The Covid-19 pandemic has given India the scope to upgrade its pace of installation of renewable energy. Between the demand of renewable energy and its supply mechanism, governmental interest plays a major role - to implement and initiate renewable energy projects. Since the pandemic started, the central government seems to be alert as production of coal and oil has slipped. When the pandemic will be over, there is also a chance that the price of oil in the international market will take a big leap.
Realising the need to focus on renewables, the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) and the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) signed an MoU in May, 2020 to set up a joint venture (JV) for expanding renewable projects in India and overseas. This JV will help NTPC to reach its goal of 32 Gigawatt (GW) of renewable energy projects within 2032. ONGC’s ‘Energy Strategy-2040’ also has keen eyes for green energy. Walking on the same path, government owned GAIL India declared in September, 2020 that they are planning to expand their renewable portfolio. Additionally, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) last week issued a revised guideline for ‘priority sector lending’ - that will boost credit penetration to the renewable energy sector.
In the Budget 2020, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had allocated $3.08 billion for the power and the renewable sector. Unfortunately, the pandemic hit India just before the implementational period of these projects.
Situation is improving
In 2019, around 7,591.99 megawatt (MW) of renewable energy capacities have been added according to official data. The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) announced that India has the potential for 1,050 GW renewables capacities by 2030. The International Energy Agency (IEA) recently informed that the capacity of renewable energy in India has increased from 17% (before the pandemic) to around 24%. The coal-fired power production system on the contrary has declined from 76% to 66%. As on June 2020, the total renewable capacity was 87,669 MW. India now stands at the fifth position globally in terms of installed renewable energy capacity. Being the world’s third largest energy consumer, a transformation towards green energy will be beneficial for India - economically and environmentally.
Puneet Goyal, Co-founder, SunAlpha Energy told BE, “Once solar energy storage becomes cheaper, we see a significant drop in interest for fossil fuels for even fossil fuel producing countries. With large capacities of fossil fuel guzzling plants remaining unutilised, the government has already been forced to rethink their policies towards fossil fuel. There is no reason that renewables and fossil fuels cannot co-exist in this transition to a 100% renewable aided power sector.”
Commenting on the response by common people regarding solar installation, Goyal added, “Interest in residential, commercial and industrial solar installations is a very community driven aspect. In the last few years, costs have reduced by more than 50% owing to reduced price of solar panels and components. With current interest rates, the solar sector is looking promising for investors. So, we are seeing a drastic increase of solar installations by common citizens.”
After the lockdown started due to the Covid pandemic, the central government notified to extend the commissioning date of renewable energy projects considering the pandemic induced disruptions. The government has also planned to blacklist the firms who are using the pandemic as an excuse to exit previously awarded green energy contracts.
To achieve India’s earlier roadmap of achieving 175 GW capacities in renewable energy by 2022 including 100 GW solar power and 60 GW wind power - the central government is preparing a 'rent a roof' policy. It will aid the target of generating 40 GW of solar rooftop projects by 2022. Additionally, R.K. Singh, Minister, MNRE recently launched the website and telephone directory of the Association of Renewable Energy Agencies of States (AREAS). This initiative aims to collaborate information regarding various renewable energy technologies and programmes.
Singh in August, 2020 had launched the Green Term Ahead Market (GTAM) to increase the participants in the renewable energy sector. Singh stated to the media, "The introduction of the GTAM platform would lessen the burden on renewable energy-rich states and incentivise them to develop renewable energy capacity beyond their own Renewable Purchase Obligation (RPO). This would promote renewable energy merchant capacity addition.”
With an aim to enhance the farmers’ energy independence and income, the government has also announced a new scheme titled Pradhan Mantri - Kisan Urja Suraksha Evam Utthan Mahaabhiyan (PM-KUSUM). It will seek to de-dieselise the farm sector in India.
World’s largest solar tree
The CSIR-CMERI, West Bengal demands a mention as it has recently developed the world’s largest solar tree, installed at the CSIR-CMERI residential colony. The installed capacity of the solar tree is above 11.5-kilowatt peak (kWp) with an annual capacity to generate 12,000-14,000 units of green power. These solar trees will cost `7.5 lakhs each. Companies can align their their business models with the government’s PM-KUSUM scheme for farmers - to develop this renewable energy-based energy grid.
Self-reliance on equipment for renewables
Major equipment like transmission line towers, conductors, industrial electronics, capacitors, transformers, cables and insulators and fittings are imported from China to meet India’s demand for these items. But India has started to charge Safeguard Duty (SGD) on solar cells that are imported from China and Malaysia to shelter its domestic players. In July 2020, the government has extended the duration of the SGD for one more year. India has also decided to impose a 20% Basic Customs Duty (BCD) on imports of solar modules, cells and inverters from this year to bar inbound shipments. Additionally, lower rates will be charged for the developers who will use equipment that are manufactured in India. The government is also planning to develop 3GW of solar module and cell manufacturing (each) capacities domestically. The department has also announced that the approved list of models and manufacturers will be made effective from October 2020.
Antonio Guterres, the UN Secretary General has recently advised, “India can become a true global power in the fight against climate change if it speeds up its shift from fossil fuel to renewable energy.” Presently, the market of coal is also quite uncertain. India has one of the lowest and most competitive per unit cost of solar power. More players must involve themselves in this sector to achieve the country’s sustainable development goals. To conclude, energy efficiency through renewables can lead to massive job creation. Rooftop solar and decentralised energy technologies are labour-intensive. It might help the country to revive the economy and the poor employment scenario in the post-Covid period.