When it comes to energy security, India has travelled a long way. From an energy-deficient scenario to a state of energy surplus, the progress has been remarkable. Despite this significant advancement, the country still struggles to meet its last-mile goals and 100 per cent energy security remains a distant dream. In order to meet the aim of becoming an economic powerhouse and a manufacturing hub for the world, the government must make energy security its number one priority. This is where the goal of grid-scale energy storage comes into play.
The what and why of grid-scale energy storage
Grid-scale energy storage is also known as large-scale energy storage. In essence, it involves using a collection of methods to store energy on a large scale within an electrical distribution system. It is a deviation from the conventional model wherein electricity is generated and transmitted in a linear manner.
Through grid-scale energy storage, electrical energy is stored when there is surplus energy available. This happens when electricity is in abundance and inexpensive or when demand is low. The stored energy is later returned to the grid when the demand is high. It functions on the simple principle of storing energy when available and using it when unavailable/ less of it is available.
Before we understand the new technologies that enable grid-scale energy storage, it is critical to understand the demand drivers for grid-scale energy storage and why India stands to benefit immensely from its adoption.
Demand and urbanisation: Currently, India is the world’s third largest energy-consuming country. Over the coming years, as disposable incomes rise and millions of Indian households continue to buy new appliances, the demand for energy is only set to rise. Conservative estimates state that India will add the equivalent of a city the size of Los Angeles to its urban population each year.
By 2040, the expanding economy, population growth, urbanisation and industrialisation will translate into India witnessing the largest increase in energy demand in the world. In order to meet this rapid growth in electricity demand, India will need to expand its energy and power infrastructure, and adopt alternative models of energy management.
Heavy dependence on importing energy needs: On the domestic front, India’s oil and gas production continues to fall short vis-à-vis its consumption patterns. If the current scenario continues, then as per conservative estimates, the country’s dependence on imported oil could rise above 90 per cent by 2040, up from the already high 75 per cent at present.
The continuous reliance on imported fuel not only leaves India vulnerable to price fluctuations and global economic volatility, but also heightens the risk of being affected by global supply chain disruptions, as was the case during the initial weeks of the pandemic. As long as India’s heavy reliance on energy imports continues, energy security hazards will always be lurking at the doorstep. Thus, India is in urgent need of making its power operation systems more flexible and self-reliant. Grid-scale energy storage allows for the adoption of scalable solutions to meet the country’s rising demand for energy.
India is currently home to 22 of the world’s 30 most polluted cities. It is an appalling statistic that is made worse by the lack of reliable electricity supply for some nearly 660 million people who continue to rely on solid biomass, mainly firewood that is used as cooking fuel.
In order to bring about serious change, the government is aiming to achieve 227 GW of renewable energy capacity, including 114 GW of solar capacity addition and 67 GW of wind power capacity, by 2022, more than its 175 GW target as per the Paris Agreement. The government aims to improve the emissions intensity of India’s economy by 40 per cent by 2030 from the 2005 level, above the 33-35 per cent target set out in its existing NDC. Further, the share of non-fossil fuels in electricity generation capacity must reach almost 60 per cent, well above the 40 per cent that India has pledged.
Grid-scale energy storage can help alleviate each and every one of these pain points as it has the potential to significantly boost India’s energy reserves. One of the most prominent technologies enabling large-scale grid energy storage today is battery energy storage system (BESS).
BESS is based on a deceivingly simple yet enormously beneficial technology. In essence, it is an electrochemical device that charges itself by collecting energy from a grid or a power plant, and then discharges this stored energy at a later time when there is a demand for power. To put it into perspective, 1 GWh (1,000 MWh) of battery capacity is sufficient enough to power 1 million homes for a duration of one hour and approximately 30,000 electric cars!
BESS can be especially crucial to help India integrate variable renewable energy capacity into the grid by 2030. Renewable energy sources such as wind and solar are intermittent in nature and even the sunniest places on earth do not receive sunlight 24×7. And when it comes to wind energy, excess of it is often generated in the middle of the night when there is low demand. Hence, there is a serious mismatch between renewable energy supply and electricity demand, which peaks during evening hours, when neither solar nor wind energy are produced rapidly.
BESS can intervene here, by charging and storing energy during periods when excess renewable energy is generated, and discharging during periods of very high demand. Furthermore, it helps in load levelling by facilitating more efficient coordination and disbursal of resources. BESS can also help meet the peak demand without the need for firing up gas plants.
As per the “Least-Cost Pathway for India’s Power System Investments through 2030” study conducted under the US-India Clean Energy Finance Task Force initiative, the conservative projections for BESS deployment by 2030 border 106 GWh. To achieve its goal of 500 GW of non-fossil capacity, predominantly through renewables, India will require 252 GWh (63 GW) of battery storage.
Thus, as India embarks on the road towards increased modernisation, decarbonisation and swift economic progress, grid-scale energy storage will play a crucial role in helping it realise its goals.