and an interstate transmission system to strengthen infrastructure, and the establishment of renewable energy management centres at the state, regional and national load despatch centre levels. But the progress has not been up to the mark.
The mismatch between the number of demand centres and the available corridors is a major concern. The distance between the demand and the supply centres is also a key issue with six states in the western and southern parts of the country accounting for 80 per cent of the total installed solar power capacity but only 38 per cent of the power demand.
Moreover, the interstate transmission corridor being developed by Power Grid Corporation of India Limited will help only if it is supplemented by the efforts of the state transmission utilities to develop and strengthen their transmission infrastructure. While some states have been taking significant interest in upscaling and modernising their grids, most of them need to step up their efforts.
The aforementioned challenges can, however, be overcome through technological breakthroughs and advancements such as smart grids, renewable energy storage solutions and renewable energy hybrids. Further, immediate attention needs to be given to longer-term planning and effective implementation of network infrastructure. The scheduling and despatch between states and regions must be coordinated on priority. It is also imperative to equip states with state-of-the-art renewable energy forecasting tools. Finally, the industry needs to cooperate with the government and abide by the regulatory framework being devised to address their biggest potential concerns related to grid curtailment and inadequate transmission infrastructure.