Given the successful developer and investor response to solar and wind power auctions over the past year, the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) is confident of overachieving the 175 GW renewable energy target. It is focusing on improving the transmission system to integrate renewables into the grid and on promoting new technologies for higher efficiency gains. In an interview with Renewable Watch, Anand Kumar, secretary, MNRE, outlines the key developments and achievements in the past year, and the ministry’s key priorities and future plans. Excerpts…
What have been some of the key achievements and developments for the government in 2018?
India is at the forefront of renewable energy development globally. The installed renewable capacity has already crossed 73 GW (as of October 2018), of which, the wind capacity is about 35 GW and the solar capacity is about 24 GW. It is quite impressive that India has increased its solar energy capacity by over nine times, from 2.63 GW in 2014 to 24 GW as of today. Wind power capacity has also increased by 1.6 times, from 21 GW in 2014 to 34 GW till October 2018. Globally, India ranks fourth in wind power, fifth in solar power and fifth in total installed renewable power capacity.
Further, projects worth 46.75 GW of capacity have been bid out or are under installation. The government has announced a trajectory of bidding out 60 GW of solar capacity and 20 GW of wind capacity till March 2020. Projects worth 30 GW of solar power and 10 GW of wind power will be bid out each in 2018-19 and in 2019-20.
The government recently also organised three major events that put India on the global renewable energy centrestage. The 2nd Global RE-INVEST built on the success of RE-INVEST 2015 and provided an international forum to established players as well as new segments of investors and entrepreneurs to engage, ideate and innovate. The 2nd Global RE-INVEST hosted the First Assembly of the International Solar Alliance (ISA) and the 2nd Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) Renewable Energy Ministerial Meet countries. These three events were attended by over 20,000 delegates including representatives of over 77 countries, of which 40 were at the ministerial level.
Is the country on track to achieve the 175 GW renewable energy target by 2022?
The country is well on track to achieve the 175 GW target of installed renewable energy capacity by 2022. Trends suggest that the target will be not only achieved but exceeded since the MNRE is also exploring various non-conventional renewable sources like offshore wind, solar-wind hybrids and floating solar projects. In addition, if the 45 GW of installed large hydropower capacity is also considered under renewable energy, the current total renewable energy capacity reaches 118 GW. Hence, about 220 GW of renewable energy capacity will be achieved by 2022, if this 45 GW of hydropower is also considered, thus far overshooting the target. Till date, the renewable energy sector has received investments of about $100 billion and will probably require another $70 billion to reach 175 GW.
In order to facilitate the integration of large-scale renewable generation capacity, the Government of India is implementing the Green Energy Corridors (GEC) project. The GEC comprises the Intra-State Transmission System (InSTS) and the Inter-State Transmission System (ISTS). The MNRE is implementing the Rs 101.41 billion InSTS project, which was sanctioned in 2015-16. Approximately 2,200 ckt. km of transmission lines out of the planned 8,500 ckt. km have been completed so far under this project. The project is expected to evacuate over 20 GW of renewable power and is scheduled to be completed by 2019-20. The Government of India grant, at 40 per cent, is Rs 40.56 billion for the states of Arunachal Pradesh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu.
Power Grid Corporation of India Limited (Powergrid) is implementing the ISTS projects for transmission corridors in Gujarat-Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu-Andhra Pradesh and further to the national grid. These are being implemented at a cost of Rs 113.69 billion and are scheduled to be completed by 2019-20. Approximately 2,000 ckt. km of high voltage transmission lines have been constructed, out of a total 3,200 ckt. km. The government has also waived ISTS charges for renewable energy projects being set up till March 2022.
The MNRE is focusing on research and development to enhance the efficiency of solar PV cells and modules, and ultimately reduce costs further. The use of new materials like sodium in energy storage systems is being explored for greater efficiency gains and lower costs of storage systems.
The government is encouraging “Make in India” and to this end, a manufacturing-linked solar tender of 3 GW has been floated. To create employment and ensure skill development in rural areas, the MNRE trained 18,623 people under the Suryamitra scheme in 2017-18 and 15,000 will be trained by the end of 2018-19. In the remote areas, the MNRE is proposing to promote solar cooking to empower women and reduce pollution. This will also significantly reduce the government money spent on subsidies. Besides, a plan to set up solar villages is under way. The first solar village will be set up in the Andaman & Nicobar Islands, through the Corporate Social Responsibility Fund.
What are the MNRE’s upcoming plans for solar irrigation?
The MNRE is proposing a scheme for the agricultural sector under which farmers can use their fallow land for solar installations. For this purpose, solar projects of 1-2 MW capacity will be set up on the farms to enhance the farmers’ incomes. The MNRE is also encouraging a reduction in the use of diesel pumps in the farming sector by promoting solar pumps. To this end, the MNRE is proposing to supply 1.75 million offgrid solar pumps and 1 million grid-connected solar pumps over the next four years. The MNRE will provide 30 per cent subsidy on these solar pumps.
What is the status of the implementation of renewable energy management centres?
Powergrid is implementing 11 renewable energy management centres (REMCs) with features such as advanced forecasting tools and real-time monitoring of renewable energy generation, with a budget of Rs 4.09 billion and commissioning scheduled for 2019-20. These 11 REMCs are being developed at the state load despatch centres of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan; the Southern Region Load Despatch Centre; the Western Region Load Despatch Centre; the Northern Region Load Despatch Centre; and the National Load Despatch Centre.
The MNRE’s key priority going forward will be to promote “Make in India” for solar PV manufacturing, beginning with polysilicon. Apart from that, new technologies will be encouraged to get the maximum benefits. The government is focusing on ensuring adequate power evacuation and transmission systems to meet the demand created by renewable energy integration. A key priority for the MNRE is to increase investor confidence by creating an ease-of-doing business environment.
What is your outlook for the renewable energy sector?
The government has assessed the country’s likely power demand in 2030. The demand is expected to increase at an annual rate of 6.5 per cent to reach 825 GW by 2030. Of this, about 500 GW is expected to be based on renewable energy sources (including hydropower) by 2030. This essentially means that most of the power demand of the country will be met by renewable energy sources by 2030.