Powering India’s transition to renewable energy: Battery energy storage system (BESS) pilot goes live at Puducherry plant

Powering India’s transition to renewable energy: Battery energy storage system (BESS) pilot goes live at Puducherry plant

India’s transforming energy landscape, with stronger-than-ever thrust on renewable energy (RE), holds manifold promises for the country’s enhanced energy security, reduced oil imports, and improved air quality. However, large-scale integration of variable RE also brings with it a significant challenge — of ensuring that the power grid remains reliable and resilient even with varying and unpredictable generation of energy from renewable sources like sun and wind. USAID’s Greening the Grid-Renewable Integration and Sustainable Energy (GTG-RISE) initiative, in partnership with the Ministry of Power, Government of India, is working to address this very challenge through multiple pilots to validate technologies and solutions to support large-scale RE integration into the Indian power grid. One of GTG-RISE’s pilots is on battery energy storage system (BESS), a technology for storing electric charge on specially developed batteries. BESS allows energy to be stored when generation is more than demand and to be released (or dispatched) when generation comes down and/or demand goes up.

A virtual event organized on December 21, 2020 marked the go-live launch and demonstration of the BESS pilot at the Puducherry site of the Power Grid Corporation of India Limited (POWERGRID). The closed-door virtual event, conducted jointly by USAID and POWERGRID, was attended by senior representatives from the Ministry of Power, Government of India; Power System Operation Corporation (POSOCO); POWERGRID; USAID/India, the GTG-RISE team from Deloitte (implementing partner); and KEC Ltd, USAID grantee and technical partner for the pilot. Welcoming dignitaries to the important event, Julia Kennedy, Deputy Indo-Pacific Coordinator, USAID/India, said: “As we bid adieu to an unprecedented year, we have again come together to witness a leap forward in India’s power sector journey. The go-live demonstration of the BESS pilot will play a critical role in grid integration and security. Today’s event also marks a key milestone for USAID’s Asia EDGE (Enhancing Development and Growth through Energy) initiative.” Representatives of key stakeholders addressed the event and lauded the BESS pilot’s go-live launch. The test run of the BESS pilot at the Puducherry plant was conducted, demonstrating in real-time how various BESS applications work for different usages/scenarios.

Esteemed speakers at the meeting were unanimous in their view of the potential energy storage batteries has for securing a balanced grid. With India marching toward its target of 175 GW renewables by 2022, the need for testing such solutions and evaluating their technical and economic feasibility assumes huge significance. The BESS pilot — aimed at demonstrating various possible use cases through enhanced IT-based controls, ascertaining the feasibility of BESS in the grid, and assessing the economic value of storage — will thus be an important contribution to India’s energy sector. This point was emphasized by Dr. Subir Sen, Chief Operating Officer – CTU and Smart Grid, POWERGRID: “The rate of growth of renewable energy in India is one of the highest in the world. With increased RE penetration, we need to ensure a reliable, flexible, and adaptive grid. The BESS pilot at our Puducherry facility is a first-of-its-kind initiative and will make a big contribution to our transitioning energy sector.” Reiterating this sentiment, K.V.S. Baba, Chairman & MD, POSOCO, said: “India’s power systems are going for more efficient and better controls and processes to ensure the consumer is served economically. By 2025, we may require battery energy storage, and the USAID’s BESS pilot outcomes will add value to our understanding and appreciation for storage systems’ integration to the grid.”

BESS and other innovation pilots under USAID’s GTG-RISE initiative represents the strong partnership and commitment between U.S. and India towards building a resilient and self-reliant power sector in India and its modernization through digital technologies and advanced IT management tools. Enthusiasm for this forward-looking collaboration reflected in the words of Mritunjay Kumar Narayan, Joint Secretary (Transmission), Ministry of Power: “I strongly believe that collaborative efforts by respective agencies will help the power sector grow progressively towards a transition, wherein the grid is more flexible, reliable, and efficient to foster and enhance renewable energy integration. We are proud to partner with USAID on this initiative and on our journey to a “high-performing, low-emission, energy-secure economy.”