21 Feb 2022

Explained: What Is The ‘Green Grid’ Initiative? How Will It Distribute Solar Energy

21 Feb 2022  by   
Enough energy from the sun reaches the Earth in one hour to supply humanity's energy demands for a year. To date, mankind has just begun to explore this vast source of renewable energy's "untapped potential." To address this, India's most ambitious renewables effort to date, launched at the United Nations Climate Summit COP26, aims to rectify the situation.

India established the Green Grids Initiative-One Sun One World One Grid (GGI-OSOWOG) project in collaboration with the United Kingdom to create an integrated global electricity grid. The goal of this project is to connect energy systems across borders in order to accelerate the transition to renewable energy.

What is the Green Grid project?

To accelerate the transition to sustainable energy, Britain and India have planned to improve connections between the world's electricity power grids. The programme will connect 80 countries, allowing surplus renewable energy to be sent to locations with a deficit. For instance, countries where the sun has set may draw energy from those who are still able to create solar electricity.

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This could serve as a model for how developed countries can assist developing countries in reducing emissions and meeting the aim of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels.

With India in the middle, the solar spectrum may be divided into two broad zones: far east, which includes countries such as Myanmar, Vietnam, Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia, and far west, which includes the Middle East and Africa. The grid will be built in three stages. The first phase will focus on interconnectivity inside Asia. The second phase will include Africa, while the third phase will focus on global interconnectedness.

Significance of the project

With India's recent energy crisis caused due to coal shortage, the focus has shifted back to the growing demand for renewable energy resources. According to Vibhuti Garg, head energy economist for India at the think tank, Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA), the OSOWOG will help countries to "reduce dependency on coal for fulfilling energy demand in times when renewable energy is not available". Coal power currently meets about 70% of India's energy requirements.

This will also help all of the members in attracting investments in renewable energy sources as well as maximising the use of skills, technology, and finances. The resulting economic gains would have a positive influence on poverty reduction and assistance in addressing water, sanitation, food, and other socio-economic challenges.

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The proposal aims to address the issue of solar power plant supply reliability, as solar power plants do not generate electricity after the sun has set. A transnational system would allow countries to obtain solar power from locations where it is daytime to meet their green energy needs, even if their own solar capacity is not producing energy.

OSOWOG also intends to address the high cost of energy storage. The OSOWOG effort may be a way to reduce the demand for storage, lowering the price of the energy transition in the process.

While energy experts agree with the initiative's idea and appreciate its scope, many are sceptical of its viability. How would the effort secure international cooperation and high-level diplomacy between countries?

What are the challenges to the ‘Green-Grid’ Project?

Maintaining a stable grid over huge geographical regions is challenging, especially when energy demand is spread throughout a geographically diverse region like South Asia, where population density and energy consumption vary widely. Any grid that functions requires a constant base load, or a minimum level of energy flow, at all times. Because demand peaks and drops occur at different times and in different regions, a larger grid becomes more difficult to stabilize with a steady energy current.

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Experts have also pointed out that transmission across large distances can be potentially expensive. However, they have stated that the initial step of OSWOG will be the transport of solar energy across neighbouring countries where building political consensus between the two parties could be a difficult task.

In a country like India, where it took a long time to connect all the regions of the country through a national grid, adoption of 'one world, one grid' that involves international trade will be a complicated task.

OSOWOG was first announced by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2018. In November 2021, a partnership with the UK’s Green Grids Initiative was formally launched at COP26.


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