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The 4D grid for India’s transition to sustainable energy

Even as India’s energy use has doubled since 2000, nearly 80% of the demand of the world’s third-largest power consumer is still being met by conventional sources like coal and oil. With the Government determined to accelerate the switch to renewable energy to achieve its climate goals, the Indian power sector is witnessing an unprecedented technology-led transition over the past two-three years. While the Government’s focus on the National Infrastructure Pipeline (NIP) through Gati Shakti acknowledges the power sector as a crucial growth engine for industry and the economy, the sector itself is committed to India’s COP26 goals of achieving net-zero by 2070, with the addition of 500 GW renewable energy by 2030 and saving one gigatonne CO2 per year. The immediate target is for renewables to outgrow coal by 2024 as well as to implement sustainable measures to cut carbon emissions. Such a paradigm shift to transition to these new energy sources will generate Demand Growth by leveraging Decarbonization, Digitalization, and Decentralization. 

Dedicated Decarbonization

New and emerging technologies in the power generation, transmission, and distribution segments are enabling the sector’s efforts to cut emissions. For instance, CO2 emissions can be significantly reduced by using gas to power the boiler of a conventional steam power plant instead of burning coal. Converting old steam power plants into highly efficient combined-cycle plants can achieve consistent climate stabilization objectives for the next 50–100 years. This technology can be applied as bridging technology to support the move towards renewables. Comprehensive solutions like innovative gas turbines, hydrogen production via PEM electrolysers, and the Omnivise Hybrid Control solution for micro-grids and hybrid power plants, providing end-to-end support to the hydrogen value chain are also contributing significantly to decarbonization. This technology can be applied to store energy and thus support power shift during the day, while sharply reducing carbon emissions. Meanwhile, H₂ gas turbines can now produce power from low-carbon fuels such as hydrogen, leveraging natural gas and infrastructure resources, and minimizing CO₂ emissions.

Digital Dividend 

Digitalization empowers the power sector with operational data and safety records, allowing operators to manage uncertainties, reduce risks and conduct prevention planning. With digitalization transforming plant data into valuable insights, plant managers can now adopt preventive measures and take real-time actions with automated systems. The internet of energy for the grids of the future is providing operational data of intelligent assets that can be analyzed and fixed in real-time. Such digitally enabled transmission products, systems, and solutions can function independently, be integrated into an enterprise’s network, or interoperate with the help of cloud technology. The digitalization initiatives span the comprehensive portfolio of oil and gas, utilities, independent power producers, engineering, procurement, and construction companies (EPCs), transmission system operators as well as industrial companies in sectors such as mining and chemicals. Digitalization supports the entire energy value chain, enabling it through accelerated collaboration and the strong collective know-how of people.

Decentralized by Design

In terms of energy security, industries, commercial areas, large buildings, and municipalities face three key challenges – costs, security of supply, and CO2 reduction. With decentralized and locally distributed energy solutions, these challenges can be turned into long-term calculable variables across businesses and industrial sectors. The solution utilizes an optimised mix of distributed energy resources (DER) such as renewable energy, combined heating and power stations, and storage systems, supported by sophisticated energy management. Towards this, the new generation of Battery Energy Storage Systems (BESS) serves as an ideal backup, enhancing power generation capabilities and providing instantaneous, reliable, and sustainable energy, while integrating variable renewable energy into large power grids. Similarly, Electric Thermal Energy Storage (ETES) can independently store surplus energy in the form of heat, which can be used for various applications like re-electrification, process heat, and others. These benefits can be added to an existing heat cycle, converting a thermal power plant into a storage plant, or even running a power plant autonomously in decentralized mode.

Demand Growth

Providing access to power to every Indian will entail new investments for capacity expansion as well as efficient grid management. Moreover, as India’s economy continues on the post-pandemic recovery path, the demand for sustainable, reliable, and affordable energy is also rising incrementally. With India’s power requirement estimated to double by 2040 to 1,123 MTOE, the country’s power sector is duly cognizant of the challenges ahead in effectively meeting the surging demand. Notably, much of the increased power production will come from renewables. On the supply side, this will necessitate improvement of operational efficiencies by power distribution companies (Revamped Distribution Sector Scheme). These developments will require capacity expansion, grid stability as well as induction of new technologies. Robust demand growth through harnessing technologies will pave the way for providing sustainable, reliable, and affordable energy to all Indians. 

Partners in Progress

The benefits of the initial efforts towards decarbonization, digitalization, decentralization, and demand growth will ensure the increased adoption of cutting-edge technologies and sustainable approaches. The need of the hour for technology partners is to optimise asset performance through digitalization, improve the supply chain with additive manufacturing, protect assets through cyber-security, and set up application centers for co-creation and collaboration. With the government’s clear vision and the country’s resources to make quality power available within the next 10 years, India is not only on course for a seamless transition to sustainable energy, but also makes a notable contribution to the global sustainability goals.



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Views expressed above are the author’s own.



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