Greening deserts: India powers renewable energy ambitions

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Greening deserts in which India powers renewable energy ambitions with solar push could be a good inspiring move for all those countries of the MENA region. An initiative commensurate with this country’s Prime Minister’s words at the COP26.

Greening deserts: India powers renewable energy ambitions with solar push.

By AFPRELAXNEWS


The image above is of The arid state of Rajasthan, where Bhadla Park takes up an area almost the size of San Marino, sees 325 sunny days each year, making it perfectly placed for the solar power revolution, officials say. Image by Money Sharma/AFP via Getty Images

The arid state of Rajasthan sees 325 sunny days each year, making it perfectly placed for the solar power revolution


As camels munch on the fringes of Thar desert, an oasis of blue solar panels stretches further than the eye can see at Bhadla Park—a cornerstone of India’s bid to become a clean energy powerhouse. Currently, coal powers 70 percent of the nation’s electricity generation, but Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has pledged that by 2030, India will produce more energy through solar and other renewables than its entire grid now.

“First, India will increase its non-fossil energy capacity to 500 gigawatts… Second, by 2030, 50 percent of our energy requirements will come from renewable resources,” Modi told the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow.

The arid state of Rajasthan, where Bhadla Park takes up an area almost the size of San Marino, sees 325 sunny days each year, making it perfectly placed for the solar power revolution, officials say.

Once an expanse of desert, authorities have capitalised on the sparsely populated area, claiming minimal displacement of local communities. Today robots clean dust and sand off an estimated 10 million solar panels, while a few hundred humans monitor.

This pursuit of a greener future is fuelled by necessity.

India, home to 1.3 billion people and poised to overtake China as the most populous country, has a growing and voracious appetite for energy—but it is also on the frontline of climate change.

In the next two decades, it has to add a power system the size of Europe’s to meet demand for its swelling population, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), but it also has to tackle toxic air quality in its big cities.

“India is one of the most vulnerable countries in the world for climate change and that is why it has this big push on renewables to decarbonise the power sector, but also reduce air pollution,” Arunabha Ghosh, climate policy expert from the Council on Energy, Environment and Water, told AFP.

But experts say the country—the world’s third-biggest carbon emitter—is some way from reaching its green targets, with coal set to remain a key part of the energy mix in the coming years.

‘Huge transformation’

Although India’s green energy has increased five-fold in just over a decade to 100GW this year, the sector now needs to grow by the same proportion again to meet its 2030 goals.

“I believe this is more of an aspirational target… to show to the world that we are moving in the right direction,” Vinay Rustagi from renewable energy consultancy Bridge to India, told AFP.

“But it would be a big stretch and seems highly unrealistic, in view of various demand and supply challenges,” Rustagi said.

Proponents point to Bhadla Solar Park, one of the largest in the world, as an example of how innovation, technology, and public and private finance can drive swift change.

“We’ve huge chunks of land where there’s not a blade of grass. Now you don’t see the ground anymore. You just see solar panels. It’s such a huge transformation,” Subodh Agarwal, Rajasthan’s additional chief secretary for energy, told AFP.

Authorities are incentivising renewables firms to set up in the region, known as the “desert state”. Agarwal says demand has “accelerated” since 2019.

“It will be a different Rajasthan. It will be the solar state,” he said of the next decade.

If this surge is sustained then coal-fired power for electricity generation could peak by 2024, according to Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) projections.

Currently, solar power accounts for four percent of electricity generation. Before Modi’s announcement the IEA estimated solar and coal will converge at around 30 percent each by 2040 based on current policies.

India’s billionaires, including Asia’s two richest men Mukesh Ambani and Gautam Adani, are pledging huge investments, while Modi is setting up a renewables park the size of Singapore in his home state of Gujarat.

Show me the money

But reshaping an entire power network takes time and money, analysts warn.

Around 80 percent of India’s solar panels are still imported from China, the world’s biggest producer.

Gyanesh Chaudhary, chief executive of Indian panel manufacturer Vikram Solar, insisted there should be “more than 30” local firms like his already.

“That’s the kind of demand (and) ecosystem that India would essentially need… It should have happened sooner.”

Experts say domestic growth has been stymied by insufficient policies, funding shortages, cheaper panels from China, and infrastructure and energy storage issues.

“A lot of these plants are located at very long distances from power stations, so you have to think of linking them,” explained Apurba Mitra, World Resources Institute India’s climate policy chief.

Modi, who announced at COP26 that India would be carbon neutral by 2070, made it clear that such emissions-cutting pledges would require finance from rich, historic emitters.

“India expects developed countries to provide climate finance of $1 trillion at the earliest. Today it is necessary that as we track the progress made in climate mitigation, we should also track climate finance,” he told more than 120 leaders at the critical talks.

Empowering lives

Farmer and doctor Amit Singh’s three-acre family farmland in Rajasthan’s Bhaloji village was running out of water and hit by frequent power outages.

“I always saw the sun and its rays and wondered… why not harness it to generate electricity?,” he said.

Singh first installed rooftop panels at his small hospital which generated half of its energy needs.

He then invested family savings into a government-linked project on his land.

The mini-solar farm cost 35 million rupees ($450,000) and Singh sells electricity to the grid for 400,000 rupees a month.

“It’s the ultimate source of energy, which is otherwise going to waste… I feel I’m contributing to the developmental needs of my village,” he added.

Ghosh said it was vital to bring down costs.

“When a farmer is able to generate power from their solar plant near their farm and pump out water—we are then able to bring the energy transition closer to the people,” he added.

Pratibha Pai, the founder-director of Chirag Rural Development Foundation which has brought solar to more than 100,000 villagers, believes in clean energy’s transformative role.

She said: “We start with solar power… we end with safe drinking water, power for dark village roads, power for little rural schools which will hopefully script the story of a ‘big’ India.”

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How can we get hydrocarbon-rich nations to board the EV wagon?

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The World Economic Forum (WEF)’s article is a snapshot, at this conjecture, of the current vital decarbonisation awareness process throughout the world. In it, Ekaterina Miroshnik and Adam Sieminski ask How can we get hydrocarbon-rich nations to board the EV wagon? So here are the authors’ answers.

How can we get hydrocarbon-rich nations to board the EV wagon?

  • As the fourth largest source of carbon emissions, global transport must decarbonize.
  • Near-term reductions are most feasible in the light-duty vehicle sector.
  • Supply-side policies could be more effective in encouraging hydrocarbon-rich states to participate.

Hydrocarbon fuels account for more than 80% of commercially traded energy consumption. The abundance, convenience and affordability of fossil fuels have generated economic growth and made life better for billions of people. But the emissions and climate challenges associated with combustion are significant, and policy-makers around the world must limit the rise in global temperatures caused by greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Global transport is the fourth largest source of GHGs, producing about 23% of global energy-related CO2 emissions. About 73% of transport emissions come from road vehicles including cars and trucks, 22% from planes and ships, and 1% from trains. GHG emissions reduction in transport is expected to significantly contribute to meeting the Paris Agreement goals.

GHG emission reduction from long-range heavy-duty transportation (trucks, trains, ships, planes) will likely require substantial R&D breakthroughs and policy interventions, because green technologies for these vehicle segments are not yet commercial. The majority of near-term GHG emission reductions in the transport sector are projected to come from electrification of light-duty vehicles (LDVs) as well as buses, where such technology is already commercial.

Tailpipe subsidies

Governments globally have adopted various policies to support LDV electrification. Tax and other incentives to reduce the upfront price of electric cars are among the most commonly used policy levers. Using such a model, Norway, a hydrocarbon-rich economy, achieved the highest penetration of EVs in Europe. However, such measures can be expensive. The cost of reducing tailpipe CO2 through subsidies to EV alternatives can be as high as $1,000 per ton, significantly higher than other approaches to reducing carbon.

Demand-side measures can incentivize consumers, but also act to spur the automotive industry by helping the automakers recover their R&D investments on EVs and by allowing them to charge relatively higher prices for EVs. These incentives are part of governmental energy and environment policy, and industrial policies, designed to support local innovation and manufacturing.

Incentivizing the fossil fuel hubs

Demand-side policies are difficult to justify in countries without a local EV manufacturing industry, as is currently the case with countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Additionally, market barriers to EVs in the MENA region and in Eurasia are exacerbated by the policies that tend to favour hydrocarbon fuels use, reducing consumer incentives to adopt electric vehicles by lowering their operational cost advantage. Though government support for fossil fuels is phasing out over time in most MENA countries, economies in Eurasia have been taking very slow steps in this area.

An alternative approach for the regions with an abundance of fossil fuels, especially if the goal is long-term GHG emissions reduction that is also highly cost-effective, is to emphasize technology-neutral supply-side policies, such as fuel economy standards. Such policies are based on a combination of more stringent technology-neutral performance standards with credit-based mechanisms to incentivize the uptake of lower emission vehicles. Such technology-neutral standards offer the possibility of utilizing high-efficiency gasoline-electric hybrids or high-compression internal combustion engine vehicles as affordable interim solutions. In the longer term, there is the possibility of utilizing alternative technologies once they become available, including mobile carbon-capture technology.

Saudi Arabia, led by the Saudi Energy Efficiency Center, is among the first MENA countries to have adopted fuel economy standards. Outside the region, another example includes the recent revision in the European Union’s CO2 emission standards for LDVs. In such a case, the speed and extent of GHG emissions reduction depends on how stringent the implemented standards prove to be.

While an EV is emission-free on the road, it is useful to calculate the net carbon emissions associated with using one by considering the energy mix that provides the electricity to charge it. Ideally, the energy used to charge EVs should be generated from low-carbon or carbon-neutral sources, so that EV deployment results in overall net emissions lower than levels generated by internal combustion (ICE) engine vehicles.

Time-of-use pricing can also incentivize charging during preferred times to fully reap the intended benefits. Further, it is worth noting that the projected near-term growth in EV uptake is not expected to result in substantial increases in energy consumption or peak load.

Global CO2 emissions in transport by mode in the Sustainable Development Scenario, 2000-2070Image: IEA

Barriers to EV adoption

Countries possessing significant shares of renewable energy like hydro, solar and wind in their energy mix are better suited for EV deployment. For example, countries such as Georgia and Tajikistan (both have a substantial share of hydropower) have increased investments in electric urban transport recently.

This does not mean that countries with inexpensive and abundant fossil fuels cannot still adopt EVs and reduce emissions. Hydrocarbon-rich nations can shift their generation from marginal sources toward lower-emission alternatives. For example, Saudi Arabia has announced an ambitious target aiming to generate 50% of its power needs using renewable energy by 2030, with the remainder provided by natural gas. Renewable electricity costs as well as battery costs for EVs, have been falling sharply. If the trend continues, EVs may eventually be suitable for general use in emerging markets, including in the MENA and Eurasia regions.

However, a rapid increase in demand for the core battery materials (e.g. cobalt, lithium), combined with constrained supply, may lead to significant increases in the cost of raw materials. Such increases could increase battery prices and ultimately electric vehicles prices, which could act as a barrier to EV adoption in the short term.

Another barrier is the lack of widespread EV charging infrastructure. Going forward, it we must build roads with an eye to a future where a significant proportion of vehicles could be EVs. This means that at the planning and design phase, road corridors need to be equipped with high-capacity EV chargers within existing fueling stations. To do so, in many cases it might be important to upgrade the local electrical grids and substations to handle these fast chargers, which consume significant energy.

Challenges like air pollution in cities continue to worsen, which should lead electorates exercising more pressure on local authorities to advance green policies. Cities are likely to become the e-mobility change champions in Eurasia (e.g., in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan) with many embracing green development concepts and preparing green city action plans (GCAPs). GCAPs will focus on developing e-mobility strategies and prioritizing investments in electric transport (buses, trolleybuses, taxis, metro and light rail transport systems). The bottom-up pressure will encourage mayors and city councils to speed up electrification of transport, while greening electricity supply.

With the right policy mix and synergy between the power and transportation sectors, as well as supportive investment by multilateral development banks to eco-responsible governments, all countries – including those who most rely on fossil fuels – have an opportunity to reduce their transportation-based GHG emissions.

Ekaterina Miroshnik, Director; Head, Infrastructure, Eurasia, Sustainable Infrastructure Group, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and Adam Sieminski, President, King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center (KAPSARC)

Is 100% Renewable Energy Feasible For Entire Countries?

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science alert‘s article by Eva Hamrud asked a good question, that if there were 100% Renewable Energy Feasible For Entire Countries? The answer is literally in the question and is elaborated on.

The picture above is for illustration and is of pv magazine

Is 100% Renewable Energy Feasible For Entire Countries? Why, Yes Actually

In order to mitigate the global impacts of climate change, we need to dramatically reduce our carbon emissions, or even better – stop emitting completely. Many countries have recognized the need to switch from fossil fuels to renewable or ‘green’ energy in order to do this.

Whilst most of us are in homes that are powered from a mixture of sources from coal to wind, is it feasible that one day everything will be solely from renewable energy sources?

We asked 22 experts in renewable energy, engineering, and energy systems ‘Is having 100 percent renewable energy for a country feasible?’. Fifteen answered likely, here is what we found out.

What is renewable energy?

Little Dinosaur/Getty Images

Renewable energy is energy that can be quickly replenished. Oil and coal take millions of years to be made, so aren’t renewable. Nuclear power uses uranium, also non-renewable. But anything sourced by shorter-term forces in nature like the sun, moon or rain are renewable.

Geothermal, solar, hydro, wind, tidal and biomass are all forms of renewable energy as they will not run out in the near future. The capacity for renewable energy is enormous:

“The Earth receives 23000 TW of solar energy, while the global energy consumption is 16 TW. Therefore, [100 percent renewable energy] could be possible even if we capture only 0.07 percent of the solar energy” says Professor Xiao Yu Wu, an energy expert from MIT.

Technically, is 100 percent renewable energy feasible?

Iceland power near 100 percent of its electricity from renewable energy, using their abundant geothermal and hydro supplies. Renewable energy can also dominate electricity needs for more populous countries too.

About 80 percent of Brazil’s electricity needs for its 209million people come from renewable sources, biomass and hydro mostly. On average, however, renewables power ~29 percent of electricity around the world. So can renewables reach 100 percent for populous countries?

In 2017, Professor Mark Jacobson and colleagues from Stanford University published a scientific paper outlining a roadmap for 139 countries to transition to 100 percent renewable energy.

Prof Jacobson, an expert in renewable energy and climatology, describes how this paper, along with many other studies, make up a “body of work, carried out by over 85 authors and 35 peer-reviewers, [which] is further supported by an additional 30 peer-reviewed studies that find it is possible to match demand with supply with 100 percent or near-100 percent renewable energy systems.”

Such studies are based on models which predict future scenarios and test different power systems to see if they are able satisfy energy demands. As with any kind of modelling, it can be challenging to estimate all of the parameters correctly.

Dr Mark Delucchi, an expert in energy systems and economics from California University, highlights some of these complexities, “the question of feasibility boils down to a few basic kinds of issues: how we model demand-side behavior in the face of radically different energy systems; how we quantify the costs and performance of existing or near-future energy technologies; and how we handle impacts that are not easily quantified in dollars (e.g., risks of nuclear power)”.

Other experts disagree with the idea that renewables could reach 100 percent for most countries. Benjamin Heard, from the University of Adelaide, with colleagues published a paper reviewing the feasibility of 100 percent renewable electricity systems.

He argues that there is a heavy reliance on hydro and biomass sources – while most countries don’t have access to these, so would be reliant on sources like solar, wind, and storage. In those circumstances, it’s highly unlikely for renewables to power 100 percent of the electricity supply he says.

What are the challenges with 100 percent renewable energy?

Some experts highlighted concerns about reliability.

“Every once in a while, you see energy shortages in renewables production. This is because the wind and solar just have low production days in energy…If you miss a day of production in renewables you have to fire up the gas generators to fill in the demand” says Dr Eugene Preston, an expert in renewable energy from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers in the USA.

Battery and energy storage solutions are one option to help with this in the future.

Yet it seems the barriers to moving towards 100 percent renewable energy are more economic and political some experts say. 

“Feasible in terms of what? If it’s feasibility in terms of technology, it seems likely… If it’s feasibility in terms of the necessary policy, financing, and institutional drivers, it is less likely, unless current political, economic, and institutional/governance systems are adequately perturbed” says Professor Laurence Delina, an expert in renewable energy from Boston University.

Takeaway

Despite some debate, most experts agreed that 100 percent renewable energy was feasible. Is it economically or politically feasible – that’s a very different question.

Article based on 22 experts answers from this question: Is having 100 percent renewable energy for a country feasible?

This expert response was published in partnership with independent fact-checking platform Metafact.io.

Why Should You Consider Solar Panels?

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Solar Panels are an effective and low-maintenance way to generate your own renewable energy. Here’s why you should consider installing them on your roof!

Why Should You Consider Solar Panels?

With energy prices rising to pre-pandemic levels, many of us have noticed that our energy bills have begun to rise in recent weeks. And if you’ve been with the same energy supplier for a long time, you’re likely on a standard variable tariff. Which means that if your energy costs haven’t increased in recent weeks, they’re likely to in the near future.

Now’s the perfect time to consider investing in photovoltaic (PV) solar panels. Today’s investment could result in decades of savings, add value to your home, and help you to drastically reduce your household’s carbon footprint. Solar power is on the rise in the MENA region, with investment reaching $1 trillion in the 2019-23 period in the region. Here we’ll look at some of the reasons why you should consider installing them on your roof.

Can solar panels really save me money?

Absolutely! Switch-Plan estimates that by installing solar panels, you can save anywhere from £85-£200 per year GBP with a full solar array. Depending on the size of your solar array and the daylight hours in your region, your solar array could become profitable in less than 10 years. If you’re a DIY enthusiast, you may be able to install your own solar panels, drastically reducing your costs.

As the solar market in the area grows, and becomes more competitive, households have more options than ever.

Don’t solar panels only work on sunny days?

The MENA region is known for its hot and sunny climate. But solar panels still work on cloudy, rainy and overcast days. As long as the sun shines in the sky, your PV solar panels will generate energy for your home.

Want to generate energy through the night as well? Solar arrays can be combined with domestic wind turbines to create hybrid systems that generate energy through the day and night.

Would you like your energy company to pay you?

Around 50% of the energy generated by your solar panels throughout the day is fed back into the grid. The good news is that your energy companies can pay you for this via Feed in Tariffs. These pay a flat rate per kWh of energy generated which can further offset the cost of the grid energy you use.

You’ve paid your energy company enough over the years. Isn’t it time they started paying you?

Combine energy tariffs with Feed In Tariffs to optimise savings

It’s important to note that you don’t have to use the same company for your energy tariff and your Feed in Tariff. By comparing energy plans and FiTs from different companies, you can optimise your savings, offsetting the cost of your installation and helping it to become profitable faster. All while helping to reduce the MENA region’s reliance on fossil fuels and pave the way for a renewable future.

Qatar tops MENA region in WEF’s Energy Transition Index 2021

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Gulf Times of today informs that Qatar tops the MENA region in World Economic Forum’s Energy Transition Index 2021. It could be treated at face value not as a self-indulging pat in the back but rather as a realistic assessment of the situation of the small peninsula endowed with the ginormous reserves of Gas that is opting for a Green Energy strategy. But would this ‘Green’ Energy Strategy work for Qatar? Let us see what Pratap John has to say.

The picture above is for illustration and is of Consultancy-me.com

Qatar tops MENA region in WEF’s Energy Transition Index 2021

Qatar also leads the global rankings on the economic development and growth component of the ETI, supported by the strong role played by domestic energy sector in the economy

Qatar has topped the Middle East and North Africa region, securing 53rd rank in WEF’s Energy Transition Index 2021.

Qatar also leads the global rankings on the economic development and growth component of the ETI, supported by the strong role played by domestic energy sector in the economy.

However, this also poses challenges that are common to all resource rich countries. As more and more countries embark on their net zero journeys, the demand for medium term demand for fossil fuels is expected to decline, which might create economic growth challenges for resource dependent countries. The dip in oil and gas demand, and resulting price volatilities, during the Covid-19 pandemic are a cogent reminder of the need to diversify the economy to limit exposure to fossil fuels.

Creating a robust enabling environment, backed by a stable long-term roadmap, strong political commitment, investments in low carbon energy value chain, and supporting reskilling of labour, will be critical in this process. Moreover, Qatar can leverage the existing resource base and legacy infrastructure to create opportunities in the new energy landscape – for example by investing in capacity to localise processing and manufacturing of higher value add products in the fossil fuel value chain, and by supporting innovation and infrastructure development for green hydrogen.

The United Arab Emirates secured itself an impressive global top ten rank in 12 indicators of the report Fostering Effective Energy Transition 2021, which was released by the World Economic Forum.

In its 10th edition, the report, published in collaboration with Accenture, believes that as countries continue their progress in transitioning to clean energy, it is critical to root the transition in economic, political and social practices to ensure progress is irreversible.

The report draws on insights from the Energy Transition Index (ETI) 2021, which benchmarks 115 countries on the current performance of their energy systems across the three dimensions of the energy triangle: economic development and growth, environmental sustainability, and energy security and access indicators – and their readiness to transition to secure, sustainable, affordable, and inclusive energy systems.

This year’s report uses a revised ETI methodology, which takes into account recent changes in the global energy landscape and the increasing urgency of climate change action.

Globally, Sweden (1) leads the ETI for the fourth consecutive year, followed by Norway (2) and Denmark (3).

Regionally, Qatar ranks first, followed by the UAE and Morocco, while Saudi Arabia remains 8th among its Arab neighbours.

Overall, scores in the Middle East and North Africa fell last year but the overall trajectory remains moderately positive. Heavy reliance on oil revenue continues to present challenges to sustainable growth. Diversification of the economy and the energy system can improve prospects. Challenges remain in access and security, with a heavy concentration in primary energy sources.

Several countries in the region have set out ambitious renewables targets for 2030.

For this region, WEF noted the coming decade presents opportunities to invest in an energy transition that can unlock significant cross-system benefits.

“As we enter into the decade of action and delivery on climate change, the focus must also encompass speed and resilience of the transition. With the energy transition moving beyond the low hanging fruit, sustained incremental progress will be more challenging due to the evolving landscape of risks to the energy transition,” said Roberto Bocca, head (Energy and Materials) at the World Economic Forum.

The results for 2021 show that 92 out of 115 countries tracked on the ETI increased their aggregate score over the past 10 years, which affirms the positive direction and steady momentum of the global energy transition.

Strong improvements were made on the Environmental Sustainability and Energy Access and Security dimensions. Eight out of the 10 largest economies have pledged net-zero goals by mid-century. The annual global investment in the energy transition surpassed $500bn for the first time in 2020, despite the pandemic.

The number of people without access to electricity has declined to less than 800mn, compared to 1.2bn people 10 years ago (2010).

Increasing renewable energy capacity has in particular helped energy importing countries achieve simultaneous gains on environmental sustainability and energy security.

However, the results also show that only 10% of the countries were able to make steady and consistent gains in their aggregate ETI score over the past decade.

“A resilient and just energy transition that delivers sustainable, timely results will require systemwide transformation, including reimagining how we live and work, power our economies and produce and consume materials,” said Muqsit Ashraf, the senior managing director who leads Accenture’s energy practice.

Pratap John