Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Balanced Energy Mix

India’s energy situation was precarious. Energy experts estimated that about 300 million people in India had no access to electricity, and that the demand for energy in the country was consistently outstripping the supply. Energy authorities feared for the worst as electricity requirement during months of peak consumption was expected to exploit the country’s thin energy capacity.

Recognizing the situation’s need for an urgent resolution, the country has ventured into ambitious renewable energy generation projects that could potentially instill balance and reliability to India’s mix of energy sources. Now, India is said to have the fifth-largest power generation portfolio and is touted to be the fifth largest wind energy producer in the world. Power generation from renewable sources in the country is on the rise. In 2013, the share of renewable power in the country’s total energy mix accounted for 12.3%, up from 7.8% in 2012. Wind power accounts for 68% of the aforementioned percentage, with an installed capacity of 19.1 GW. India has also entered into small hydropower, biomass and solar energy generation.

Drivers for growth of renewable energy generation
India’s economy is now enjoying an upturn, with growth rates predicted to peak at 6% in the coming years. With the expanding economy come the growth in urbanization and the rise in per capita energy consumption. As electricity requirements in the country increases, expenses from importing fossil fuel for power generation proportionally spikes. In this light, government authorities in India deemed to encourage the country’s transition from fossil-based energy options to renewable sources through offering various incentives, such as tax holidays and generation-based incentives (GBIs).
When technologies were gradually rolled out, renewable energy proved to be increasingly cost-competitive compared to fossil-based power. Renewable sources were also considered to be highly scalable and distributed, thus alternative power generation became justifiable in the electrification of remote areas, which may have deficiency in power grid and road infrastructure.

With renewable energy generation becoming an attractive endeavor for foreign and local investors alike, India’s government created a liberal environment for investment in renewable energy projects.

Some challenges ahead
India is now among the world leaders in renewable energy generation. While the process holds much potential, there are some observed challenges that are yet to be resolved by the country.

Experts on the ground reveal that one of the obstacles to the proliferation of renewable energy facilities, particularly that of wind and solar, is the perceived insufficiency in the strict employment of renewable purchase obligations (RPOs), which is said to be limiting the demand for power from renewable energy sources. Constraints in transmission infrastructure is also a salient hindrance, because, owing to this, only a limited amount of generated power reaches the grid. Economic factors, like a weak Indian Rupee and delays in payment, also put pressure on project financing and investor interest, respectively.

Perhaps the most striking disadvantage of utilizing renewable energy sources, say experts, is their unpredictability and apparent instability. As wind or solar power generation facilities depend on nature to run, it may be difficult to forecast its performance, which is of particular importance in critical applications. While highly sophisticated prediction equipment is available, it cannot be 100% reliable, and weather disturbances or aberrations can still happen. In cases when there is not enough natural “fuel” to run renewable generation facilities, the areas to which they supply could suffer from load shedding or rolling blackouts. Additionally, in peak summer months or in the coldest winter months when climate control systems are usually in full blast, renewable energy plants can potentially be overwhelmed by the demand if not enough impetus enters the systems.

The need for an energy “safety net”
For a burgeoning country like India, the solution to sustaining economic growth and energy viability may not be simply ascribed to one single source of power. It has been documented that the country’s existing traditional permanent power infrastructure may encounter some difficulties in supporting India’s power demands in a variety of contexts, hence the effort that the country is exerting to make inroads into renewable energy generation. While the new technologies may hold water, total immersion into the new paradigm may take time, as shown by the range of legislative and economic considerations that still present themselves as impediments to alternative energy growth. Renewable technologies are on their way to progress and advancement, as research and development endeavors are well encouraged by the Indian powers that be. Improvement, however, may not happen overnight, and as it unravels, renewable energy facilities may find merit it taking in support from stable and tested technologies, like rental power systems.

Rental generators may be able to supplement the existing power generated by traditional and renewable sources of energy. They can act as an energy “safety net”, preventing electricity levels from falling beyond what is acceptable and productive. These rental generator sets are equipped with state-of-the-art fast-start systems that allows them to supply the needed power at the shortest possible time, in cases of instability from other sources of electricity.

Interim energy technologies also represents a cost-effective immediate solution to power supply shortages, as they do not require sizable initial capital to be acquired. India, as a country looking to increase its expenditure in renewable sources in years to come, may find benefit in this attribute, as renting power generators would not entail denting a country’s budget or restructuring financial resources allocated to other services.

Because they are modular and flexible, temporary generators can also be installed where renewable energy facilities find most appropriate applications. Rental power systems can be easily delivered from any point on Earth to another and, owing to its easy, plug-and-play configuration, can be started in as short as few days.

With rental power plants on board, the perceived limitations of traditional and renewable energy sources can be overcome, and the power can be bridged until the other sources regain their stability. In this context, temporary power plants find their maximum benefit in being used as supplementary or back-up power while permanent energy facilities are being constructed or refurbished, or when alternative energy sources are being advanced and improved.

The key to power is balance
Having a balanced energy mix may be the key to a sustained economic, political and social stability. As countries like India enjoy an economic upturn, growth industries, such as manufacturing, utilities and oil & gas, should be expected to consume large sums of energy. With limited resources, it may be difficult for a country to rein in energy consumption at the expense of economic opportunities. What developing countries need are support systems – like what rental power plants are for energy sustainability. As India maps its road to energy stability, temporary electricity generation facilities are available to support the country’s existing infrastructure to produce continuous and reliable electricity needed to power the country’s future.

*The foregoing article is based on what was originally published in the September 2014 issue of EPC&I magazine, Northern Lights Communications, India.*


Robert Bagatsing
Altaaqa Global
Tel: +971 56 1749505

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