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Sun holds key to end Delhi’s power shortage

Smriti Kak Ramachandran
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City has potential to generate 2000 MW of power, says Greenpeace

Greenpeace activists during a protest earlier this year.— File Photo: S. Subramanium
Greenpeace activists during a protest earlier this year.— File Photo: S. Subramanium

Delhi has the potential to generate 2 Gigawatt, or 2000 MW, of solar power by 2020 to overcome its perennial power shortage.

And if Delhi’s territory of 1,483 km is used for solar installations, 123 GW of power can be generated. This is more than 20 times Delhi’s expected peak power demand of 6 GW for 2013 and more than half of India’s installed capacity of 215 GW for 2013.

All these findings are a part of Greenpeace’s newest report, ‘Rooftop revolution: unleashing Delhi’s solar potential’, which makes a pitch for tapping solar energy in the National Capital.

“It may sound bold when compared to the reality of existing solar installation in leading cities such as Berlin (98 MW), New York (14 MW) or San Francisco (23 MW) or the overall achievement of 1.5 GW in India as a whole until mid-2013,” said Dr. Tobias Engelmeir, managing director of Bridge to India that has co-authored the report.

“But, it is not so bold if we assume that the landscape of power supply is changing fundamentally: grid power prices continue to rise and the power supply deficit in India is widening,” he said.

Given the dramatic fall in the cost of solar power (by as much as 50 per cent in the last two years), solar has moved into the mainstream and become a viable option, he said.

“Theoretically, the total land area on which Delhi is built can support 123 GW of solar PV (photovoltaic modules). Therefore, 2 GW requires only 1.6 per cent of the city’s land,” Dr. Engelmeir said.

A roof top solar power generation proposal that was floated by the Delhi Government was scrapped in 2011 after it was found infeasible. As of today, Delhi has only one solar Renewable Purchase Obligations (RPO) set by the Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission (DERC).

For the financial year 2013-14, this stands at 0.20 per cent and increases to 0.35 per cent by 2016-1714, which is considered inadequate by environmentalists.

The Greenpeace report said Delhi should reconsider solar power generation as it is now more feasible.

Solar energy is a guaranteed option for bridging the supply-demand gap in the city, the report said, pointing out that generating stations within Delhi currently have a capacity of 1,345 MW (55 per cent coal and 45 per cent gas) and this leaves Delhi with a shortfall of 4,297 MW from its highest peak demand so far of 5,642 MW witnessed in 2012.

“About 58 per cent of the shortfall is met by purchasing power through long-term power purchase agreements (PPA) with power generators in other States. A further 13 per cent of the shortfall is met by purchasing power on a short-term basis from other States or on the spot market. States that Delhi relies on for its additional power need to bridge their deficits and might be less willing in the future to meet Delhi’s continued and growing need for power,” the report said.

Solar power can also insulate consumers from frequent hikes in power tariffs and allow them to become more independent and whenever parity is reached for a consumer segment it can reduce their power costs, Greenpeace claimed.

“Based on current trends, electricity tariffs can be expected to rise by a further 25 per cent in the next five years for domestic (residential and government consumers) and non-domestic (commercial consumers) segments and 29 per cent for the industrial segment in Delhi. On the other hand, solar prices are expected to decline at the long-term rate of 5-8 per cent driven by technology improvements,” the report added.


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