How Can India Secure Its Energy Needs? Two Words: Renewable Energy

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By Dr P C Maithani

Renewable
Since 2014, around US$ 50 billion investment has been made in renewable energy in India. Representational image.

India’s renewable energy programme is one of the largest and among the most vibrant. India’s strategy on renewable energy is driven by the objectives of energy security, energy access, and also reducing the carbon footprint of the national energy systems.

Progressively declining costs, improved efficiency, and reliability have made renewable energy an attractive option for meeting the energy needs in a sustainable manner and helping India pursue its low carbon developmental pathway.

Background

Ahead of the Conference of Parties (COP) 21 in November 2015, India submitted its Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to the UNFCCC, outlining the country’s post-2020 climate actions. India’s NDC builds on its goal of installing 175 gigawatts (GW) of renewable power capacity by 2022 by setting a new target to increase the country’s share of non-fossil-based installed electric capacity to 40% by 2030 (with the help of international support). At the UN Secretary General’s summit in New York in September 2019, India announced its intention to reach a target of 450 GW.

Achieving 175 MW capacity is said to create over 330 thousand jobs, and save 326 million tons of CO2 emissions every year.

Setting Its Sights On Renewable Energy

Renewable energy has started playing an increasingly important role for augmentation of grid power, providing energy access, reducing consumption of fossil fuels and helping India pursue its target of lowering its carbon emissions. India is well on the way to realize the ambitious target of 175 GW by 2022.

As of February 29, 2020, 86.75 GW renewable energy capacity had been commissioned and 67.79 GW at renewable energy capacity was at different stages of fruition. Normatively, 175 GW of renewables that comprises 100 GW solar, 60 GW wind, 10 GW biomass and 5 GW small hydropower, is said to create over 330 thousand jobs, and save 326 million tons of CO2 emissions every year.

India’s NDC builds on its goal of installing 175 gigawatts (GW) of renewable power capacity by 2022 by setting a new target to increase the country’s share of non-fossil-based installed electric capacity to 40% by 2030.

Globally, India stands 5th in solar power, 4th in wind power, and 4th in total renewable power installed capacity. Mainstreaming of renewables is a critical dimension of India’s 2030 vision. Since 2014, around US$ 50 billion investment has been made in renewable energy in India. Around 50% of this investment was in the solar energy sector. New opportunities have emerged- altogether new business space has been created. Indian companies have begun to explore foreign stock exchanges as a source of funds. India is progressively becoming a most favoured destination for investment in renewables.

India’s renewable energy programme is much beyond the production of electricity and covers a basket of applications including the use of solar thermal energy for cooling, heating, drying, and other industrial applications. Renewable energy has emerged as a true multi-benefit system, combining ecological necessities with domestic priorities, economic and job creation opportunities.

India has worked systematically for putting in place facilitative policies and programmes for achieving the goal. Several diverse policy instruments such as a reverse auction mechanism, that reduced the cost for solar power to the utilities, and offering a Power Purchase Agreement for 25 years with a government entity, led to an increasing bankability of the projects so as to secure funding. The decline in solar and wind power prices in India has assisted in accelerated deployment. It can be said that transparent bidding and facilitation for procurement of power through tariff-based competitive bidding process have led to a significant reduction in the cost of solar and wind power.

In order to facilitate smooth integration of increasing share of renewables into the national grid, the Green Energy Corridor projects have been under implementation.

These projects seek renewable power evacuation and reshaping the grid for future requirements. Renewable Energy Management Centres are being set up in all renewable resource-rich states for forecasting and scheduling renewable energy generation, and real-time tracking of generation. This would further help in absorption of renewables into the grid.

Gearing Up The Agriculture Sector For Change

The recently launched PM-KUSUM (Pradhan Mantri Kisan Urja Suraksha Evem Utthan Mahabhiyan) scheme is to be implemented over the next four years for de-dieselisation of the farm sector and increasing farmers’ energy independence and income. Under the scheme, India has plans to provide 1.75 million stand-alone solar agriculture pumps and carry out solarisation of 1 million grid-connected agriculture pumps by the year 2022.

India has plans to provide 1.75 million stand-alone solar agriculture pumps and carry out solarisation of 1 million grid-connected agriculture pumps by the year 2022. Representational image.

Farmers are also being encouraged to set up small solar plants of the size of 500 KW to 2 MW on barren lands for additional income. Three components combined, the scheme aims to add a solar capacity of 25.75 GW by 2022.

Renewable energy deployment plans by 2022 are likely to generate business opportunities of the order of US $60 billion.

It offers a very good opportunity to the businesses to leapfrog technologies and create volumes by investing in solar power projects; manufacturing of solar energy technologies, with an aim to indigenise the complete supply chain; research and development centres; laboratories for testing and standardisation; engineering and consultancy services; and support to start-ups, including through venture capital, mezzanine finance, angel investments.

Renewables represent new energy in a ‘new’ India and has significant employment opportunities for the youth. Renewable targets in the next decade are said to create a large number of direct and indirect job opportunities in teaching, training, research and development, manufacturing, project designing, installation, and maintenance activities.

The sector is already witnessing a surge of start-ups that can be said to be a reflection of youth engagement. India’s efforts are directed towards ensuring that the best policies are implemented to promote sustainability, spur innovative businesses, promote indigenous manufacturing with concomitant economic spillovers and increase energy generation and consumption in a sustainable and environmentally benign manner.

About the author: Dr P C Maithani works as an Adviser in the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy. Views expressed are personal.

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