ratify the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, committed to ensuring that at least 40% of its electricity be generated from renewable energy by 2030. The present Government has set ambitious targets of increasing the country’s renewable energy capacity to 175 GW by 2022, with nearly 58% expected to be generated from solar energy. In June 2016, the capacity for renewable energy, surpassed that of hydel power, for the first time in India’s history.
Does this give us reason to rejoice? How much electricity are we generating through renewable energy now and will we meet our seemingly difficult targets of 2022 and 2030, as far as renewable energy is concerned? What is this Government doing to support and increase the generation of electricity via renewable energy?
Our Future Targets
India gets nearly 300 days of uninterrupted sun and with our 7,517 kilometers coastline, tapping wind energy to generate power is easily possible. So does India have the capability to become a renewable energy superpower in the future? Yes. it does, provided there is a political will and motivation to create and follow a strategic roadmap to achieve realistic targets.
By 2022, India is expected to generate 175 GW of power via renewable sources, out of which 100 GW will be from solar energy, 60 GW from wind energy, 10 GW from bio energy and 5 GW from small hydro power projects. And out of the 100 GW of solar energy, it is anticipated that 40 GW will be generated via rooftop solar installations, 30 GW from Solar Parks and the rest 30 GW from other government/state and private schemes. These are ambitious plans, but are we on the way to achieve them?
What Is The Current Situation?
As of December 2015, India’s total installed capacity based on renewable energy was 37,415 MW. This is about 13% of the total installed capacity for power generation in the country. We are still heavily dependent on coal (61% of the total installed capacity) to meet our energy needs. Of course, by June 2016, the total installed capacity of renewable energy in India was 48,850 MW (out of which wind power contributed to about 50%), surpassing that of hydel power, making it the second largest contributor to power generation in India. But to go from 13% of the installed capacity to 40% of its installed capacity, in a matter of 14 years, to meet the Paris Climate Change targets, will definitely be a challenge.
Let’s Talk Solar Power
The installed solar power capacity in the country, as of December 2015 was 4.8 GW, which increased to 5.8 GW by May 2016. Mr. Piyush Goyal, the Minister of New and Renewable Energy stated that India aims to achieve its target of 100 GW solar power as early as the end of 2017. His statement comes after India surpassed its target of adding solar and wind power capacity for this fiscal year. The statement does seem a bit overenthusiastic considering the fact that, even if India was to achieve 100 GW by 2022, it would need to add 15 GW by fiscal year 2018 and 16 GW by fiscal year 2019. Is that possible?
The Government recently approved the installation of 15 GW new solar power plants, with nearly 12 GW expected to be in operation by March 2017. These installations will be mainly in the form of solar parks. So what about the 40 GW expected to come in from the rooftop installations? Currently only about 300 MW of the solar power generated comes in from rooftop installations. This fiscal year, about 1 GW of rooftop installations is likely to be added. The Government is providing subsidies to both individual household consumers (though you will have to go through a list of Ministry approved partners for the installation and availing the subsidies) and housing societies (again who have to go through a developer on the Ministry’s list). Rooftop installations do come with their share of roadblocks, including lack of space in rooftops, insufficient storage technology as well as net metering systems.
Consider the example of Australia. The country generates about 5 GW of its power via rooftop solar installations. In January 2016, there were about 1.5 million solar power systems installed which is approximately one solar panel for every person in the country. Australia has the highest proportion of households with PV systems in their roofs, as compared to other countries of the world. Apart from the fact that there is plenty of sun in the country, policy support from the federal and state governments, and relatively large roof spaces, have played an important role in achieving this dependence on solar energy.
Can this model of solar rooftop installations for self -sufficiency of power be replicated in India? It most certainly can, provided the Government provides the right incentive to house-owners to set up the PV systems in their rooftops. Though major cities may face the problem of lack of space, the PV installations is definitely achievable in the smaller cities and rural areas, where space constraints are not a problem.
What about Wind Power?
Around 9% of the India’s total installed power generation capacity, comes in from wind power. By March 2017, the country will add about 4,300 MW of wind power capacity, a 30% increase from the previous year. To achieve its goal of generating 60 GW of power from wind energy, India needs to add 35 GW of wind power in the next six years. Mr. Goyal, in a recent summit mentioned that following the success of the solar energy auctions, which helped bring down the tariffs, the government is looking to start the bidding process for the wind power sector as well.
So Will India Achieve Its Targets?
It does seem a bit unrealistic to achieve 175 GW of renewable energy in the span of the next 6 years. Solar and wind power targets can be achieved, provided the Government creates and implements a strategic roadmap. Challenges include creating an interstate green energy corridor to avoid wastage of power generated, installation of rooftop solar panels in households as well as generating the resources to achieve this ambitious target. The solar energy target of 100 GW by 2022, requires an overall investment of INR 600,000 crores or approximately INR 6 crore per MW. In 2015-16, the Government had allocated only INR 2,708 crores (approximately 0.45% of the required investment) for solar energy. The country needs INR 801,065 crores in capital investment and INR 267,022 crores in equity to achieve renewable energy targets, which is about four times the Government’s annual spending on defence. India plans to meet these targets through banks and other foreign investments.
NITI Aayog is preparing a new energy policy which is expected to lay more emphasis on solar energy and natural gas in the country’s energy mix. Whether India will achieve its target or not, needs to be seen, but it seems to have become vital to take these targets seriously, if we have to do our bit for the global climate change.