Wind and solar plants are subject to daily cyclic natural fluctuations as well as seasonal fluctuations, leading to grid instability. As more renewable power is integrated into the power grid, there is also an increasing need for the implementation of a variety of energy storage technologies, including pumped hydropower. To fully realise the potential of renewable energy in a resource-rich country such as India, innovative projects with combinations of renewable energy and storage technologies must be implemented. Greenko is one such key cleantech and energy storage player in India, with an operational portfolio of 7.5 GW and a pipeline of 15 GW of wind, solar, hydro and energy storage assets spread across 15 states. It is also working towards transforming renewable energy from real-time energy into a despatchable and controlled medium through digitalisation and storage solutions. To this end, Greenko has initiated integrated renewable energy storage projects (IRESPs) in Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka. Recently, Greenko also made a commitment to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2040. In an interview with Renewable Watch, P.M. Nanda, senior vice-president, Greenko, spoke about the company’s key achievements, plans to add renewable capacity and major challenges, as well as his vision for renewables. Excerpts…
What have been Greenko’s key achievements in the renewable energy space in the past one year? What is the company’s current renewable energy portfolio?
We have been actively working towards our goal of decarbonisation over the past two to three years. In this pursuit, we are coming up with big energy storage plans to create around 30 GWh of storage through pumped storage projects by 2024-25 and 100 GWh by 2030. At present, we have a very balanced portfolio of solar, wind and hydro that aggregates to around 7.5 GW, which will get enhanced exponentially in the coming years with the completion of our IRESPs. We are also working on two large IRESPs of around 5 GW each in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. The Pinnapuram project located in Andhra Pradesh is already under construction while the ground-breaking for the Karnataka project is expected shortly.
“To match market needs, there is an urgent requirement for changes in the policy framework and for new guidelines.”
What has been your experience with emerging technologies such as floating solar and wind-solar hybrids?
We have been exploring the possibilities of floating solar on our proposed pumped storage projects and are planning to execute the first floating solar installation of around 170 MW on one of our projects. As on date, we have no first-hand experience of floating solar. However, we are almost ready to implement one. This has two-pronged advantages for us: the first is the generation of renewable energy and the second is saving water loss due to evaporation, which helps in the conservation of water resources as well. Since most of our pumped storage projects are off-stream developments, water conservation is highly essential for us. We are not very enthusiastic about wind-solar hybrids as the commercial viability of such projects is still to be established. But we would like to keep our options open for the near future.
What is your opinion on the current state of transmission infrastructure and the stability of the grid? What do you think will be the trend for energy storage applications in the coming years?
The transmission infrastructure seems adequate and stable for the existing projects. However, looking at the envisaged targets of harnessing renewable energy and the growing gap between peak and lean demand, the situation is expected to change considerably in the next three to four years. There is a strong initiative and processes have begun for creating energy storage. The government is coming up with policies and guidelines as well to support this development. The creation of energy storage projects close to the hot points of transmission and at the discom level will enable the optimisation and effective utilisation of transmission infrastructure. Work on the installation of many pumped storage projects has already started in various states. At our end, Greenko is working on creating 30 GWh of storage capacity by 2024-25.
What is your perspective on the sector’s investment climate?
Overall, the sector’s investment climate seems good. However, the investment climate is not very encouraging for energy storage at present, as investors have earlier burnt their fingers in hydro projects. This has made them very cautious about investing in pumped storage projects or battery storage. Another important factor is that the revenue streams of storage projects have not been established yet. But the way the government has been acting seriously on these issues, we can expect the investment climate to turn around fast in the sector.
What are the company’s plans in the energy storage and RTC power segments?
As mentioned earlier, Greenko has been working on long-duration energy storage over the past three to four years now. We feel that round-the-clock (RTC) renewable energy is going to be the future of the Indian energy market. Keeping this in view, we came up with two mega IRESPs for catering to the emerging need. Very soon, we will start seeing the impact of the decommissioning of thermal power projects as well. In line with this, a commitment from India was also incorporated in the resolutions of COP26 with a mention of phasing down fossil power. Having foreseen such a situation, we formulated our plan of 100 GWh by 2030 and are well on course to achieve this a year or two ahead of our target, if the need arises.
“Renewable energy generation, coupled with energy storage, is going to be the mainstay in the future. We will see a lot of new storage technologies being tried and tested, but two main technologies – battery storage and pumped storage – will control the scenario.”
What are some of the major challenges faced by renewable energy developers?
The Indian energy market is going through a very crucial phase, wherein market dynamics are changing very fast with respect to the needs of end-users and global requirements. To match market needs, there is an urgent requirement for changes in the policy framework and for new guidelines. This transition phase is the biggest challenge developers are facing now because changes are happening at a very rapid pace. Although most of these are for the benefit of developers, this still creates some uncertainties in the sector till it is formalised. Once a road map is clearly charted out, a long-term policy framework is in place, a resource adequacy plan is finalised and the trajectory is developed for the next 10 years or so, developers will feel comfortable and the market will also stabilise.
What is your outlook for the renewable energy sector in the future?
In my view, renewable energy generation, coupled with energy storage, is going to be the mainstay in the future. We will see a lot of new storage technologies being tried and tested to meet the emerging needs, but two main technologies – battery storage and pumped storage – will control the scenario. Decarbonisation targets will also create a conducive environment for increased harnessing of renewable energy, which, coupled with hydrogen, will have a crucial role to play in the coming years. It is expected that all this will start becoming marketable and affordable 2025 onwards. Renewables will have an important role to play in the production of hydrogen as well.
Overall, the government’s intent has been very clear and visible. Thus, changes in the policy framework can be expected very soon. The future focus will be on renewables coupled with storage. However, which technology will take the lead or fulfil end-user needs best will only be certain in the coming years.