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India’s Affordable Power Decarbonization by 2050: Optimal Solar and Wind Expansion are Key

published: 2023-08-30 10:26

A recent report by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BloombergNEF) envisions India achieving net-zero emissions by 2050, powered by an impressive 3 TW of combined wind and solar capacity. This clean energy drive will be complemented by cutting-edge technologies, requiring an average annual investment of $438 billion until the mid-21st century, totaling a substantial $12.7 trillion.
Presently, India’s National Determined Contribution (NDC) aims for a net-zero status by 2070, with a focus on attaining 500 GW of non-fossil fuel generation capacity by 2030.
According to the New Energy Outlook: India Report from BloombergNEF, the net zero scenario (NZS) envisions wind and solar energy contributing 80% of the nation's total electricity output by 2050, while nuclear energy provides 9%. This 3 TW capacity will be significantly higher than the base-case economic transition scenario (ETS), aligned with a global temperature increase of 2.6°C by 2050. Even in the ETS, solar and wind power will emerge as the predominant electricity sources, accounting for 67% of supply by the target year.
The report states, “BNEF’s analysis indicates that a strategic combination of solar, wind, nuclear, energy storage, and carbon capture and storage (CCS) for thermal power plants offers the most cost-effective approach for India to enhance electricity access while decarbonizing its power generation.”
Crucially, the cost of generating electricity from new solar and wind facilities will outmatch the operational expenses of existing coal plants by the mid-2030s.
Under the ETS, India’s industrial carbon emissions are projected to surpass those from the power sector by the early 2040s, driven by robust growth in steel, aluminum, petrochemical, and cement industries. In contrast, within the NZS framework, India's industrial emissions will peak in 2031 and subsequently decline in the mid-2030s, thanks to the adoption of hydrogen and carbon capture technologies for decarbonizing steel, cement, and petrochemical production.
While India currently produces hydrogen using fossil fuels, the report envisions a shift towards green hydrogen production by 2050. This will be achieved through "flexible grid-connected" electrolyzers primarily powered by renewable energy sources.
To steer India towards its 2050 net-zero goal, analysts propose addressing five key policy areas:
1. Expand grid investments to facilitate a power system heavily reliant on renewables.
2. Scale up renewable energy investments by accessing diverse sources of funding. BloombergNEF estimates an annual investment of $90 billion until 2050 to develop low-carbon capacity.
3. Reduce dependence on fossil fuel plants and promote carbon capture technologies, requiring policy support to encourage manufacturing and utilization.
4. Aim to reach peak industrial emissions within a decade. The adoption of green hydrogen in steel production alone has the potential to curtail 54% of emissions between 2022 and 2050 within the NZS framework.
5. Achieve full electrification to eliminate emissions from road transportation, the largest contributor to the country's transport sector emissions, surpassing even shipping and aviation emissions.

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