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Sunny Side Up India – Challenges in Advancing Renewable Energy

Context:

India and Saudi Arabia entered into a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on September 10 to collaborate in the energy sector. Notably, the focus of this agreement is on renewable energy, with the potential for connecting their national power grids via an underwater link.

Relevance:

  • GS2-Bilateral, Regional and Global Groupings and Agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.
  • GS3-Environment

Mains Question:

Linking of national grids between India and Saudi Arabia help India take strides in renewable energy. Comment critically. (10 marks, 150 words).

Significance of the MoU:

  • Both nations are undergoing a significant shift from conventional energy sources to renewable energy (RE).
  • Saudi Arabia aims to boost its domestic RE capacity to 50% of its total energy production by 2030 while India’s formal objective is to more than double its RE capacity from 175 GW in 2022 to 450 GW by 2030.
  •  This aligns with the global trend towards RE, as the International Energy Agency (IEA) predicts that RE capacity additions will reach 4,500 GW by next year, equivalent to the combined power output of the United States and China.

Challenges in Advancing Renewable Energy:

  •  The top-down approach of promoting RE through fiscal incentives in many countries has not entirely resolved the subsequent challenges.
  •  RE production depends on favorable conditions like sunlight, unlike fossil fuel-based energy.
  •  RE introduces complexity into grid management due to fluctuating power demand throughout the day.
  •  India’s uneven state-level development of RE illustrates these challenges.
  • When factoring in the cost of energy storage for RE, the economic viability of RE projects can be less attractive.
  •  India’s ambitious plan to scale up RE by 2030, primarily through solar power, will pose significant grid management challenges.

Proposed Solution:

  •  An ideal solution is to transfer surplus power across the grid to areas with varying peak power demand.
  •  In the event of a global surge in RE capacity, connecting national grids can make it economically feasible.
  •  Advancements in energy storage technology, particularly batteries, offer promise, but countries must ensure that the supply chain of critical materials like cobalt, used in batteries, does not become a geopolitical weapon.

Conclusion:

 While the India-Saudi Arabia MoU is in its early stages, exploring grid connectivity to manage the growing RE capacity is vital. Both countries have the advantage of a stable diplomatic relationship, making this collaboration promising.


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