Are East and Northeast India missing out on the renewable energy boom? | News | Eco Business

Meghalaya is not an isolated case of renewable energy potential being under-utilised. According to public sector companies: Northeastern Power Authority According to the National Energy and Power Corporation (NEEPCO), the estimated renewable energy potential in the Northeast region from solar, small hydro and bioenergy is around 65,837MWOf this, only 610MW was realised.

India is witnessing rapid growth in the renewable energy sector across the country, registering a three-fold increase over the last eight years, from 39,550 MW in March 2015 to 1,29,643 MW by June 2023. However, a contrasting picture is observed in the eastern and northeastern regions.

The eastern states of West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand and Odisha, which do not face as many topographical challenges as the eight northeastern states, have a cumulative installed capacity of just 1,797 MW. As of June 2023, the total capacity of these two regions combined is just 2,407 MW, which is just 1.85% of India’s total installed renewable energy capacity of 129,643 MW. These regions cover 20.7% of India’s total land area.

Policy experts say India’s eastern states’ abundant coal supplies and reliance on mining have slowed the transition to renewable energy, along with high land prices in the fertile plains of the lower Ganges River and high population densities, especially in West Bengal and Bihar.

Vibhuti GargJohn McClellan, director of South Asia at the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, a think tank, says eastern India has traditionally built coal-fired power plants, which were cheaper to generate electricity for itself and also to supply other states, while northeastern states have relied on gas and large hydroelectric projects to generate electricity.

“The cost of generating electricity from renewable energy has fallen significantly, so these states should also embrace the potential of renewable energy. Building new coal and gas-fired power plants comes with environmental challenges. More importantly, it is becoming increasingly difficult to finance new coal-fired power plants,” she said. Eco Business.

Garg believes that as consumption demand increases, expanding renewable energy capacity will help these states achieve the twin objective of meeting social and environmental goals while simultaneously increasing state GDP.

“These states have a unique advantage in supplementing variable renewable energy with a flexible source of generation called hydroelectric power, making them leaders in meeting their demand entirely with clean energy sources,” she said.

hindrance

according to Neshwin RodriguezElectricity Policy Analyst, Ember ClimateAccording to the UK Environment Institute, a UK-based environmental think tank, one of the major constraints in the North East is the availability of solar irradiation and wind power, which has a major impact on the feasibility of solar and wind farms.

Even if land were available, the relatively low solar radiation in these regions would result in lower electricity generation and, consequently, higher costs for the energy produced.

Rodrigues cited the example of solar and wind farms in western Indian states such as Rajasthan that can generate 25 to 40 percent more electricity than those in northeastern states.

Additionally, while the rough terrain contributes to higher infrastructure costs, Northeastern states may find it more “economical” to buy from states with higher generating capacity than to build their own infrastructure. Interstate transmission exemptions allow them to buy solar and wind power from other states without paying extra.

The nature of the Northeast’s regional energy demand curve is another issue, Rodriguez said, noting that peak demand typically occurs late at night when solar generation is at its lowest, creating an urgent need for dispatchable generation or storage capacity to effectively meet peak demand.

“Policymakers need to address these concerns and advance viable solutions to accelerate the transition to renewable energy sources in these regions,” he said.

These concerns were echoed in the MNREDA presentation, which stated that private developers are not interested in developing renewable energy in the region due to a lack of profitable power purchase agreements. Finding suitable land is also difficult as the state is earmarked for renewable energy development plans. 6th Schedule The Indian Constitution restricts outsiders from buying land in tribal areas such as Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram.

Speaking at the event, Nayseno Pesayee, Project Officer, Nagaland State New and Renewable Energy Department, said: Identified The challenges facing the state in accelerating the adoption of renewable energy include availability of land, access to capital and modern technology, high transportation costs, and lack of renewable energy policies.

Representative of the Government of Tripura Highlighting It said reaching some settlements requires walking 20 to 30 kilometres, and in many areas “grid supply is neither practical nor economically viable”, with electricity supplies “highly erratic and unreliable”.

Balawant Joshi, Founder and Managing Director, IDAM Infrastructure AdvisoryHe said due to the complexity, a hybrid system that leverages complementary generation of wind, solar and small hydropower would be more suitable for the region. He noted that the average wind speed in most eastern and northeastern states is less than five metres per second, except in a few isolated areas, resulting in higher tariffs.

However, while the Indian government does not believe that northeast India has significant wind energy potential, Joshi said the terrain may be suitable for small, distributed wind turbines.Similarly, for solar power, the potential varies primarily by location due to shading from hilly terrain.

“In the eastern and northeastern states, a combination of clean energy sources such as wind, solar and small hydro is best suited to develop microgrids and meet the distributed energy needs of consumers. It is important to develop hybrid systems that leverage complementary generation from wind, solar and small hydro,” he said.

Extensive research into the energy system needs to be carried out and an appropriate regulatory framework needs to be developed that does not impose financial burdens on consumers.

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