Least-Cost Pathways for India's Electric Power Sector

Amy Rose, Ilya Chernyakhovskiy, David Palchak, Sam Koebrich, Mohit Joshi

Research output: NRELTechnical Report


The Government of India has a target of deploying 175 GW from renewable energy by 2022 and 40% of electricity capacity from renewable energy by 2030 and has indicated that ambitions for 2030 could be higher. Rapid changes in technology costs and performance could drive further deployment of wind and solar capacity beyond these policy targets. Increased deployment of variable renewable energy (VRE) raises new questions for power system planning regarding the optimal siting of generation capacity, trade-offs between generation and transmission infrastructure, and system flexibility needs. This study aims to evaluate least-cost pathways for India's electric power system over the period 2017-2047. Uniquely, this work considers an expanded planning horizon and range of scenarios not previously analyzed in national planning studies in India. The data collection and model design processes undertaken for this study provides a framework for recurring planning studies. This study finds anticipated changes in electricity demand and component costs can drive a significant shift in India's future electricity supply and how this system will be operated. In the Base scenario, the share of generation from VRE reaches 54% by 2047. Reducing the capital cost of wind has a larger impact on VRE penetration than reducing the capital cost of solar PV or battery storage. In the lowest wind cost scenario (40% capital cost decline by 2047 relative to the Base scenario), the penetration of VRE in the generation mix reaches 722%, exceeding the penetration levels achieved when the cost of battery storage or solar PV are reduced by an even greater 50%. In a future system with high penetrations of RE, capacity additions are driven by the coincidence of demand and RE generation rather than peak demand alone. This study finds the system could have surplus capacity during the peak demand months of July–September because this period corresponds to periods with high wind speeds and more wind generation available to meet peak demand. By contrast, new capacity is needed to meet demand during moderate demand months of October–November when output from wind plants falls more than 75% nationally compared to the previous two months. Finally, the success for gas for electricity production may depend on cost competitiveness rather than fuel availability. Increasing the amount of gas available for electricity production had no significant impact on the capacity or generation mix by 2047, as determined from a scenario that significantly increases fuel availability throughout the planning horizon. In fact, over 80% of new gas fuel available for the power sector remains unused. This suggests the high cost of gas plant operations relative to other technologies may constrain the expansion of gas generation in India more than fuel availability.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages54
StatePublished - 2020

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/TP-6A20-76153


  • capacity expansion planning
  • components
  • cost
  • demand
  • India
  • renewable integration


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