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Expert Speaks: India’s Battery Innovations Could Make Green Energy Affordable for All

Expert Speaks: India’s Battery Innovations Could Make Green Energy Affordable for All

Through the fulfilment of these initiatives, it is anticipated that India would not only become self-reliant in the energy storage sector but also could become a world leader in the technology.

This article is part of a series by experts in support of the ATL Tinkering Innovation Marathon – organised by Atal Innovation Mission, NITI Aayog and The Better India. Read more about the marathon here.

“The Stone Age didn’t end for lack of stone, and the oil age will end long before the world runs out of oil.” – Saudi oil minister Sheik Ahmed Zaki Yamani

You can burn oil and produce energy whenever you want. But that’s not the case with renewables, which are dependent on external factors and whose created energies cannot be stored as extensively. This is what fundamentally differentiates oil from renewable sources.

But the installation of solar plants and wind farms have nevertheless increased exponentially.


Picture for representation only. Source: Pixabay

India gets as many as 300 clear sunny days per year, has at least a dozen perennial rivers and a coastline that is over 7500 kilometres long. Sadly, though these are excellent sources of renewable energy, India has not been able to tap into other renewable sources of energy over the years.

The reasons for this are two-fold:

1. The cost of exploiting these sources have historically been higher than fossil fuels
2. Even in the best of scenarios, supply is intermittent and storage unaffordable

But these challenges have to be overcome soon. Today, India is the fourth largest carbon emitter in the world. The population in Indian cities will reach as high as half a billion over the next ten years, increasing our energy requirements manifold. These have to be met in a sustainable manner – for all of our sakes.

And we have already taken steps in that direction. India is committed to utilizing non-fossil sources for more than 40% of its installed electricity capacity by 2030. Towards this, the medium-term target is to produce 100GW from solar, 60GW from wind, 10GW from biomass and 5GW from small hydropower by 2022.

While the cost of producing energy from sustainable sources has come down over the last decade, to efficiently exploit these sources it is imperative that low-cost energy storage solutions are developed as well.

This is especially important for solar and wind energy as these sources do not produce electricity on a continuous basis.

Towards this, the deployment of energy storage in India is expected to grow over 40 per cent annually over the next 10 years. Proof-of-concept in battery energy storage systems using large lithium-ion battery banks are already being deployed in Delhi. To reduce dependence on international markets, India is looking to produce these solutions domestically.

But critically, India needs to innovate in the field. One of the ways to encourage this is through initiatives like ATL Tinkering Innovation Marathon. Young innovators bring new ways of looking at the existing problems and find solutions that the experts fail even to consider.

These new approaches have the power to cause a paradigm shift in the nascent industry.

Challenges in developing energy storage

Picture for representation only. Source: Pixabay

In the current environment, India faces four key challenges in developing energy storage solutions domestically. These are:

1. Low mineral reserves: While the cathode of a Li-ion battery can be formulated in many ways, India has low reserves for most of the main components, including lithium, cobalt and nickel. Further, India is low on copper reserves as well. Fortunately, the global supply of these minerals is stable and is not considered resource constrained. India will have to forge international partnerships if it wants to manufacture Li-ion battery on a large scale.

2. Early-stage industry: At present, India neither has sufficient capacity nor capability to manufacture energy storage solutions to meet the domestic demand. India will have to start by assembling battery packs domestically. Next step is to invest in both capacity and capability to become self-reliant in this area. The demand for energy storage is expected to grow at CAGR of 33% over the next decade. Both academia and manufacturers need to scale their efforts to develop new and advanced technological solutions to meet this demand.

3. Stakeholders working in silos: To meet the energy storage targets India has set up for 2030, various stakeholders will have to come together and streamline their efforts. The innovations will have to travel across the supply chain and be supported by all stakeholders.

4. High perceived risk: Investment risks in the energy storage sector are considered high because different stakeholder groups have so far been working in silos and the relatively nascent stage of the industry.

The way ahead

Picture for representation only. Source: Pixabay

To overcome these challenges, India has developed a three-stage approach.

1. Creating an environment for battery manufacturing growth: In this stage, the focus would be on incentivizing direct investment in the battery pack assembly industry. At the same time, partnerships and multi-stakeholder consortium are being developed for joint research and pooling of investments towards developing new solutions for both manufacturing and recycling batteries. The consortium would also work towards battery standardization and developing an end-to-end strategy. Cell manufacturing is already being taken up where the business case exists.

2. Scaling supply chain: The end-to-end strategy developed by the consortium will be put in action here, and investments in various supply chain activities prioritized. The focus would be on establishing best-practices for both manufacturing and recycling of batteries in India.

3. Building end-to-end capacity domestically: Coordinated investments through OEMs, incentives and policies to rapidly scale manufacturing in India.

Through the fulfilment of these initiatives, it is anticipated that India would not only become self-reliant in the energy storage sector but also could become a world leader in the technology.

Know more about the ATL Tinkering Innovation Marathon here.

(Edited by Vinayak Hegde)

About the author: Param Mandloi is the Head of Strategy and Innovation at Mahindra Susten. An innovator at the core, Param believes in providing indigenous solutions for solving the energy problem in the country.

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