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.
Brookings India organised a Workshop in New Delhi on September 29, 2015, on the holistic needs and challenges of Electricity and Carbon, titled “Growing Coal, Growing RE (Renewable Energy), DisCom Realities, and Carbon Implications”. H’ble Minister for Power, New Renewables, and Coal Piyush Goyal Delivered a Valedictory Keynote, answering a number of questions from the prior discussions, as well as sharing the government’s plans over the coming years, especially related to coal output, washing coal, and revamping the DisComs towards viability. This was preceded by a panel discussion featuring Secy. MNRE, Upendra Tripathy, CEO of Tata Power (Delhi Distribution Ltd.), Praveer Sinha, and former CMD of Coal India Ltd., Partha Bhattacharyya.
Chaired by Brookings Chairman, Vikram Singh Mehta, the event was kicked off by a presentation by Brookings Fellow Dr. Rahul Tongia, who shared a few findings from ongoing research. Specifically, there were several points for discussion, including:
- If both coal and RE grow as projected, how will this be absorbed, both financially and operationally (by the DisComs)? The demand peak (in the evening) is not coincident with RE supply;
- Even with India’s bold and unprecedented RE push, the level of energy decarbonisation (per annum) may fall short of ideal goals (geared around a 2 degree rise in temperature). Thus, India is doing all (if not more) than can be asked of it, and anything more to be done would require further global support. The opening presentation concluded with recommendations for discussion ranging from the well-known (strengthen the grid) to suggestions to revamp the entire concept of RPO (renewable portfolio obligations) to include not just supply of RE, but also complementary and ancillary services that enable RE (such as storage, peakers, ramping), in essence thinking of the RE ecosystem.
Secy. Tripathy shared a few of the new solutions for helping RE, including treating it as a priority lending sector and allowing home loans/mortgages to include the PV panels (helping the 40 GW of roof-top solar projected). Innovation and R&D was a common thread for discussion, and Secy. Tripathy pointed out that even with a shift between solar power and RE, the storage time is only a few hours. Partha Bhattacharyya shared insights into growing coal, future needs, and observed that coal remains a workhorse for India, in part because it is still the cheapest form of power available to utilities in the short term, especially suited for baseload needs. Praveer Sinha talked of DisCom health, and issues around PPAs which lead to lock-in when choosing power available from different sources. The irony is we have simultaneous surplus of power (on the power exchanges – often at low prices) as well as load-shedding. Ultimately, coal vs. RE isn’t the issue – both can be handled if the DisComs are in good health.
Joining the discussions were past and present leaders across industry, the public sector, and government, including former secretaries of power and coal, in addition to CMDs of Coal India, and utility MDs (from State Discoms) across India.