Decarbonization of the power sector

Published on - November 17, 2021

Climate Change Related issues

Source: The Economic Times 


The author talks about the Decarbonization of the power sector.

Editorial Insights:

Recently at the Glasgow Climate summit, the Indian PM’s announcement of enhanced climate action targets mainly for achieving net-zero emissions by 2070 has highlighted the importance of long-term planning for decarbonizing the economy.

What is Decarbonization?

It is the process of eliminating or reducing the carbon emissions sent into the atmosphere. Reducing the amount of CO2 output is essential to meet Net-zero carbon emissions targets.


Need for Decarbonizing Power sector:

  • India’s coal-based thermal power sector is one of the country’s biggest emitters of CO2.
  • It emits 1.1 giga-tonne of CO2 every year; this is 2.5% of global GreenHouse Gas (GHG) emissions, one-third of India’s GHG emissions, and around 50% of India’s fuel-related CO2 emissions.
  • The govt until now responded to unprecedented changes in the energy sector with dramatic enhancements in the renewable energy (RE) targets by rapid reductions in the RE-based power cost.
  • Though this approach helped India in fulfilling its Paris Commitments for 2030.
  • However, the road for 2070 will be challenging that requires a coordinated strategy for decarbonizing the economy efficiently & effectively.


Strategy for Decarbonization:

  • Long-term planning processes require changes because by 2070 will witness rapid technological revolutions & environmental adaptations.
  • Therefore 50 years of planning needs to be broken up into shorter periods to incorporate knowledge about emerging technologies.
  • At the same time, plans need to be monitored for correcting course to respond to any unforeseen problems.
  • Similar to the UK’s Climate Change Committee (CCC), India needs to establish an autonomous & technically credible agency for setting interim targets & monitoring progress.
  • This agency should have expanded its mandate to cover climate change issues for all sectors & have a diverse mix of recognized experts in the field as its members.
  • It would provide independent advice to the govt on setting & meeting both long-term & interim ambitious but achievable targets.
  • It would also monitor progress & annually report & suggest mid-course corrections.
  • The announced following four 2030 targets are inter-related.
  • Non-fossil fuel generating capacity to be 500GW,
  • RE capacity to be 50% of all generation capacity,
  • Reduction in emission intensity by 45% &,
  • Avoidance of GHG emissions by 1 billion tonnes.
  • To decarbonize the power sector, the best way is to have a single emissions-related objective so that an optimal strategy can be developed to achieve the objective at the lowest cost.
  • Reducing emission intensity is a good overarching objective & increased use of RE generation is to be encouraged further.
  • At the same time, setting permissible emission intensity in terms of CO2 equivalent per kWh of electricity sold would be a good option for power sector targets.


The Current Bottlenecks in Decarbonization:

There is a profusion of separate targets for almost every resource used to generate electricity.

For instance, there are separate RPOs for solar & non-solar RE.

Further, the national targets are divided into grid-connected & roof-top solar.

This approach reduces the flexibility of discoms to select resources.

This reduced flexibility could also stymie the development & deployment of emerging technologies.


Concluding Remarks:

The use of five-year interim targets for permissible emission intensity and the establishment of an autonomous and credible agency to advise the government on targets and policies and to monitor progress will greatly facilitate an effective, economic, and smooth transition to the decarbonization of the power sector first, and the Indian economy later by 2070.