New research has concluded that India can transition and function on a fully 100% renewable energy system by 2050 and bypass the traditional western reliance upon linking increasing living standards with heavy emissions from electricity generation.
For those who have been following the renewable energy industry and its attendant news cycles you may remember that the Lappeenranta University of Technology (LUT) in Finland has been sporadically releasing the results of a long-running research program which evaluates the potential of a country or region’s ability to transition to a 100% renewable electricity system. So far LUT has presented a case for a 100% Russia & Central Asia by 2030; a 100% South America by 2030; a 100% Iran & Middle East by 2030; and its biggest accomplishment, a successful model of a 100% renewable energy planetary system.
The Lappeenranta University of Technology has published its latest effort this week, concluding that India can function entirely on a 100% renewable electricity system by 2050.
An important secondary outcome from LUT’s research concerning India is the conclusion that developing countries that have an abundance of renewable energy resources are in a position to bypass the traditional and historical Western method of increasing living standards while relying on fossil fuel-heavy energy generation sources, which for so long saw increased prosperity matched with increased emissions. Rather, India — and other developing nations — is in a position to skip straight to an emissions-free future.
“The possibility that a country like India could move to a fully renewable electricity system within three decades and do it more economically than the current system, shows that the developing countries can skip the emission intensive phase in their economic development,” said Principal Scientist Pasi Vainikka. “It is a competitive advantage to not to take the road of the developed world.”
The specific 100% renewable electricity system designed for India by LUT is heavily reliant upon solar energy and batteries — solar deemed by LOT as “the most economical electricity source” for the country, and batteries satisfying the need for electricity at night (read: sans Sun). Further, LUT’s modeling took into account the regular monsoon season that impacts the country and which would naturally reduce the amount of solar power for some regions. To make up for this, India’s modeled 100% renewable electricity system includes increased wind and hydro sources, as well as reliance upon solar from unaffected regions.
According to LUT’s research, the predicted renewable electricity system is cheaper than India’s current coal-reliant electricity system. Specifically, the cost of electricity would be 3640 Indian rupees (€52/$61) per megawatt-hour (MWh) in 2050 (taking account only for the power sector). However, LUT’s research also covers for seawater desalination and synthetic natural gas, at which point the cost of electricity drops to 3220 Indian rupees (€46/$54) per MWh. Currently, India’s existing cost of electricity sits at €57/$67 per MWh.
The total investment necessary for India to achieve LUT’s specific 100% renewable electricity future would be around €3,380/$3982 billion (spread across the next 30 years).
“Given India’s burgeoning electricity demand and the persistent supply demand gap along with the summer shortages and outages, solar PV prosumers will have a crucial role in enabling the country’s transition to a fully sustainable energy system,” explained Professor Christian Breyer.
As we have seen play out elsewhere, however, the transition to a 100% renewable electricity system would yield secondary benefits such as helping the country meet its climate change targets, as well as improving health conditions which in turn reduces the burden of sick people on the country.
“Not to mention benefits from reduced health costs or even substantial reduction of pre-mature deaths due improved air quality,” says researcher Ashish Gulagi.