Research Article: Electricity system based on 100% renewable energy for India and SAARC

Date Published: July 19, 2017

Publisher: Public Library of Science

Author(s): Ashish Gulagi, Piyush Choudhary, Dmitrii Bogdanov, Christian Breyer, Bruno Merk.


The developing region of SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) is home to a large number of people living below the poverty line. In future, providing affordable, universally accessible, reliable, low to zero carbon electricity in this region will be the main aim. A cost optimal 100% renewable energy system is simulated for SAARC for the year 2030 on an hourly resolved basis. The region was divided into 16 sub-regions and three different scenarios were set up based on the level of high voltage direct current (HVDC) grid connections. The results obtained for a total system levelised cost of electricity (LCOE) showed a decrease from 71.6 €/MWh in a decentralized to 67.2 €/MWh for a centralized grid connected scenario. An additional scenario was simulated to show the benefits of integrating industrial gas production and seawater reverse osmosis desalination demand, and showed the system cost decreased by 5% and total electricity generation decreased by 1%. The results show that a 100% renewable energy system could be a reality in the SAARC region with the cost assumptions used in this research and it may be more cost competitive than nuclear and fossil carbon capture and storage (CCS) alternatives. One of the limitations of this study is the cost of land for installation of renewables which is not included in the LCOE calculations, but regarded as a minor contribution.

Partial Text

Energy is critical, directly or indirectly, to the entire process of evolution, growth and survival of all living beings. In addition, it plays a vital role in the socio-economic development and human welfare of a country, and any uncertainty in its supply can threaten the functioning of an economy, particularly in developing countries [1]. The region of interest for this research is the developing region of South Asia, which is made up of the following countries: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. Collectively, they are also called SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation). Providing affordable, universally accessible, reliable, low to zero carbon electricity in the developing countries will be the main aim of electricity generation in the next decades [2]. A report published by WWF lists ten recommendations for a 100% renewable energy (RE) future. The top two recommendations include, firstly, developing new and existing renewable energy sources to provide clean energy, and secondly, exchange of clean energy through grids, making use of sustainable resources in different areas [3]. A least cost energy system needs to be obtained without compromising the above mentioned objectives.

The model applied to the simulation uses linear optimization for the energy system parameters under previously defined limitations which are applied to the system and the assumptions for the future RE power generation and demand. The detailed description of the model can be found in Bogdanov and Breyer [41], but the main functionalities are summarised in the following sections. Required storage technologies, including additional water desalination and synthetic natural gas generation, are the flexible demands in the model. One key limitation for the system optimization is that demand should be satisfied by power generation on an hourly basis for an entire year as shown in Eq 1. To obtain a least cost energy system is the main target of system optimization. The costs are calculated as sum of the annualised costs of all installed capacities of the different technologies, energy generation and generation ramping. Also, the system consists of PV prosumers for residential, commercial and industrial sectors. The term prosumer is used to refer to energy consumers who also produce their own power from a range of different onsite generators, e.g. diesel generators, combined heat-and-power systems, wind turbines, and PV systems [42]. In this study, only onsite consumption and generation from PV systems are considered and termed as prosumers [43, 44]. The PV prosumers install the required individual capacities of rooftop PV systems and batteries. Minimizing cost of consumed energy is the target function for the prosumers. The cost of consumed energy is calculated as sum of PV self-consumption, annual cost and cost of electricity consumed from the grid. The prosumers can sell electricity to the grid at 2 €ct/kWh, however they have to satisfy their own demand before selling. The flowchart of the model is presented in Fig 1.

The installation of HVDC transmission grid between the sub-regions enables significant decrease in the cost of electricity and in installed capacities of RE technologies in a 100% RE based system. The benefit due to grid integration varies for different regions of the world [41, 68]. For the SAARC region, benefit due to grid integration seems to be marginal as local storage options seem to be more cost effective than transmission of the electricity. The regional interconnection helps to decrease the cost of storage technologies needed but in a region where there is a high influence of solar power in the system and almost stable solar conditions all around year, batteries are required to store this energy to help balance the night time demand. The solar PV-battery system is a cheaper option than importing electricity via grids.

In the recent union budget of 2015–2016, India has set renewable energy targets to install 175 GW by 2022, which is comprised of 100 GW of solar, 60 GW of wind, 10 GW of biomass and 5 GW small hydro capacity [84, 85]. The rapid progress in developing renewable energy in recent years coupled with the above policy goals, demonstrate the seriousness of India’s pledge towards climate change and electricity access to all in a sustainable way. According to Ernst & Young [86], India has been ranked fourth in the world in terms of renewable energy attractiveness. India has taken initiative to launch the most powerful solar alliance ever, which would provide India and the sun-belt countries with an ability to collaborate and disseminate the knowledge on solar technologies [34]. During the annual COP 21 held in Paris, critical decisions were taken and supported by India to limit global warming to below 2 degree Celsius [32]. India is one of the most vulnerable countries to the effects of climate change due to the high population, about 70% of which lives in rural areas and are heavily dependent on natural resources. Increased temperatures, erratic rainfall with droughts and floods, and rising sea levels would have a high impact on the people living in India [12, 13].




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