ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Managing Transition to a Low-carbon Electricity Mix in India

Demand for electricity in India is growing due to the increase in GDP and quality of life along with structural changes in the energy sector leading to the increase in the percentage share of electricity in the total final consumption of energy. Decarbonisation of the energy sector is a necessity, and it should be achieved without negatively affecting economic growth of the country. It can be best managed by having a diverse portfolio of technologies as diversity provides supply security, resilience, and hedging against price fluctuations. Therefore, all low-carbon technologies—hydro, nuclear, solar, and wind—should be exploited and provided with a level playing field.

 

While working on this article, the author delivered a video talk to members of the Indian Nuclear Society on 20 February 2021. There was a lively discussion after the talk, and the author thanks the audience for their probing questions. The article has been enriched by questions from the audience.

Electricity is the most convenient form of energy considering ease of end use and is also the cleanest with regard to environmental impacts at the point of use. Its share in the global energy use has been increasing. It was zero before the advent of electricity, became 9.4% in 1973, and 19.7% in 2019 (IEA 2021: 34). It is set to rise further with the restructuring of the energy sector aimed at decarbonising it. Changes already underway and proposed include electrification of light surface transport, production of hydrogen by electrolysers followed by its conversion to appropriate derivatives for use in industry as a source of energy as well as feedstock, and as fuel in heavy transport, aviation and shipping. In this article, I start by explaining some important terms, and the process of planning for transition. I then move on to explain important characteristics of various technology options, and then outline an approach to manage transition and conclude the article with the observations that all low-carbon technologies should be exploited and provided with a level playing field.

At the outset, it is necessary to explain some terms from the field of energy studies. The total primary energy supply (TPES) in a country consists of production from natural energy resources plus imports and minus exports. Efficiency is typically 33% for conversion of thermal energy from fossil fuels (or from nuclear fission in a nuclear reactor) to electricity, though efforts are ongoing to improve it. Whatever is lost during the process of conversion to electricity does not figure in the total final consumption (TFC). For electricity generation from hydro, solar-photovoltaic (PV) and wind, no such conversion is involved. According to the convention endorsed by the International Energy Agency (IEA), the primary energy equivalent of nuclear electricity is calculated from the gross generation by assuming a 33% conversion efficiency, while electricity produced by non-thermal means (hydro, solar, wind, etc) is accounted in TPES without any conversion.

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Published On : 17th Jan, 2024

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