cop26: OPINION: commitments of the electricity sector at COP26

(AP Photo / Altaf Qadri)

New Delhi: India’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are 2.5 GtCO2 per year, which is very low compared to the highest emitting countries, such as the United States (10 GtCO2 per year ) and China (5 GtCO2 per year). However, it is commendable that at the recent United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, India set itself ambitious targets to reduce carbon emissions from its energy sector. This indicates that India recognizes the seriousness and scale of the potential challenges associated with climate change from a future perspective. It is hoped that India’s decisions will spur heavily polluting developed countries to take more effective action.

India is committed to reducing 1 Gt of carbon emissions compared to projected emissions (business-as-usual scenario) by 2030. India’s current CO2 emissions are 2.88 GtCO2 per year. India’s emissions are expected to be around 4.48 GtCO2 by 2030. Therefore, we are committed to limiting our annual emissions to 3.48 GtCO2 by 2030, from the energy, transportation and transportation sectors. , industry and other polluting sectors.

The biggest challenge in achieving this is that not all residents, especially in rural and remote areas of India, have access to electricity. Significant transformations will have to take place in the Indian electricity sector this decade for 100% accessibility. Developments in energy access, clean energy production and energy quality must be undertaken, in parallel with the committed objectives of reducing emissions from the electricity sector. These developments must be sustainable and include all factors. There are two other very ambitious goals to achieve, including:

1. Achieve 500 GW of non-fossil fuel energy capacity by 2030, and
2. Meet 50% of our energy needs from renewable energy sources (RE) by 2030.

The goal of providing 50% of energy needs from renewable energy sources is very difficult: India will need to increase its estimated installed renewable energy capacity to around 450-700 GW. It requires a profound transformation and reinvention of our power system infrastructure. Many European countries, such as Germany and the UK, are working on upgrading their power grid infrastructure to accommodate high RE generation. This is implemented through an optimal use of their renewable resources, better forecasting of renewable energies and real-time management of high-rise hydroelectric plants. These countries are also seeking to phase out their coal-based energy capacities in due course.

Regarding the reduction of coal-fired power generation, India is committed to gradually reducing coal-fired power generation and eliminating insufficient fuel subsidies. Reducing carbon emissions from thermal power plants is driven by carbon markets. An international carbon market was established under the Kyoto Protocol, which suggested that any reduction in emissions above targets would be converted into carbon credits. These credits could then be sold to another country to help them achieve their goals.
At present, India has passed 100 GW of total RE capacity development. As a result, it has accumulated significant carbon credits through developments in its energy sector.

The Kyoto Protocol having expired in 2020, the exchange of these credits remains unclear. Many developed countries have also abandoned their mid-term target, symbolizing their reluctance to honor their commitments and provide financial support to India for the required energy transformation. However, according to the discussions at COP26, India can trade its available carbon credits to meet NDC (Nationally Determined Contributions) targets.

India has pledged to reach net zero by 2070, once again highlighting the need for significant developments in new non-fossil power plants. The addition of new power capacity will have to consider the replacement of existing fossil fuel plants and meet the additional demand for electricity expected by 2070. It is expected that by 2050, the total energy consumption of India becomes the second highest in the world with more than 120 quadrillion Btu per year. —More than 3 times more than current energy consumption.

NOTICE: The electricity sector's commitments at COP26 - How to achieve them
India’s existing installed fossil energy capacity of 235 GW and planned heat capacity must be phased out in a systematically planned manner to achieve net zero. This gradually phased out production capacity, as well as the demand for additional electricity, will have to be balanced by the installation of significantly higher renewable energy and large-scale hydropower capacities. The high RE generation scenarios will pose other new challenges related to electrical intermittency and grid balancing. India’s electricity grid must be transformed accordingly with the addition of sufficient energy storage solutions (such as large-scale battery storage and pumped hydraulic storage) and ancillary services. As for infrastructure, remote network access to each household is essential. A thorough assessment of grid reliability should be carried out across the national grid at national and regional levels, while upgrading the power system is essential, if necessary. These measures and policies will lead to an easy path to achieving the goal of net zero by 2070 without compromising the development of India’s electricity sector, the benefits for consumers and the interests of stakeholders.

[This piece was authored by Aniket Baregama and Abhishek Nath. They work in the area of Energy and Power at the Center for Study of Science, Technology and Policy, a research-based think tank]

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