Harrabin’s Indian Howler
By Paul Homewood
Roger Harrabin’s Trump Card broadcast the other day included an account of his recent visit to India, which included a visit to the Kamuthi solar plant, said to be the largest in the world.
His visit was reported on 3rd January, per the above.
A few comments, but let’s start with this claim he makes:
Prime Minister Modi is offering subsidies for a plan to power 60 million homes with solar by 2022 and aims for 40% of its energy from renewables by 2030.
I don’t know where he gets his information from, or whether he just makes it up as he goes along.
However, Modi has not promised anything of the sort. This is what India have specifically pledged in their INDC for Paris:
So, note the differences:
1) The pledge relates to electricity, and not energy.
2) It refers to all non fossil fuels, and not just renewables. Notably, of course, nuclear power.
3) It also refers to capacity, and not actual generation.
The INDC is even more specific, promising to raise capacity of wind and solar to 100GW each by 2030.
However, all these may sound large numbers, they actually don’t amount to much at all. This is what their output is likely to look like:
|TOTAL ELECTRICITY GENERATION
|% Share of Renewables||19|
1) Capacity loading is based on 2015 actual data
2) Electricity demand for 2030 is taken from the INDC here.
Given that hydro electricity has already been around for years in India, the extra due to come from wind and solar is hardly impressive.
And in terms of overall energy, their share will be much less still.
As such, Harrabin’s claim that 40% of India’s energy will come from renewables by 2030 is grossly misleading.
(Needless to say, a complaint has been submitted to the BBC!)
The world’s largest solar farm at Kamuthi in southern India
Let’s now turn our attention to the solar farm he visited.
According to the IBT, it has a capacity of 648MW, covers 4 square miles and cost $679 million to build.
Based on current experience, solar plants in India run at around 19% of capacity, naturally more efficiently than in the UK. This would yield about 1.1 TWh a year, or about 0.08% of India’s current demand for electricity.
In comparison, a modern CCGT plant of 1000MW would be capable of producing about 7 TWh a year.
Then , of course, we have the added problem of intermittency. Even in a sunny climate like India’s there is something called night time!
But more seriously, what will Kamuthi’s output be like during the monsoon season? Output won’t go to zero, but under thick clouds and heavy rain it will surely be severely limited. And remember the monsoon will go on for months on end.
To be fair to Harrabin, he does touch on the issue of intermittency:
For large-scale projects, the cost of new solar power in India is now cheaper than coal. But solar doesn’t generate 24/7 on an industrial scale, so India has adopted a "more of everything" approach to energy.
The firm behind the solar plant, Adani, is also looking to create Australia’s biggest coal mine, which it says will provide power for up to 100 million people in India. Renewables, it says, can’t answer India’s vast appetite for power to lift people out of poverty.
It is something I have actually been arguing for some time now. Both India and China are so absolutely desperate for extra generation, that they will use every avenue open to them. There is a limit to how much extra coal, oil and gas they can get their hands on.
Also there will be cases where it may make sense to utilise solar or wind, for instance in remote areas where there is little existing grid infrastructure.
But there is a world of difference between this and Harrabin’s idyllic vision of India running its entire economy on sunbeams.
At the recent Marrakech climate conference, China, the EU and many developing countries pledged to forge ahead with emissions-cutting plans regardless of US involvement. But India offered no such guarantee.
Some environmentalists are not too worried: they think economics may drive India’s clean energy revolution.
Economics, and not environmentalism, will certainly rule India’s energy revolution, but, I suspect, not in the way Harrabin wishes for.