Views of Anand Kumar

“The ISA is expected to be a key contributor to the renewable energy revolution”

India has about 76 GW of installed renewable energy capacity and policymakers are quite confident that the set target of 175 GW will be achieved on time, by 2022. That said, the renewable energy sector continues to be plagued by issues of inadequate transmission capacity, delays in land acquisition and poor discom financials. At the World Sustainable Development Summit held in New Delhi recently, Anand Kumar, secretary, Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE), spoke about these challenges, possible solutions and the MNRE’s upcoming schemes and programmes. Excerpts…

Statistics suggest that by 2023, 30 per cent of the global electricity will be generated through renewable energy and 10 per cent of the global demand for heat would be met through renewables. For India, moving to renewable energy and fighting climate change is a matter of faith and commitment. This was highlighted during the Paris Accord, when India set a target to meet 40 per cent of its power needs from non-fossil fuels by 2030. Another target was set for reducing the carbon intensity of our economy by 33-35 per cent compared to the 2005 levels by 2030. To meet both these goals, India is aiming to set up 175 GW of renewable energy capacity by 2022.

To this end, the country has already achieved an installed renewable energy capacity of around 76 GW, another 23 GW is at various stages of implementation and another 27 GW is at various stages of bidding. Hence, 125 GW of total renewable energy capacity has been installed or is under installation, with just 50 GW more to go. This 125 GW does not include large hydro. On including the 45 GW of installed large hydro capacity as renewables, 35 per cent of the total power capacity of the country could be classified as renewable energy. In choosing the figure of 35 per cent renewable energy share, which includes large hydro, we are not compromising on the target of 175 GW. The target increases to 175 GW plus 45 GW if large hydro is included in renewables. The MNRE is confident that the set target will be met on time. To achieve the target of 500 GW by 2030, it is proposed to bid out 30 GW of solar power projects and 10 GW of wind power projects every year. This trajectory has already been announced.

To tackle the problems of grid integration, green energy corridors are being developed along with renewable energy resource management centres. In addition, new schemes are being taken up that will cater to the tail end of the grid. The importance of energy storage in this endeavour is also not being sidelined. As the cost of battery-based energy storage solutions is expected to fall by 66 per cent by 2030, or even a little earlier than that, the face of renewable energy is expected to change, moving towards grid independence. In the energy storage segment, the MNRE is going to work towards demand creation. The ministry is also trying to draw up a phased manufacturing programme so that the country does not miss the bus on energy storage like it did on solar PV manufacturing.

What is plaguing the sector at present is the unavailability of land and transmission. For this, the MNRE wants to have a common vision with the state governments to develop renewable energy parks in the respective states. The MNRE is requesting the state governments to identify pools of land where ultra mega renewable energy parks of 10 GW to 15 GW to 20 GW or perhaps more can be set up. These parks will have the required transmission infrastructure, which will be completed in time, as per the power evacuation timeline. So, the state governments will identify the land and fix the lease or rent at which the land can be made available to entrepreneurs. The centre will take care of the transmission system by taking some money from the developer, putting in some money from its own resources and taking some money from the state governments.

Hence, the transmission system will be on time and the land will be made available on time, which will not only create ease-of-doing business for developers but will also instill confidence in the financial institutions. The first renewable energy park has already been announced in Leh, which is going to generate and transmit 10 GW of solar power in the first phase. Other renewable energy parks have been planned in various parts of the country. Where the transmission aspect is concerned, it is planned to move the sector forward with the help of private sector investments without burdening the central government. Till today, most of India’s renewable energy capacity of around 75 GW has come through private investments, and the same is planned for the transmission segment as well. The country’s renewable energy programme and related policies will ensure fair returns and ease-of-doing business here.

When discussing the electricity scenario, we need to take into account both grid-connected as well as off-grid consumers. Statistics point to 6.6 GW of global off-grid capacity, which serves around 146 million people in remote locations. India also has a significant number of people living in remote and harsh geographies, where setting up an electric grid is not feasible and off-grid solutions are the only option left. The MNRE is trying to promote not only off-grid power solutions in these areas but also solutions for heating, cooling, drying, etc. For instance, around 800 units of solar dryers are being provided to such communities in the Leh region for drying apples and apricots. Similarly, the MNRE is trying to encourage solar cooking, which has already been introduced in two villages – one in Madhya Pradesh and the other in the Andaman & Nicobar Islands. Already, 200 such rural families are using solar induction cookers in their houses, and the MNRE wants to take this forward in a big way to reduce their dependence on firewood and address the health problems that women face in these areas.

The global community has been a witness to the setting up of the International Solar Alliance (ISA) in a short span of time, after its announcement on the sidelines of COP21. Today, the ISA has around 71 signatories. The Founding Conference of ISA was held on March 11, 2018 and the first general assembly was on October 3, 2018. India wants this initiative to cover all countries around the globe. Initially, the ISA membership was limited to the countries located within the tropical region. However, it was later recommended by India that membership should be open to all countries willing to participate in this initiative, irrespective of their location.

Hence, India’s commitment is to become instrumental in moving towards renewable energy and help neighbouring countries and associates in this endeavour. Last year (2017-18) witnessed a 32 per cent growth in solar capacity addition. It is obvious that solar power is going to lead the renewable energy revolution, followed by wind power, which makes sense for the ISA. Therefore, the ISA is expected to be a key contributor to the renewable energy revolution and to the energy transition.

Apart from grid-connected and off-grid renewable energy, there is also great concern for the agricultural sector. For the “de-dieselisation” of the agricultural sector, the MNRE is introducing the KUSUM scheme. This scheme envisages the setting up of 500 kW to 200 MW of solar plants on agricultural land. If a farmer’s land is lying barren, he can choose to put up a solar plant on it and supply power to the grid and earn income through “solar farming”. Calculations show that through this, a farmer could earn an income of around Rs 100,000 per acre per year. Besides this, the MNRE is also planning to supply around 2.75 million solar pumps to farmers, of which 1.75 million pumps would be off-grid and the rest would be grid connected. So, a farmer would be able to get captive power for meeting his power requirements and supply additional power to the grid and get additional income. When he has additional income, he will try to conserve water as well. If the farmer has captive power, the discoms will not be mandated to give subsidies to the agricultural sector. In return, other consumer segments will be able to get power at lower rates as the need for cross-subsidisation will no longer exist.

 

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