1.Transformation of India’s energy basket (Live Mint)
2.Detecting possibilities (The Hindu)
1.Transformation of India’s energy basket (Live Mint)
Synoptic line: It throws light on the increasing reliance of India over renewable energy production in India. (GS paper III)
- When the World Health Organization released its 2016 list of the world’s most polluted cities, four of the top seven (and 22 of the top 50) were in India. It was not all that surprising, but India is now striving for a much cleaner future by turning to solar power.
- In 2015, Prime Minister announced the government’s goal of upping India’s solar energy capacity from the previous target of 20 gigawatts (GW) to 100GW by 2022.
- Since 2014, the country has already made strides by more than doubling its solar energy capacity and increasing its renewable capacity target to 175GW with the help of other renewable sources
Transformation within India
- India’s pursuit of energy transformation is heartfelt.
- Three recent developments testify to this. First, India added more renewable energy (RE) capacity than conventional generation capacity in 2016-17.
- Second, RE tariff in the country dropped to a level that is cost competitive with coal-fired generation.
- Third, according to EY’s renewable energy country attractiveness index, India pipped the US to become the second most attractive country for RE investments.
- These developments make India a frontrunner in energy transformation, even before US’ retreat.
- While there are still major challenges ahead for India, including dealing with an outdated power grid, the dropping cost of solar power production will surely help the country pivot away from energy sources like coal, which contribute to air pollution.
Major landmarks by India
- India has gained global attention for its ambitious clean energy targets. In 2014, it revised the domestic RE target to 175 GW of installed capacity by 2022.
- In 2015, in its Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC), India made a global pledge to achieve 40% cumulative installed capacity from fossil-fuel-free resources by 2030. While the domestic policy target is ambitious, the global pledge is aptly cautious and realistic.
- The country already has 33% fossil-fuel-free generation capacity, and as predicted by Central Electricity Authority, it may achieve the INDC target sooner. Though India’s energy aspiration has been applauded, will the rhetoric translate into action? We need to understand the political-economy drivers for policy choices, sectoral dynamics and sub-national uptake of a national aspiration.
Certain areas of concern
- Several analyses have pointed out that if India achieves the 2022 target, it will likely overachieve the INDC target for next five years. In this scenario, where many of the distribution companies (discoms) are struggling with surplus capacity and storage capacities are yet to be developed, RE will add to power scheduling and balancing woes.
- Actual generation from proposed RE capacity is unclear due to uncertainties in capacity utilization factor. While RE capacity has increased by 134% over the last five years, actual generation from RE has increased by just 60%. Part of this is blamed on reluctant evacuation by unwilling discoms, who have already contracted for higher amount of conventional power than their existing demand.
- Similarly, 33% fossil fuel-free capacity contributed less than 20% of the energy generated. Even if India achieves its INDC target, given its reliance on RE, the share of fossil fuel-free energy generated will not change much.
- Moreover, past experiences in India suggest Centre-pushed reforms, driven by reform champions, have failed to sustain, owing to poor sub-national adoption. Sustaining the desired energy transformation needs alignment of interests and building a reform coalition between the Centre, states, utilities, regulators and private players, among others.
- While there is a greater emphasis on international partnerships, the focus on building a domestic reform coalition seems inadequate.
- To meet the global expectations, India needs much more proactive and creative actions. It needs to ensure that proposed RE capacity transforms the consumable energy mix. To do so, India must balance between complementing generation capacities rather than pushing for preferred technologies.
- In addition, given the unpredictability of RE generation, the time is ripe for storage capacity development. The proposed policy goal of electric vehicles is a welcome step, but it needs to be creatively used for storage, while reaping other co-benefits. Finally, the state must facilitate a domestic coalition for energy transformation, by aligning interests.
Question: What are the possibilities for India to achieve the Paris pledge by increasing the share of renewable energy?
2.Detecting possibilities (The Hindu)
Synoptic line: It throws light on how the LIGO-India project will lead to the emergence of new research areas. (GS paper III)
- Almost 100 years ago today, Albert Einstein predicted the existence of gravitational waves in his general theory of relativity a century ago, and scientists have been attempting to detect them for 50 years. Einstein pictured these waves as ripples in the fabric of space-time produced by massive, accelerating bodies, such as black holes orbiting each other.
- For the third time, scientists of The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) have detected gravitational waves, the ripples in space-time created by objects moving throughout the Universe.
- Similar to the first two detections, the latest gravitational waves LIGO measured stemmed from two dense black holes merging billions of light-years away. Black holes don’t just simply come together when they merge; they rapidly spin around each other up to several times per second, before joining to form one single super-dense object. These rotations produce ripples in the fabric of space and time, which then move throughout the Universe at the speed of light.
- The three detections from LIGO have changing scientists’ ideas about how massive black holes can get much more massive than people thought possible.
What is LIGO?
- The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) is the world’s largest gravitational wave observatory and a cutting edge physics experiment. Comprised of two enormous laser interferometers located thousands of kilometers apart, LIGO exploits the physical properties of light and of space itself to detect and understand the origins of gravitational waves.
- Though it’s called an observatory, LIGO is unlike any other observatory on Earth. LIGO is truly a physics experiment on the scale and complexity of some of the world’s giant particle accelerators and nuclear physics laboratories. Though its mission is to detect gravitational waves from some of the most violent and energetic processes in the Universe, the data it will collect will have far-reaching effects on many areas of physics including gravitation, relativity, astrophysics, cosmology, particle physics, and nuclear physics.
What is an Interferometer?
- Interferometers are investigative tools used in many fields of science and engineering. They are called interferometers because they work by merging two or more sources of light to create an interference pattern, which can be measured and analyzed.
- The first observation of gravitational waves was made by the LIGO and Virgo collaborations on February 2016.Previously gravitational waves had only been inferred indirectly, via their effect on the timing of pulsars in binary star systems. It was also the first observation of a binary black hole merger, demonstrating both the existence of binary stellar-mass black hole systems, and the fact that such mergers could occur within the current age of the universe.
- On June 2016, for the second time, scientists have directly detected gravitational waves ripples through the fabric of space-time, created by extreme, cataclysmic events in the distant universe. The team has determined that the incredibly faint ripple that eventually reached Earth was produced by two black holes colliding at half the speed of light, 1.4 billion light years away.
- The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) detectors have detected another merger of two black holes on January, 2017. Named GW170104, this signal marks the third confirmed detection of gravitational waves coming from a binary black hole merger.
- This can shed light on the way the black holes might have formed. In this event, the spins of the individual black holes making up the merger are probably not aligned along the same direction. This supports the theory which says that black holes form independently in a star cluster, then sink to the centre of the cluster and eventually merge.
- LIGO-India is a planned advanced gravitational-wave observatory to be located in India as part of the worldwide network. The project recently (2016) has received the in-principle approval from the Indian government. LIGO-India is planned as a collaborative project between a consortium of Indian research institutions and the LIGO Laboratory in the USA, along with its international partners Australia, Germany and the UK.
- LIGO-India is collaboration between the Laser Interferometer Gravitational wave Observatory (LIGO) Laboratory (operated by Caltech and MIT) and three Institutes in India – the Raja Ramanna Center for Advanced Technology (Indore), the Institute for Plasma Research (Ahmedabad), and the Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics (Pune). These three institutions bring the complementary skills and resources needed the success of the project.
- The LIGO Laboratory will provide the hardware for a complete LIGO interferometer, technical data on its design, installation and commissioning, training and assistance with installation and commissioning, and the requirements and designs for the necessary infrastructure (including the vacuum system). The components for the LIGO-India detector have already been fabricated as a part of the Advanced LIGO project, funded by the National Science Foundation.
- India will provide the site, the vacuum system and other infrastructure required to house and operate the interferometer, and all labour, materials and supplies for installation, commissioning and operations. Funding for the LIGO-India facilities will come from the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) and the Department of Science and Technology (DST), with DAE acting as the lead agency.
Importance for India
- The proposed LIGO-India project will help Indian scientific community to be a major player in the emerging research frontier of GW astronomy. A major initiative like LIGO-India will further inspire frontier research and development projects in India.
- The nature of the experiment is intrinsically multidisciplinary. It will bring together scientists and engineers from different fields like optics, lasers, gravitational physics, astronomy and astrophysics, cosmology, computational science, mathematics and various branches of engineering. In order to fully realize the potential of multi-messenger astronomy, the LIGO-India project will join forces with several Indian astronomy projects.
- The high-end engineering requirements of the project (such as the world’s largest ultra-high vacuum facility) will provide unprecedented opportunities for Indian industries in collaboration with academic research institutions.
- A cutting edge project in India can serve as a local focus to interest and inspire students and young scientists. The LIGO-India project involves high technology instrumentation and its dramatic scale will spur interest and provide motivation to young students for choosing experimental physics and engineering physics as career options.
- Study of gravitational waves will usher in a new era in astronomy. Most of the astronomy done in the past has relied on different forms of electromagnetic radiation (visible light, radio waves, X-rays, etc.), but electromagnetic waves are easily reflected and absorbed by any matter.
- Gravitational waves give us another way to observe space. For example, waves from the Big Bang would tell us a little more about how the universe formed. Waves also form when black holes collide, supernovae explode, and massive neutron stars wobble. So detecting these waves would give us a new insight into the cosmic events that produced them.
- LIGO creates a recorded history of the detector data. This provides an advantage when cooperating with traditional observatories. Gravitational waves could also help physicists understand the fundamental laws of the universe.
Question: What are the prospects for India in the field of astronomy by concluding the LIGO project?