Ocean of Opportunities: Policy concerns and considerations for India’s marine energy sector

Policy concerns and considerations for India’s marine energy sector

Ocean energy or marine energy inclu­des all forms of renewable en­ergy de­­ri­ved from the ocean inclu­ding wa­ve, tidal, current, salinity-gradient energy and ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC). In August 2019, the Ministry of New and Rene­wable Energy (MNRE) clarified that power produced using various fo­rms of ocean energy is to be categorised un­der renewables. Accor­ding­ly, ocean en­er­gy became eligible for me­eting the non-solar renewable purchase obligations. The MNRE invited all en­tities willing to utilise ocean energy for the de­monstration of projects with proven te­ch­nologies under the Resear­ch, Design, De­velopment and De­mons­tra­tion programme. Later, in June 2020, the Kerala government and the MNRE plan­ned to explore the po­tential of wave energy generation off the Vizhinjam coast. A 150 kW pilot project was plann­ed near the international container terminal station. Oscilla Power was selected to provide the technology. If the technology is successful, the state government plans to set up a 1 MW wave energy plant at the same location. In October 2020, New and Renewable Ener­gy Deve­lop­­ment Cor­poration of Andhra Pradesh Limited was in talks with Israel-based Eco Wave Power for the installation of an experimental 100 kW wave energy plant. Further, the state repor­ted that Bha­rat Heavy Electricals Limited had proposed the development of a 1 MW wave energy plant in Visakhapatnam. The energy ge­ne­rated will be used for desalination and water purification in tribal areas.

In June 2021, the Ministry of Earth Scien­ces’ proposal on the “Deep Ocean Miss­ion” was approved. The mission consists of six major components. Of these, one is on energy and fresh water from the ocean, envisaging studies and detailed engineering design for offshore OTEC-powered de­sa­lination plants. A key policy concern has been the high initial capital cost of the project along with high transmission costs. In January 2018, Raj Kumar Singh, union mi­ni­ster for power and new and renewable energy, had informed in a written reply to Parliament that tidal energy cannot be harnessed on a commercial basis due to the high capital cost ranging from Rs 300 million to Rs 600 million per MW.

Policy implications for India

In a recent paper by Sankhadeep Chak­ra­­bo­rty, CERC; and Prasoom Dwivedi, Su­sh­­anta K. Chatterjee, Rajesh Gupta, Sch­ool of Business, University of Petro­leum & En­ergy Studies, in Energy Policy titled “Fac­tors to Promote Ocean Energy in In­dia”, the need to diversify India’s en­ergy mix by adding ocean energy has been highlighted. This is crucial given that the country’s energy demand is expected to rise to 4,000 TWh by 2030. To meet the re­newable energy targets by 2030, an additional 350 GW of renewable en­ergy capacity will be needed. This is a matter of concern as the existing renewable en­ergy so­ur­ces are land intensive and highly intermittent, with a low capacity utilisation factor (CUF). Thus, they are unable to support the baseload requir­e­ment. Ac­c­or­ding to the Centre for Science Techno­logy and Policy and the Nature Con­ser­vancy, to meet the 175 GW target by 2022, a land area equivalent to Hima­chal Pra­desh or Chhattis­garh will be needed. Simi­larly, to meet the 440 GW solar and wind target by 2030, land area more than the area of Rajasthan will be needed.

The paper mentions that the total theoretical ocean energy potential in India is 229-372.5 GW. It is distributed between OTEC (180-300 GW), wave (40-60 GW) and tidal (9-12.5 GW) energy. The curre­nt installed capacity of all these energy sources is zero. The paper also compares the levellised cost of energy (LCOE) of different techno­logies based on estimated capital costs. The capital cost of ocean, hydro, wind and solar energy per MW is Rs 212.22 million, Rs 75.46 million, Rs 40 million and Rs 30 million respectively. The total cost of these technologies per kWh, that is, LCOE plus balancing cost, is Rs 5.01, Rs 4.50, Rs 3.54 and Rs 3.46 respectively. While the balancing cost for wind and solar is Rs 1.10 per kWh, it is zero for hydro and ocean energy.

The paper highlights several benefits of ocean energy projects. Such projects offer two revenue streams – electricity generation and by-products like potable water, hydrogen, ammonia, methanol, concentrated carbon dioxide and oxygen-enriched air. In addition, the CUF of an ocean energy system is 90-92 per cent with a plant life of 30-35 years and even mo­re than 50 ye­ars in some cases. Other benefits include no land requirement and non-intermittency. Based on a survey, the top-ranked variables for creating policy for the sector in­clu­de grid connectivity, long-term policy continuity, attractive interest rate for capital, precise technical information about potential sites, generation-based incentives, and R&D support for domestic production of equipment components.

Going forward, with economies of scale and policy and regulatory support, it is po­ss­ible to achieve grid parity for ocean energy technologies in the foreseeable future.