The use of renewable energy (RE) sources, primarily wind and solar generation, is poised to grow significantly within the Indian power system. The Government of India has established a target of 175 gigawatts (GW) of installed RE capacity by 2022, including 60 GW of wind and 100 GW of solar, up from 29 GW wind and 9 GW solar at the beginning of 2017. Using advanced weather and power system modeling made for this project, the study team is able to explore operational impacts of meeting India’s RE targets and identify actions that may be favorable for integration.
Our primary tool is a detailed production cost model, which simulates optimal scheduling and dispatch of available generation in a future year (2022) by minimizing total production costs subject to physical, operational, and market constraints. Our team comprises a core group from the Power System Operation Corporation, Ltd. (POSOCO), which is the national grid operator (with representation from the National, Southern, and Western Regional Load Dispatch Centers) under Ministry of Power, National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), and a broader modeling team that includes Central Electricity Authority (CEA), POWERGRID (the central transmission utility, CTU), and State Load Dispatch Centers in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Rajasthan, and Andhra Pradesh. Our model includes high-resolution wind and solar data (forecasts and actuals), unique properties for each generator, CEA/CTU’s anticipated buildout of the power system, and enforced state-to-state transmission flows.
Assuming the fulfillment of current efforts to provide better access to the physical flexibility of the power system, we find that power system balancing with 100 GW of solar and 60 GW of wind is achievable at 15-minute operational timescales with minimal RE curtailment. This RE capacity meets 22% of total projected 2022 electricity consumption in India with annual RE curtailment of 1.4%, in line with experiences in other countries with significant RE penetrations (Bird et al. 2016). Changes to operational practice can further reduce the cost of operating the power system and reduce RE curtailment. Coordinating scheduling and dispatch over a broader area is the largest driver to reduce costs, saving INR 6300 crore (USD 980 million) annually when optimized regionally. Lowering minimum operating levels of coal plants (from 70% to 40%) is the biggest driver to reduce RE curtailment—from 3.5% down to 0.76%. In fact, this operating property is more influential than faster thermal generation ramp rates in lowering the projected levels of curtailment.
While this study does not answer every question relevant to planning for India’s 2022 RE targets, it is an important step toward analyzing operational challenges and cost saving opportunities using state-of-the-art power system planning tools. Further analysis can build upon this basis to explore optimal renewable resource and intrastate transmission siting, system stability during contingencies, and the influence of total power system investment costs on customer tariffs.