Renewable Energy and Sustainable Development

Renewable Energy and Sustainable Development in India

Introduction to Renewable Energy in India

India has abundant renewable energy resources such as solar, wind, hydro, and biomass. Developing these resources is crucial for energy security, reducing reliance on imported fossil fuels, tackling climate change, and enabling sustainable development. The government of India has set ambitious targets to install 175 GW of renewable energy capacity by 2022 and 450 GW by 2030. Significant progress has been made, but more needs to be done to achieve these goals.

Evolution of India’s Renewable Energy Sector

Early Efforts

India began exploring renewable energy options as early as the 1980s. Programs were launched to promote solar water heating systems, biogas plants, and improved cookstoves especially in rural areas. The Ministry of Non-conventional Energy Sources (later renamed Ministry of New and Renewable Energy) was established in 1992 to promote renewables. However, progress was relatively slow due to the high cost of renewables compared to fossil fuels at that time.

Accelerated Growth in the 2000s

In the 2000s, renewable energy really took off in India. Supportive policies like tax incentives, subsidies, and concessional financing schemes spurred private investment. New business models like direct power purchase agreements and renewable energy certificates also emerged. Generation capacity increased substantially for wind, solar, small hydro, and bioenergy. Costs of key technologies like solar PV declined significantly, making them more competitive.

Recent Expansion

Since 2014, the renewable energy sector has seen unprecedented expansion. Solar and wind capacities have increased over 5-fold in just 5 years under Modi government policies like revised solar/wind targets, bidding schemes, and the Ujwal DISCOM Assurance Yojna. Large scale grid integration of renewables has taken place. Foreign and domestic companies have invested billions of dollars into India’s thriving renewable industry.

Key Drivers of Renewable Energy Growth in India

Modi Government

Energy Security

Over 70% of India’s electricity is generated from imported coal. Developing indigenous renewables boosts energy self-sufficiency and insulation from fossil fuel price volatility. Solar and wind can meet rising power demands without relying on imports.

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Economics

Plummeting costs of solar and wind energy makes them cheaper than new coal power. Auctions have discovered some of the world’s lowest solar and wind tariffs in India. Renewables provide affordable and reliable power for grid, industry, commercial establishments and distributed applications.

Environmental Factors

** Expanding renewables reduces air pollution and carbon emissions** from fossil fuel based power. This supports public health and sustainability goals. It enables India to make progress towards its climate pledges.

Employment Generation

The renewable energy sector employs over 800,000 people in India across manufacturing, project development, installation and maintenance. Many green jobs have been created and have stimulated economic growth especially in rural areas.

Major Renewable Energy Sources in India

Solar Power

Solar energy holds tremendous promise for India given abundant sunshine. Utility scale solar parks, rooftop solar systems, and off-grid solar applications have expanded across the country. Solar accounted for about 10% of installed power capacity as of March 2022. The 2030 solar target is for 300 GW.

Wind Power

India currently ranks fourth globally in installed wind power capacity. Wind turbines dot the landscape in high potential states like Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and Maharashtra. Offshore wind energy is an emerging area for future development. The goal is to have 140 GW wind energy by 2030.

Hydropower

Hydropower plays a key role by meeting baseload power needs. India has tapped about 50% of economically viable hydro resources of which one third is from large projects. Small, mini and micro hydro plants are also coming up for remote locations.

Bioenergy

Bioenergy sources like agricultural/forest residues and organic wastes are abundantly available. Biomass power and bagasse cogeneration at sugar mills accounts for 10% of renewable capacity installation. Waste to energy plants utilize municipal solid waste for power generation.

Other Renewables

Emerging renewable technologies under development in India include geothermal power, tidal and wave energy. Applications are also expanding for green hydrogen and energy storage solutions.

Key Government Policies and Programs

The government has implemented many policies, schemes and initiatives to promote renewable energy adoption across the country.

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Major Policies

  • Electricity Act 2003: opened the power sector to private investment and established renewable purchase obligations
  • National Electricity Policy 2005: emphasized renewables for meeting electricity demand
  • National Tariff Policy 2006: mandated SERCs to fix minimum percentages for renewables purchase
  • National Action Plan on Climate Change 2008: expanded efforts to increase low carbon energy

Major Schemes

  • Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission 2010: catalyzed India’s solar energy boom through financing, R&D and institutions
  • Renewable Energy Certificates 2010: market-based instrument to incentivize renewables
  • Atal Jyoti Yojana 2014: accelerated rural solar electrification
  • Kisan Urja Suraksha evam Utthaan Mahabhiyan 2021: empowers farmers through solar and other renewables

Financial Incentives

Fiscal incentives like generation based incentives, viability gap funding, capital subsidies and concessional loans have boosted renewables deployment. Accelerated depreciation, low import/GST duty rates, income tax rebates are other incentives given.

Key Challenges for Renewable Energy Expansion

Scaling up renewables faces some key challenges that need focused efforts.

Grid Integration

Large scale renewable energy integration into the grid requires significant upgrades and modernization. Smart transmission systems, forecasting tools, demand response and storage solutions are essential.

Storage Constraints

The intermittent nature of solar and wind power requires storage technologies like batteries and pumped hydro to ensure 24×7 renewable power availability. Cost effective grid scale solutions are still lacking.

Land Availability

Acquiring large tracts of land needed for utility scale solar/wind projects faces difficulties due to informal tenancy arrangements and disputes over land records in rural areas.

Import Reliance

India depends heavily on imports of solar cells/modules and wind turbine components resulting in susceptibility to global supply chain disruptions that have arisen during the COVID-19 pandemic. Promoting domestic manufacturing is vital.

Renewable Energy for Sustainable Development

Renewable energy is indispensable for India to transition towards a more equitable and sustainable economy.

Ensuring Energy Access

Decentralized solar mini grids and off grid systems provide clean energy access to remote areas thereby supporting rural development and livelihoods. 85% Indian villages have been electrified so far.

Advancing Environmental Justice

Low income and marginalized communities are most affected by energy poverty and pollution. Renewables like solar pumps, green cooking fuels, solar lights bring substantial socio economic and health benefits to them.

Creating Green Jobs

According to IRENA estimates, India’s renewable energy transition can generate over 10 million additional jobs by 2050 in construction, manufacturing, operations & maintenance. Solar technicians training helps youth from disadvantaged backgrounds.

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Meeting Sustainable Development Goals

Renewable energy deployment directly impacts 6 out of 17 UN SDGs on no poverty, clean energy, economic growth, responsible production, climate action and partnership. India has made good progress but acceleration is required.

Conclusion

In summary, renewable energy has come a long way in India from early government efforts to recent exponential capacity expansion. Wind and solar energy have become mainstream while new technologies are emerging. Though India faces challenges regarding scaling up renewables further, the opportunities far outweigh them given the imperatives of energy security, climate change and sustainable development. With supportive policies, financing mechanisms, public private partnerships, and technological innovations, the future is bright for renewable energy to power India’s growth while ensuring socio economic equality and ecological sustainability.

FAQs

What is the installed renewable energy capacity in India currently?

As of 31 March 2022, India’s installed renewable energy capacity stands at 152.36 GW, comprising 57.33 GW from wind power, 15 GW from biofuel and bio mass, 10.31 GW of small hydro power and 69.72 GW from solar power.

How has India promoted renewable energy adoption?

India has implemented policy measures like renewable purchase obligations, generation-based incentives, capital subsidies, tax incentives and implemented schemes like Solar Mission, KUSUM, PM-KUSUM to accelerate renewable energy deployment across the country.

What is India’s renewable energy target for 2030?

Under its Nationally Determined Contributions, India has committed to achieve about 50% of its electricity capacity from non fossil sources including nuclear, hydro and renewable energy by 2030. This would require installing ~450 GW of renewable energy capacity within the next decade.

How does renewable energy promote sustainable development?

Renewables provide clean energy access, create jobs, reduce pollution and carbon emissions. Solar pumps, mini grids and off grid systems empower rural communities. Skill training helps disadvantaged youth. Hence renewable energy is essential for equitable and sustainable economic development.

What major steps can accelerate India’s renewable energy transition?

Major steps would require investments into manufacturing capacity, power grids, storage systems, electric vehicles; Phase out fossil fuel subsidies progressively, put a price on carbon emissions through taxation or trading systems, facilitate availability of large land parcels in renewable energy zones with transmission connectivity, promote research, innovation and startups in green technologies through partnerships between industry, institutions and government.

MK Usmaan