India is trying to think beyond traditional energy resources like coal and natural oil and focusing on renewable energy sources. Around one-fifth of India’s energy is presently produced from renewable sources. Over the past few years, there has been an increased pace in the installation of renewable power generation, posting a CAGR of 19.78% between FY14-18. The Annual Report 2018-19, Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, Government of India states, “India has set a target to increase the country’s share of non-fossil-based installed electric capacity to 40% by 2030.”
A source from West Bengal Renewable Energy Development Agency (WBREDA) told BE, that one of the major challenges that lies in the adoption of non-conventional sources of energy is mind-set as in India, the livelihood of a large number of people is dependent on coal. Internationally, various European countries have announced that there will be no new coal or thermal power stations after 2025. India is yet to make any such announcement. However, due to the Paris Agreement, India also has to adopt such a strategy in the long run.
The National Solar Mission (NSM), launched on January 11, 2010, set a target for development and deployment of 20 GW of solar power by 2022. "The government also said that by March 2020, India would have 100GW of solar energy." Puneet Goyal, Co-founder, SunAlpha Energy told BE, “With less than six months to achieve the target of 100 GW of solar, the government is far from this target.” Lack of transmission infrastructure is a major roadblock to achieving this target.
International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) in a recent analysis found that the costs for setting up solar photovoltaic (PV) projects have dropped by about 80% in India between 2010 and 2018. The specialised bodies formed by the government like the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) and subsequently the Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI) have played a pivotal role in helping India become one of the fastest adopters of solar energy. Also, the subsidies and incentives provided by the government and Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (JNNSM) have been instrumental. The government has also taken the initiative of inviting global companies to set up mega-manufacturing plants in sunrise and advanced technology areas to help solar panel manufacturers.
However, there are some key challenges in the growth and development of the solar PV in India. Goyal stated, “Acceptance of any new technology has a standard curve of innovators, early adopters and mass deployment. India has a diverse geographic and policy-driven awareness in different states. With high solar insolation states like Rajasthan and Gujarat being high on the learning curve, there are other states such as Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal which are still increasing their basic level or technical and commercial awareness.”
India’s wind energy sector is led by an indigenous wind power industry and it has shown consistent progress over the years. According to the Annual Report 2018-19, “The expansion of the wind industry has resulted in a strong ecosystem, project operation capabilities and manufacturing base of about 10,000 MW per annum. The country currently has the fourth highest wind installed capacity in the world with total installed capacity of 35.62 GW (as on March 31, 2019) and 62 billion units were generated from wind power during 2018-19.”
The government, through the National Institute of Wind Energy (NIWE), has installed over 900 wind-monitoring stations all over country. The latest assessment indicates gross wind power potential of 302 GW in the country at 100 m above ground level.
Suman Nag, Chief Commercial Officer, Suzlon, said at recent industry meet, that despite the slowdown and hiccups, wind energy will continue to be the largest contributor of renewable energy. However, he added, this was contingent on the centre and state finding clear solutions for the problems plaguing the segment.
The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy has been promoting ‘Biomass Power and Bagasse Co-generation Programme’ with the aim of recovering energy from biomass including bagasse, agricultural residues such as shells, husks, de-oiled cakes and wood from dedicated energy plantations for power generation. The ministry is promoting multifaceted biomass gasifier based power plants for producing electricity using locally available biomass resources such as small wood chips, rice husk, arhar stalks, cotton stalks and other agro-residues in rural areas. According to experts, biomass is relatively a much more reliable source of renewable energy as compared to wind or solar as it is free from fluctuations and does not need storage as is the case with solar. However, it is not the preferred renewable energy source till now.
In the late 2000s, hydroelectric power was seen as a renewable alternative to coal and gas based generation in India. However, over the years, its significance has slowly faded due to more emphasis on solar and wind projects. At the end of 2018, India’s installed hydro capacity was around 45,400 MW with an annual growth of just 1%, the lowest since 2009. According to industry experts, the less emphasis on hydroelectric power generation is because of land acquisition troubles, uncer-tainty over final costs as well as estimated time for completion, and low tariffs.