Renewables and the Grid

Blowing Hard or Shining Bright? Making Renewable Power Sustainable in India

Content from the Brookings Institution India Center is now archived. After seven years of an impactful partnership, as of September 11, 2020, Brookings India is now the Centre for Social and Economic Progress, an independent public policy institution based in India.

Chapter Summary:

This chapter discusses renewables integration in the context of the larger electricity system, especially the interconnected grid.  More than just the global challenges of location-specifics (concentration in often remote locations), variability, and economics, the Indian power system is different from that of the west.  Most importantly, the Indian grid peak demand is mostly in the evening, driven by lighting and household plus commercial use, and many renewables have limited if not zero output at this hour.  While storage technologies might help, this is some ways away from commercial viability.  Thus, for every kilowatt of solar capacity added, almost one kilowatt of something that can be despatched (called on demand) must be added.  There is also the challenge of a weaker grid, with no spinning reserves.  To address these, some of the recommendations span proper accounting, improved pricing (that doesn’t treat every kilowatt hour the same, rather adding factors for time of day, location, congestion, etc.), and the creation of ancillary services for the grid.  These are systems if not markets for non-traditional non-kilowatt-hour services such as frequency regulation and voltage support, which make the grid more stable, especially in light of fluctuations in both supply and demand.




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This chapter is a part of Brookings India’s edited book, “Blowing Hard or Shining Bright? Making Renewable Power Sustainable in India”  To view the preface and table of contents, click here.


RAHUL TONGIA is a Fellow (non-resident) with Brookings India and the Brookings Institution.  He is also an Adj. Professor at Carnegie Mellon University, where he was on the faculty for over dozen years, and is the Tech. Advisor to the India Smart Grid Task Force, Govt. of India.  His research is interdisciplinary, focusing on technology and policy for sustainable human development, with domain expertise in energy/electricity and IT/telecom.