After obtaining a master’s in physics from Meerut University, he went on to do a PhD in solar energy from IIT Delhi in 1981. Around that time, the Centre of Energy Studies was established at IIT Delhi and he decided to work there, first as a research scholar and then as scientific faculty. During this time, he wrote a large number of scientific research papers and co-authored three books on solar power.
Making a shift from academics to policy, Kumar joined the government in 1986. He got involved with the National Solar Mission (NSM) as director in the MNRE and in 2012, shifted to the Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI) as director (solar). Two years later, he was made managing director. He superannuated in 2017.
At TERI, Kumar is steering the Renewable Energy Technologies Division, which is involved in interesting work in areas such as floating solar PV potential assessment, solar manufacturing policy, policy research on de-risking solar investments in India, and studies on decentralised versus large grid-connected solar and demand aggregation activities for rooftop solar. The division works with governments, multilateral and bilateral organisations, international organisations, the International Solar Alliance, and the industry. It has also developed a state-of-the-art solar water pump test facility at the GwalPahari campus.
For Kumar, working at SECI and handling assignments relating to the NSM were particularly fulfilling as they led to the mainstreaming of solar energy, thus contributing to a cleaner, more sustainable world. “The growth in renewables in India has been exponential due to the ecosystem created by proactive government policies and the regulatory and fiscal support provided to the sector,” he notes. However, he feels there is overdependence on solar imports, and timely land availability and processing of change in law provisions in contracts are challenges for developers. He believes that grid integration of renewables is important, which is being addressed through innovative tender designs such as the recently concluded SECI tender for round-the-clock power.
In terms of management style, Kumar believes in leading by example. He likes to maintain open communication channels with his team, identify talent and motivate people. In his hectic daily schedule, he makes sure he takes time out for a morning walk and yoga, besides reading about sector developments.