November 2020

This issue marks the tenth anniversary of Renewable Watch. We have taken this opportunity to bring out a special commemorative issue that reflects on the journey of renewable energy development in India. The issue provides a top-level view of the key developments in the sector over the past 10 years – the progress, setbacks, unresolved issues, emerging challenges, new requirements and potential solutions. We have featured the views of various stakeholder groups – policymakers, developers, and financiers. We have also sought editorial contributions from industry experts, who have helped shape the sector and many of whom are old friends who have supported the magazine since its early years and to whom we are especially grateful.

In line with our 10th anniversary motif, we are carrying a special section, Rewind 2010-2020, which features 10 key policy developments that shaped the sector, 10 top performing states, 10 best projects, 10 ideas for the future, 10 landmark deals and 10 renewable start-ups that made it big, among others. The selections have been done based on our sector coverage over these years. We are sure that there have been some errors of omission and maybe some errors of commission, but we hope you will forgive us for those.

We also take this opportunity to reflect on our own journey. In the first issue, we stated that “the mission of our magazine is to provide accurate information, to track investments and projects, to showcase innovations and technologies, and to offer a platform for debate and discussion on policy, regulation and financing in India…deliver world–class writing with an emphasis on accuracy and objectivity.”

In some ways, the core of our mission remains the same. In other ways, it has evolved. We continue to provide information, analysis, insight and opinion. And over the next few years, we also intend to have a stronger and larger global presence in order to extend our reach.

The seeds for this have already been sown. Earlier this year, we launched “REGlobal”, with the objective of providing global, high-level analysis and perspective on renewable energy issues that are of interest and relevance to CXOs working with energy developers, electricity utilities, technology providers, investors, regulators, policymakers and other concerned organisations globally. We hope we will be able to deliver on this promise.

We would also like to take this opportunity to thank all our readers, contributors and advertisers. Whatever we have achieved would not have been possible without their support. And we hope that it continues.

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Ten years ago, when this magazine first rolled off the press in November 2010, the renewable energy industry in India was just getting ready for a big leap forward. GBI was introduced to promote IPP-led growth in the wind power segment. The JNNSM was announced, setting a target for 20 GW of solar capacity. Several start-ups came up, some led by large foreign investors wanting to capture a share of the emerging Indian renewable energy market. At that time, the target seemed naïve, or in other words, over-ambitious.

A decade down the line, India’s net power generation capacity has increased by 212 GW – nearly the total grid size of France. Roughly 42 per cent of this addition has come from renewable energy sources, including large hydro. India’s installed wind and solar capacity has quadrupled in a decade, to reach 87 GW in 2019. Capacity addition slowed down temporarily in 2020 due to the Covid crisis, but the fact is that today, the country has 90 GW of clean generating capacity (excluding large hydro) – representing about 24 per cent of the country’s entire installed capacity, against 10 per cent at the beginning of the decade.

The push from the central government proved to be a game changer. It not just infused enthusiasm in the industry, but also prompted policymakers at the state level to promote clean energy development. Some successful examples are Madhya Pradesh’s inter-state open access-based Rewa solar park; Karnataka’s Pavagada industrial solar park, reportedly the second largest solar power facility in the world; Maharashtra’s solar agriculture feeder programme; Telangana’s decentralised solar development model; and Punjab’s canal-top and floating solar scheme.

From 2016 onwards, driven by ever-low solar and wind tariffs, capacity additions in an otherwise coal-dominated sector tipped decisively towards renewable energy. In a noteworthy development along the way, the annual renewable energy capacity addition surpassed the addition in coal-based capacity in 2018 for the first time in the history of the Indian power sector. The gap between the cost of new coal versus clean power generation continues to widen in favour of the latter.

There have been plenty of hiccups along the way. Several tenders got stalled or cancelled due to disjointed policy decisions, mostly at the state level. Many large projects got delayed due to problems with land acquisition, contract renegotiations and transmission capacity. Despite a number of measures, discoms continued to be in poor financial shape throughout, keeping the offtake and payment delay risks high for renewable energy projects.

Nonetheless, a clear shift to renewables continued through the decade and has now become a lasting trend, driven primarily by economics. In June 2015, the central government set a target to install 175 GW of renewable generation capacity by 2022. Of this, the target for solar PV was 100 GW, 60 GW for wind, 10 GW for biomass and 5 GW for small-hydro. Looking further ahead, the prime minister envisions 450 GW of renewables by 2030.

To the industry’s credit, it has stood up well to all developments, positive or negative, and helped ensure that Indian renewable power does not get lost in serving vested interests. Over these years, IPPs have devised new ways of planning, designing, financing, constructing and operating projects that result in higher efficiencies. Constant innovation in technology and design has helped renewable power compete on its own merit, without long-term government subsidies. The manufacturing segment has, however, lagged behind. We believe, with the right push under the Make in India initiative, this segment too will take off in a big way.

Going forward, a lot is riding on the success of the renewable energy storage market – a cleaner environment, energy security and global leadership in the most promising industry.

The past 10 years have been exciting. The next 10 will hopefully be even better.

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