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Greening the Grid: India

Greening the Grid partners with stakeholders from across India to build capacity for renewable energy integration.

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India Renewable Integration Study

An NREL grid integration study has confirmed the technical and economic viability of integrating 175 gigawatts (GW) of renewable energy into India's electricity grid by 2022.

A screenshot of the Greening the Grid India visualization showing a map of India divided into states with various colored circles in each state. The colored circles represent fuel types and amount of generation in megawatts. The full visualization shows the generation by fuel type over time in India.

The visualization of results shows a full year of generation and transmission flows.

The two-volume report Greening the Grid: Pathways To Integrate 175 Gigawatts of Renewable Energy into India's Electric Grid Vol. I—National Study and Vol. II—Regional Study resolves many questions about how India's electricity grid can manage the variability and uncertainty of India's 2022 renewable energy (RE) target of 175 GW of installed capacity, including 100 GW of solar and 60 GW of wind, up from 9 GW of solar and 29 GW of wind installed in early 2017.

Using advanced weather and power system modeling, the study explored operational impacts of meeting India's 2022 targets and identified actions that are favorable for integration.

The National Study used a state-of-the-art production cost model, which simulates optimal scheduling and dispatch of available generation by minimizing total production costs subject to physical, operational, and market constraints. The objective was to simulate the scheduling and dispatch decisions that are based on variable or production costs. We developed this model to identify how the Indian power system is balanced every 15 minutes in a future year (2022). The model quantifies RE generation, including variability and curtailment, changes in least-cost scheduling and dispatch, flexibility of thermal generation, and periods of stress. To investigate system operations in each of the states with the potential for significant growth in RE capacity, the study team also used a higher-resolution regional model that includes intrastate transmission details. This model—the focus of Vol. II—builds upon the same inputs in the national model but with increased transmission detail within each of the states in the Southern and Western regions plus Rajasthan. Therefore, the regional model provides more robust views of localized operations and can offer more relevant insights to support state-level planning.

The results demonstrate that power system balancing with 100 GW solar and 60 GW wind is achievable at 15-minute operational timescales with minimal RE curtailment. India's current coal-dominated power system has the inherent flexibility to accommodate the variability associated with the targeted RE capacities, and coal flexibility in low-RE, coal-dominant states can play an important role in facilitating RE integration nationwide.

The study results reveal operational impacts, such as:

  • The 160 GW of solar and wind capacity can serve 22% of India's power demand, providing benefits of fuel savings and reduced emissions.
  • The power system as planned for 2022 is able to manage the added variability of wind and solar; new, fast-ramping infrastructure (such as natural gas turbines) is not necessary to maintain balance.
  • In a system with 160 GW of wind and solar, coal plants, on average, operate at only half their capacity, suggesting the potential role for a new tariff structure that moves away from focusing on energy delivery and instead compensates plants for performance that achieves flexibility goals.

The study also evaluates the value of strategies to better integrate RE and demonstrates the importance of policy and market planning. The results of the study indicate that:

  • National and regional coordination of scheduling and dispatch eases renewable energy integration and results in cost savings by smoothing variability and broadening the supply of system flexibility.
  • Flexibility of India's coal fleet is critical to minimizing curtailment of renewable energy.

Table displaying the impacts of integration strategies for 100 GW of solar and 60 GW of wind under different scenarios. Normal operations, detailed in the first column, consist of state-level dispatch with 55% minimum generation; 230,000 INR crore annual production cost, and 1.4% renewable energy curtailment. Regional coordinated scheduling and dispatch, detailed in the second column, results in 2.8% savings annually and 1.3% renewable energy curtailment. National coordinated scheduling and dispatch, detailed in the third column, results in 3.5% savings annually and 0.89% renewable energy curtailment. Lower minimum coal plant generation—at 40% of capacity—detailed in the fourth column results in negligible savings annually and 0.76% renewable energy curtailment. Higher minimum coal plant generation—at 70% of capacity—detailed in the fifth column results in 0.90% increased cost annually and 3.5% renewable energy curtailment. Finally, lower minimum coal plant generation (40% of capacity) with regional balancing area coordination results in 3.3% savings annually and 0.73% renewable energy curtailment.

The visualization of results includes the study's full year of generation and transmission flows for multiple RE integration strategies. These visualizations show the state-level balancing of generation and load and for every 15-minute period of 2022.

This work is conducted under a broader program, Greening the Grid, which is an initiative co-led by India's Ministry of Power and the U.S. Agency for International Development, and includes co-sponsorship from the 21st Century Power Partnership and the World Bank's Energy Sector Management Assistance Program. The modeling team comprised a core group from the Power System Operation Corporation Limited, which is the national grid operator (with representation from the National, Southern, and Western Regional Load Dispatch Centers), National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and a broader modeling team drawn from Central Electricity Authority, POWERGRID (the central transmission utility), and state load dispatch centers in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, and Andhra Pradesh. Technical stakeholder review was provided by three teams of Grid Integration Review Committees consisting of more than 150 power system stakeholders from across India. 

South Asia Regional Connectivity

      • NREL conducted an analysis of the technical and economic potential of a high-voltage DC (HVDC) tie between India and Sri Lanka. The results indicate that an HVDC tie could reduce Sri Lanka’s dependence on imported fuels and need for new CCGT infrastructure while reducing midday RE curtailment in India.
      • Another study assessed the market and regulatory barriers to increased trade between India and Nepal. Both countries could benefit from planned hydropower expansion in Nepal but existing cross-border tariffs for imports and exports limit these benefits. Liberalized trade between India and Nepal would enable full utilization of Nepal’s planned hydropower capacity and displace generation from coal units in Northern and Eastern India. 

Publications forthcoming.


Expansion Planning

NREL is collaborating with the Central Electricity Authority (CEA) in India to develop a national expansion planning tool (ReEDS India) based on state-of-the-art modeling techniques to capture relevant features of high RE power systems.

Preliminary results due end of 2018.

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