Towards 100% Renewables: Challenges and Opportunities
The goal of countries and the world moving to 100% renewables has been recognised as desirable and achievable. The initial scenarios and studies were criticised as being unrealistic, with several flaws outlined by critics. Recent studies, including a 129-country study, seem to be more robust and indicate the viability of a 100% renewable scenario. We review existing model studies and national goals related to renewable shares in some of the major countries in the world. The problem with the energy and climate transition indicates issues with variability and control on a daily and seasonal basis. The existence of a large-scale infrastructure with fossil fuels and the issues of stranded assets results in additional costs of energy supply systems.
In developing countries like India, there is a different spatial distribution of fossil resources and renewable resources. For example, the coal-rich areas lie in the East and Central states while solar energy and wind is best in the West and South. This implies that a transition to renewables may result in regional disparity and an adverse impact in terms of employment and revenues for some states, with significant benefits for other states. The focus on rapid deployment and the business case for large plants have seen the emergence of large renewable plants. This has created challenges with displacement and questions of sustainability. An analysis of life cycle energy and the of different renewable solutions (including the costs and impacts of disposal) are essential to understanding the viability of alternate pathways to 100% renewables. One of the specific challenges for India is the move to decarbonised clean cooking fuel. At present, the Ujjwala scheme for LPG cylinders has resulted in significant penetration of LPG and improved indoor air quality but does not address the climate problem. There is a need for technology and innovations for low-cost, low-carbon cooking solutions. We discuss the possibility of zero-carbon renewables for industry and integration of Demand Side Management with renewables.
The challenges of the transition related to sustainability need a focus on equity impacts, land use and water impacts and impacts on the economy. We highlight the need for a well defined research agenda, new modelling frameworks and a balanced and evidence driven policy regime to better understand alternative transition pathways, evolution of improved operation and control and new cost effective renewable and storage technologies
Prof. Rangan Banerjee
Rangan Banerjee is the Director of the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi and a professor in the Department of Energy Science and Engineering since 2022. He has more than thirty years of experience in energy efficiency and renewables. He has helped to set up a Department of Energy Science and Engineering at IIT Bombay and was its first Head. He has been involved in several projects for industry on energy efficiency, renewables and modelling. He was involved in setting up a Megawatt Scale Solar Thermal Power Plant cum test Facility Sponsored by MNRE. He was the faculty advisor of Team Shunya- a student team that represented India in Solar Decathlon Europe, China and the US and built houses running on solar energy.
He has advised the city of Mumbai the Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission, MNRE, Planning Commission and the Niti Aayog on energy related issues. He was a lead author of the Global Energy Assessment Coordinated by the International Institute of Applied Systems Analysis and was a member of the International Review Committee for the RCUK Review of UKs Energy programme.
He has been awarded the excellence in Teaching award at IIT Bombay and is a Fellow of the Indian National Academy of Engineering. He has also been an Adjunct Professor (Honorary) in the department of Engineering and Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University.