Renewable Energy Integration Challenges and Solutions in Transmission and Distribution

Simarpreet Singh, Executive Director, Hartek Group
Simarpreet Singh, Executive Director, Hartek Group

By Simarpreet Singh, Executive Director, Hartek Group

Since ancient times, fossil fuels have been used to generate electricity in almost every sector. However, this reliance on fossil fuels has led to increased greenhouse gas levels, causing significant changes in the climate condition. According to a UN report, fossil fuels contribute to more than 75 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions and nearly 90 per cent of total carbon dioxide emissions. Therefore, addressing these challenges as part of a sustainable development strategy for electricity generation has become crucial. In this context, renewable energy integration has surfaced as a valuable tool for mitigating the effects of climate change. Various countries, including India, are making substantial efforts to incorporate renewable energy into their transmission and distribution systems to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and combat climate change.

According to National Investment Promotion and Facilitation Agency, India is the third largest energy-consuming country globally and stands at the fourth position in renewable energy installed capacity (including large hydro). Moreover, the country is set to target a significant milestone, supported by 125 GW of renewable energy capacity, by producing five million tonnes of green hydrogen. However, despite India’s rapid economic progress, the energy sector still requires modification. The country’s strong economic growth has increased energy demand, necessitating additional energy sources to meet this demand. At the same time, India faces the challenge of sustainable development as its population grows and the environment deteriorates. So, let’s delve into the most pressing concerns and potential solutions related to the integration of renewable energy.

Renewable Energy Integration: Challenges and Potential Solutions

Financial viability: Access to finance has always been challenging for the growth of clean energy resources. This is where the high initial investment and perceived risks associated with renewable energy projects have forced investors to take a back seat, rendering projects financially unviable. Thus, in order to address this issue, upgrading and modernizing the grid infrastructure by strengthening transmission and distribution networks has become crucial. In addition, implementing an energy storage strategy has emerged as a critical aspect for managing variations and ensuring power availability, particularly in large-scale renewable energy plants. Another potential solution to reduce financial obstacles is to offer income tax breaks to individuals who adopt renewable energy applications.

Authentic forecasting: Forecasting is a critical aspect in power management systems for ensuring grid system stability and reliability. However, among other issues, forecasting electricity generation is also challenging because most renewable energy technologies depend on weather and environmental conditions. Thus, accurate forecasting come to light as a quick fix to accomplish power system distribution. Furthermore, forecast studies and research are necessary because each renewable energy technology has unique properties.

Inadequate infrastructure: While wind and solar energy can be better investments when considering increased energy demand, India’s lack of renewable energy infrastructure has emerged as a barrier to development. In fact, the primary problem with the power grid is its age, as most transmission and distribution lines were built years ago and are no longer capable of meeting current demands and extreme weather variations. As a result, large energy storage systems with advances in handling large amounts of renewable energy have been proposed as a viable solution to address the variability and distributed nature of renewable energy sources. Additionally, streamlining the land acquisition process and establishing a single-window clearance system can hasten infrastructure development.

Policy and regulatory framework: Uneven policies, subsidies, incentives, and regulations supporting renewable energy has long been a barrier to renewable energy integration. As a result, creating a supportive regulatory framework and developing clear and consistent policies, including long-term renewable energy targets have appeared as an ideal solution to promote renewable energy development. In light of this, the government has developed an Integrated Energy Policy (IEP) that encompasses all energy sources, including renewable energy sources, to address the integration challenge as soon as possible.

Accelerating India’s Power Sector

It is undeniably true that over the years, the effects of CO2 emissions and global warming have resulted in a radically expanded use of renewable energy technologies in recent years, which has helped to increase the integration of renewable energy sources into the system grid. Furthermore, according to the IBEF, the sector has become more appealing to investors with increased government support and an improved economy. As India attempts to meet its own energy demand, which is expected to reach 15,820 TWh by 2040, renewable energy will play an important role. Thus, addressing potential challenges and shifting to renewable energy integration come into light as an excellent solution for accelerating India’s power sector and contributing to a more sustainable and resilient energy system.