We are living in an exciting time of rapid change in the energy industry, in India, and around the world. Renewables penetration rates that were unheard of some 5 or more years ago are now becoming quite common, and at the latest climate negotiation session in Bonn, more than 60 countries spoke of their vision for having carbon-free energy systems by the middle of this century.'Disruptive' technologies like wind and solar PV which are decentralized, modular and quick to install are rapidly making the old utility models unsustainable, and the search is on for new market designs which accommodate large quantities of variable renewables whose marginal cost of generation approaches zero.
The case of India presents unique challenges in a number of respects. One of the early movers in the renewables business with the establishment of the first ministry for renewable energy back in 1982, India has made solid progress in the onshore wind sector, although it has stalled somewhat of late; and recently has moved forward with solar PV. But with hundreds of millions of its citizens yet to be served with modern energy services, and a rapidly growing economy, the challenge for India is huge: to maintain economic growth, achieve universal access to energy, to minimize its greenhouse gas emissions and to decrease its reliance on increasingly expensive imported fossil fuels.
It is heartening to see that the new government in Delhi is committed to vastly increasing the exploitation of India's not inconsiderable renewable energy sources, and building a strong and increasingly equitable economy on the basis of clean, indigenous and increasingly competitive renewable energy sources. However, with hundreds of gigawatts of onshore wind potential yet to be exploited and a vast solar potential, why go offshore?
Offshore wind technology has come a long way in the past several years, with the industry reaching critical mass in Europe, while just getting underway in earnest in China, Japan, Korea and in the United States. While costs are still high, there are clear indications that they can be brought down substantially through experience and economies of scale - indeed they must do so if they are to compete with other renewable technologies whose costs are dropping fast. But the rewards are great - a strong, steady resource that can play a major role in supplying clean indigenous energy at modest costs close to the major load centers in coastal cities and industrial areas.
There are (at least) three reasons for India to carefully and methodically approach the offshore wind business:
- Strong resource: Preliminary indications are that there is a very substantial potential offshore resource,less seasonally dependent and of an overall higher quality than India's onshore wind resources;
- Close to load centers: While onshore wind can be difficult as it is often in rural areas far from where it is needed, offshore resources can be quite close to major load centers, easing pressure on an already stressed transmission and distribution system, which is in need of a major upgrade and modernization.
- Industrial opportunity: India has considerable experience in both offshore technologies and the wind industry - marrying these two, while at the same time taking maximum advantage of the learnings to be had from the experience in Europe, and leveraging India's natural advantage could be the basis for a globally competitive industry in the period after 2020.
This is where FOWIND comes in. Financed largely by the European Union, and executed by the GWEC led consortium consisting of C-STEP, DNV GL, and WISE, working with our partners the Gujarat Power Corporation Ltd. (GPCL) and IL&FS Energy Development Company Limited (IEDCL), we hope to contribute substantially to the careful and methodical establishment of a clear road map for exploiting offshore wind in India, with a focus on the states of Gujarat and Tamil Nadu.
Looking at policy and regulatory frameworks, resource assessment, port and grid requirements and in constant consultation with stakeholders, we plan to make a substantial contribution towards making India's foray offshore the best that it can be, for the country, for consumers, for investors and for the developers. We welcome all your help and advice along the way.