That renewable energy (RE) faces challenges like uncertainty and intermittency of supply, making electricity load management units across the country reluctant to draw it, is well known. What is less known is the role gas-based power—of which India has under-utilised capacity—can play to smoothly integrate RE in the grid system, given that it can be ramped up and down much faster than other conventional sources.
To put this advantage gas generation enjoys into perspective, while the ramp-up rate for coal-based power plants is around 2% per minute, it is as high as around 6% for gas-based power plants. This was evident during the solar eclipse on June 21 last year when hydro and gas generation had to be ramped up by 30% and 13%, respectively, to make up for a 28% fall in renewable power.
Later, when RE was ramped up by 37%, hydro and gas power supply could be immediately brought down by 18% and 17%, respectively, with coal-based power not being of much use in load adjustment.
While there is the option of using storage systems to get round the problem of uncertainty that renewable energy faces, these continue to be expensive. Though storage costs have come down considerably over the years, it still works out to be prohibitively expensive to supply storage-based renewable power to financially weak power distribution companies (discoms).
Another factor in favour of gas being used to shore up renewable supply is the large gas capacity standing idle in India owing to fuel supply issues.