The expansion of the global renewable energy (RE) sector has been evident in recent years, improving energy security by decreasing dependency on finite fossil fuels and delivering climate-change mitigation solutions. The greatest push for deployment of renewable energy in India has come in by feeding their rising power demands with solar. With 37.6 GW already installed, India has already achieved its 20GW four years ahead of schedule and plan to target 100 GW of solar capacity by 2022. This sudden surge in adoption can be credited to the falling solar panel prices and government-subsidized effort to dominate the industry globally.
In view of India’s vast amount of energy needs, we should keep in mind UN’s Sustainable development Goals (SDG) that India promised to achieve by 2030. This can only be accomplished by shifting the focus from a linear economy to a closed-loop circular economy. Circular economy offers a promising way forward in addressing the current climate crisis. It is an economic system aimed at eliminating waste and the continual use of resources by closing the loop of current take-make-waste industrial model. This concept optimally uses the limited resources available and increases the value chain of the product by recycling, reusing, refurbishing, and repairing and remanufacturing products.
The circular economy offers the largest business opportunity that can be leveraged to benefit businesses, society, and the environment through its innovative business models. First being the use of circular inputs (resources that replenish naturally like renewable energy), Sharing Platforms, Product as a service, production use extension and resource recovery. These models cover the full value chain of circularity and aims to create greatest impact. Circular businesses are deeply involved within the product usage phase as they generate revenues through provisioning services rather than selling physical products, hence redefining the traditional producer-consumer-relationships. It ensures that the ownership of the product by the service provider is maintained while the consumer can avail the services without compromising on the quality of the product. Hence trust is established between a seller and a buyer with this long-term value chain and collaboration leading to scaling of the business. Aligning the customer experience with a circular economy, truly engaging with customers, and incorporating sustainable practices into every facet of the business.
The electricity industry serves as the greatest opportunity to apply circular models, with the Solar industry paving the way forward. Solar technology coupled with Intelligent operations for electricity generation, transmission, distribution, and consumption will impact the whole value chain of the way the electrical industry works. This fact can be observed in action with the business model of Solar power as a service (SPAAS) model or RESCO employed by various solar developers to offer its customers an end-to-end solution to customers. Where the service provider takes care of designing, installing maintaining and financing of the plant, while Power Purchase Agreements (PPA) signed between two parties offer an alternative to leasing, and ownership, whereby consumers commit to buy a certain number of kWh of energy from a provider. This model facilitates customers to save a substantial amount in the electricity bills, increase output and choose a greener way to power their business.
Furthermore, AI-powered solutions such as mini-grids, can help bridge gaps in the circular economy and solar production through use of energy efficiency products like energy management systems and batteries. The use of IoT and machine learning aids in integrating the PV systems with real-time analytics for optimizing the resources for better savings. With the increased use of analytics, for example, companies could more accurately forecast demand and supply to minimize waste and maximize asset utility. Going forward with this unprecedented increase in energy consumption and solar adoption we are going to think towards augmenting our limited resources to mitigate climate change.
Embracing a circular approach to PV waste and material recovery is going to be necessary way forward in making a transition to 100% renewable and sustainable economy. To tap into the full potential of circular models, the models should be considered in combination to enable multiplying effect in opportunities. Compelling us to shift our attention to more sustainable ways to drive businesses, being more mindful of business outputs, maximizing resources and reducing waste.