India examines US strategies for integrating wind and solar

India plans to deploy unprecedented levels of renewable energy (RE) on its power grid – 175 GW installed capacity of renewable energy  by 2022, up from 43 GW currently. India’s Nationally Determined Contributions extends this ambition to 40% non-fossil fuels-based electricity generation capacity by 2030.

This will greatly reduce the economy’s carbon intensity and strengthen energy security.  However, compared to conventional power, India’s key renewable energy options are more variable, less predictable and often further from demand centers. Experience in other systems with high solar and wind penetration has shown that when penetration of RE reaches significant levels, the power grid faces challenges to the reliability and affordability of electricity.

Critical to integrating variable renewable energy (VRE) into the power system is rigorous analytical support to identify grid stability issues, options for optimising dispatch, and sources of potential flexibility.

India’s future success in expanding renewable energy requires the country to plan and maintain grid stability and reliability, while promoting flexibility throughout the power system.

To support this goal, market systems must operate unimpeded, energy generation and load must be balanced in concert throughout the grid, and generation forecasting and scheduling must be supported by real or near real-time monitoring.

USEA: Examining US approaches to enabling the economic dispatch of renewable energy, expanded coordination in operations, and resource flexibility

Participants of the study tour organised by the Council’s US member committee

Through funding from the US Agency for International Development (USAID), Greening the Grid (GTG) project, five Indian officials participated in a five-day study tour of various US utilities and system operators. As part of this initiative, the United States member committee of the World Energy Council, (USEA), organised a study tour comprised of regulators, policymakers and system operators.

The delegates, compromising of regulators, policymakers and system operators, examined US approaches to enabling the economic dispatch of renewable energy, expanded coordination in operations, and resource flexibility.

USAID/India is assisting the government of India in integrating large scale, variable renewable energy  into the existing power grid through a five-year Greening the Grid (GTG) initiative. GTG strives to help India meet its ambitious renewable energy targets.

 Peer-to-peer dialogue

The objectives of the study tour organised by USEA were to create a platform for peer-to-peer dialogue to allow US system operators, regulators, policy planners, and representatives from utilities to share experiences and lessons-learned with their Indian counterparts.

Issues discussed included:

  • Renewable energy integration, specifically balancing, storage, and demand-side approaches
  • Challenges of implementing various grid code and reliability standards
  • US models for regional transmission planning, dispatch and markets
  • Real-time monitoring using advanced control technologies to allow coordination from central headquarters for more efficient dispatch of renewable energy generation.

The western United States and India share a number of similar characteristics in their respective power systems. The western US operates 39 separate balancing areas, similar to India’s system of each state operating its own grid. Both India and the western US have high renewable energy targets.

Many of the western US utilities have large coal fleets and both India and the western US systems perform on a least variable cost basis. Because of these overlaps, the western US shares many of the same challenges as India. The delegation observed a number of practices in the US that may be beneficial to apply to the Indian system.

Read more: Key take-aways and next steps

Renewable Penetration and Economic Curtailment

  • To gain greater control of the grid, it may be beneficial for India to change RE power purchase agreements to a dispatchable model.
  • Inter-state trading of renewable energy would expand the balancing area and help avoid curtailment.
  • All future RE supply should include interconnection standards mandated through a grid code, including automatic generation control and synthetic inertial response.
  • Future rooftop solar instalments should include interconnection standards that contain real-time tracking of solar generation through smart solar meters and net/gross consumer meters. This will ensure the distribution utility and the system operator have greater visibility of the impacts of distributed solar on the system.

Planning considerations with Renewable Energy

  • India may want to create a unified planning and operation of all inter and intra state transmission to ensure optimal planning and reduce barriers to trading
  • India’s planning standards and criteria need to be overhauled to include resource adequacy, system margins and the need for flexible generation mix.

Coordinated System Operations

  • Indian states can collaborate to expand coordination by sharing reserves in day-ahead and intra-day. This will lead to efficiency gains and easier balancing over larger footprints.

Renewable Energy Forecasting & Faster Dispatch

  • Given the variability of wind and solar generation, India should consider transitioning to 5-minute dispatch
  • Accurate forecasting of variable renewable energy generation is essential
  • The country needs to install automatic generation control (AGC) and optimised economic dispatch based on data input

Flexing of Coal Power Plants

Coal plants, while not ideal, can be dispatched as a flexible generation source.

For more information on USEA’s work programme, please contact the Council’s US Member Committee here.