Coming up in 2020: Offshore, carbon capture to be energy sector’s buzzwords

Pressure on countries to fulfil energy aspirations alongside keeping the environment clean will fuel their growth

By Kundan Pandey
Last Updated: Friday 03 January 2020
An offshore wind farm. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

With 18 per cent of the world’s population, India faces the trilemma of achieving higher energy access alongside higher energy security and higher sustainability, according to a Niti Aayog report.

With increasing prosperity, an additional 315 million people — almost the population of the United States (US) — are expected to live in India’s cities by 2040. This will push the country towards a situation where it has to meet the energy aspirations of its people and also contribute towards keeping the environment clean.

In the decade that just ended, access and transition were buzzwords for the energy sector. These will continue but there will be a definite shift, given the emerging scenario.

While the previous decade was more about solar due to several reasons including falling prices and ambitious targets set by the Union government, in all probability, the buzzwords in the new decade will be offshore and carbon capture.

Due to an ailing coal sector as compared to renewable sources of energy, talk of technologies that can capture carbon has already begun. For instance, many experiments are being carried out in the US state of Wyoming, one the country’s largest coal producers.

Wyoming produces more than 40 per cent of the coal needed to meet the US’ electrical demand. However, the last few years have not been good for the state as US coal consumption has decreased.

It has reached its lowest level since 1979 because of competition from cheap shale gas and other sources of energy, which are cleaner. Policy makers in Wyoming are now considering advancements in carbon capture — the trapping or reusing of carbon dioxide — as one part of the solution.

In almost all countries, there is unprecedented pressure on utility companies to move to less carbon-intensive electricity sources. But there is another side of the story too.

It will be tough to meet the total energy demand without relying on thermal energy, that too for a country like India. Though, solar and wind are estimated to constitute half of India’s total power capacity by 2030 according to a report prepared by the Central Electricity Authority, polluting fuels will continue to produce half of India’s electricity by 2030.

To deal with such an issue where coal cannot be avoided, scientists have begun a few experiments to make coal a cleaner option for energy requirement. In Wyoming, an experiment has already begun in Basin Electric Power Cooperative’s state-of-the-art coal plant, which has become the world’s only utility with carbon capture laboratories attached.

India will also have to think about such a solution in the future, if the above mentioned experiments bring positive results.

Other than this, India will also be focusing on unexploited offshore wind energy potential. There is a lot of that in the country, which has a 7,600-kilometre-long coastline.

The focus on offshore is increasing partly due to its global rise and partly the slowdown in the onshore wind energy segment. India has added just 3.3 gigawatt (GW) in the past two years, as reported by Down To Earth

The government of India has already set an ambitious target of developing 5 GW of offshore capacity by 2022, and a further 30 GW by 2030.

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