Emerging technologies changing India’s energy landscape, ET EnergyWorld


As the climate crisis looms large, the race to restore a clean environment has picked up globally. As India’s energy demand continues to be on the upswing, its singular reliance on coal-based energy would make it unviable in the coming times. The Government of India, as well as the power sector, have increased their intensity to look for alternatives to coal-based energy and reduce the economy’s reliance on coal.

With India’s pledge to build renewable energy capacity up to 500GW by 2030, emerging technologies in energy has, therefore become an exciting space. The Government of India is taking long strides in adding clean energy, such as solar and wind. The number of new solar and wind generation units far outnumber the number of new coal energy generation units. Alternative energy would, thus, become one of the top growth sectors in the coming times.

From storage to new energy: India’s push towards emerging energy technologies

India still relies largely on traditional energy sources to meet its energy demand. In fact, some estimates peg the reliance on fossil-based energy, including coal, gas, oil and lignite at more than 60% of the country’s energy supply. The space of non-fossil fuel alternatives, including solar, wind, bio, waste and nuclear, thus have great potential to grow in the coming times. In addition, the energy storage space in India needs modernization because it needs to keep up with energy generation.

The Government of India launched an initiative called “Mission on Advanced and High-Impact Research (MAHIR)” to further research on emerging technologies in the power sector. The government envisions these new power technologies to power India’s future economic growth.

Prolific rise in energy demand in the coming years

Modernization comes at a cost. Developments in all forms have placed a burden on the energy sector like never before. India’s total energy demand by 2030 would rise to more than 820GWs, which is four times the current demand. Despite the constant growth in demand, transmission and distribution losses are causing a large drain on the energy sector. According to estimates, approximately 20% of the energy produced is lost during transmission and distribution, which is twice the global average.

Various emerging fields of technological advances, including renewables, energy storage, battery technology, hydrogen power and digital energy technology have picked up in recent times. We explore some of these emerging technologies which are changing the energy landscape in India.

Energy storage: One of India’s largest private sector power players is building a giga-scale intermittent energy storage facility in Gujarat. The private sector conglomerate also recently invested $50 million in an American renewable energy storage technology which relies on liquid metal grid and could potentially lower production costs by half compared to lithium-ion batteries. Such storage technologies would prove critical in not just meeting future demand, but also in reducing transmission and distribution losses. Many states are also planning large scale grid storage facilities. Financial institutions are also planning lines of credit to upstream this technology.

Green hydrogen: India’s national target is to produce up to 5 million tonne of green hydrogen by 2030. Recently a German energy firm entered a pact with an Indian alternative fuel company to manufacture hydrogen and methanol fuel cells in India. They would manufacture a type of hydrogen-based fuel cell, which is a modular and emission free solution which would gradually replace diesel-based generators and could also be used in a variety of other industrial applications. Government of India has launched Green Hydrogen Mission and is planning successive initiatives to foster growth of green hydrogen.

Geothermal power: Geothermal power utilizes the heat trapped inside the Earth’s core to produce energy. India’s state-run oil and natural gas exploration company have embarked on building capacity to tap geothermal energy at a remote location in Ladakh. This is India’s first geothermal project and the country will join a small group of countries utilizing geothermal energy at an industrial scale.

Emerging battery technologies: Lithium-ion battery technology is causing a huge strain on global lithium reserves. Research on alternatives to lithium-ion battery technology is growing. With the demand for electric vehicles expected to grow at a CAGR of 49 percent, one may expect EV sales to cross 17 million by 2030. Several Indian start-ups are engaged in emerging technology research and development to make EV batteries become viable alternatives to petrol, diesel and CNG. A few of these include battery intelligence software to prolong battery life, development of aluminium fuel cells, and battery lifecycle solutions which incorporate first life, second life and end of life extraction. A Mumbai-based start-up has patented a technology offering longer lifecycles of lithium-ion batteries and 100% recharging in 15 minutes. As the research and development of energy efficient batteries continue to grow, they would become crucial in managing the growing energy demand of the EV sector in the coming times.

While these are some examples, the space of emerging energy technologies has heated up and new developments continue to emerge every day. With its exponential growth prospects in the coming decades, we will continue to see an explosion of new technologies and concepts in energy efficiency, storage, production and distribution.

[This piece was written exclusively for ETEnergyworld by Somesh Kumar, Partner & Leader – Power, EY India]

  • Published On Jun 30, 2023 at 01:02 PM IST

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