Least-Cost Pathway for India’s Power System Investments through 2030
This study assesses a least-cost and operationally feasible pathway for India’s electricity grid through 2030 that validates—and surpasses—India’s 2030 target of 500 GW of installed non-fossil capacity. Using the latest cost trends, an industry-standard power system modeling platform (PLEXOS), and exhaustive analytical methods (optimal capacity expansion and hourly grid dispatch), we find that the least-cost resource mix to meet India’s load in 2030 (the “Primary Least Cost Case”) consists primarily of a combination of RE and flexible resources as follows: 465 GW of RE (307 GWDC solar, 142 GW wind, and 15 GW other RE), 63 GW (252 GWh) of battery storage, 60 GW of load shifting to solar hours (50 GW agricultural + 10 GW industrial), and flexible operation of the existing natural gas fleet of 25 GW. A coal power plant capacity of 229 GW (23 GW net addition over 2020) is found to be cost-effective. The study shows that between 2020 and 2030 the average cost of electricity generation drops by nearly 8-10%. In addition, despite a near doubling of electricity demand between 2020 and 2030, the emissions intensity of electricity generation drops by 43-50%, while total CO2 emissions from the power sector stay almost the same as 2020 levels. India’s coal consumption in the power sector by 2030 is comparable to the 2020 level, implying that the clean energy transition may not lead to loss of coal mining/supply chain jobs in the near to medium term, potentially giving India sufficient time to prepare for a long-term transition. For India to achieve the least-cost resource mix indicated in this study, critical policy and regulatory changes such as a long-term resource adequacy framework for system planning and procurement, a regulatory framework for energy storage that values its full functionality, and natural gas reforms that promote flexible and efficient operations of the gas pipelines and power plants should be implemented.