India’s growth in the renewable energy space is no small achievement. The country’s non-hydro renewable installations have quadrupled over the decade to reach 90 GW in 2020. Most impressive has been the expansion in solar power capacity, which has grown from a mere 32 MW in 2011 to 37 GW in 2020. With this unprecedented growth, India has now become one of the most sought-after markets for renewable energy investments worldwide, and this trend is likely to continue as the country pushes ahead to meet its targets. Speaking at recent industry events, Prime Minister Narendra Modi commented on the country’s initiatives in fighting climate change, the role of the International Solar Alliance (ISA), the upcoming renewable energy park in Gujarat and India’s biofuel industry, among other things. Renewable Watch presents edited excerpts from his speeches…
On climate change mitigation
We are focused on saving our citizens and economies from the effects of the global Covid-19 pandemic. It is equally important to keep our focus on fighting climate change. Climate change must be fought not in silos but in an integrated, comprehensive and holistic way. Inspired by our traditional ethos of living in harmony with the environment and the commitment of my government, India has adopted low-carbon and climate-resilient development practices.
India has taken concrete action in many areas. We have made LED lights popular. This saves 38 million tonnes (mt) of carbon dioxide emissions per year. Smoke-free kitchens have been provided to over 80 million households through our Ujjwala Scheme. This is among the largest clean energy drives in the world.
The Climate Ambition Summit 2020 marks the fifth anniversary of the Paris Agreement – the most ambitious step in our fight against climate change. Today, as we look to set our sights even higher, we must also not lose sight of the past. We must not only revise our ambitions, but also review our achievements against targets already set. Only then can our voices be credible to future generations.
India is on track to not only achieve its Paris Agreement targets, but to exceed them. We have reduced our emissions intensity by 21 per cent over the 2005 levels. Our solar capacity has grown from 2.63 GW in 2014 to 36 GW in 2020. Our renewable energy capacity is the fourth largest in the world. It will reach 175 GW before 2022. And we have an even more ambitious target now – 450 GW of renewable energy capacity by 2030. We have also succeeded in expanding our forest cover and safeguarding our biodiversity.
India is now playing a very important role in the world with regard to environment protection, through the ISA. The ISA is among the fastest growing international organisations, with 88 signatories. With plans to mobilise billions of dollars, train thousands of stakeholders, and promote research and development in renewable energy, the ISA will contribute to reducing the carbon footprint.
On the inauguration of Gujarat’s renewable energy park
Today, new energy is pervading the region of Kutch in Gujarat, with the world’s largest hybrid renewable energy park being inaugurated here. It is going to be as big as Singapore or Bahrain in terms of area. Its massive scale and size can be gauged from the fact that it will be spread over 70,000 hectares, which is larger than several Indian cities. This important step in the twin directions of new-age technology and new-age economy is going to create a new milestone in the development journey of Kutch.
The park will have the capacity to generate about 30,000 MW of electricity, from both solar and wind energy. It will involve an investment of about Rs 1.5 trillion. Imagine the utilisation of such a huge tract of desert. Border security will also improve, with windmills along the border. It will also help the country in meeting its target of reducing the electricity bill of the common man. This project will greatly benefit both farmers and industries. And, above all, it will reduce pollution and benefit our environment. This renewable energy park will help prevent the emission of 5 mt of carbon dioxide every year. From an environmental point of view, it will be equivalent to planting about 90 million trees. The park will also make a huge contribution to reducing the per capita carbon dioxide emissions in India. It will also provide new employment opportunities to about 100,000 people.
There was a time when the people of Gujarat had asked to get electricity at least during dinner. Today, Gujarat is one of the states in the country where 24 hours of electricity is ensured in both villages and cities. Now, under the Kisan Sunrise scheme for farmers, a separate network is being developed. Special lines are being laid so that farmers do not have to irrigate at night.
Gujarat was the first state in the country to formulate policies and make decisions keeping solar energy in view. We put up solar panels on canals, which has been discussed abroad. I remember, when Gujarat started promoting solar power, questions were raised regarding this costly electricity. When Gujarat took this big step, the cost per unit of electricity generated from solar power was Rs 16-Rs 17. However, Gujarat continued to work on it, keeping future prospects in mind. Today, the same electricity is available at Rs 2-Rs 3 per unit, not only in Gujarat, but across the country. Gujarat’s experience then is giving direction to the country now.
Today, India is the world’s fourth major force in the production of renewable energy. Our solar power capacity has increased 16 times in the past six years. Recently, a clean energy investment ranking was released. Under this ranking, 104 countries were evaluated, and India made its place in the first three of these. Today, India is giving direction to the world and leading it in the fight against climate change.
On promoting the biofuels industry
Biofuels are being worked out on a very large scale in the country today. The production of ethanol, either through sugarcane or other agro products, is being taken up seriously. In the next 10 years, blending ethanol in petrol is targeted to go up to 20 per cent.
Earlier, ethanol was given preference in our country and it used to be imported, while sugarcane farmers were upset that they could not sell their sugarcane, or that they would not get their arrears of millions of rupees in time. We are now promoting the production of ethanol within the country. Earlier, when sugar or jaggery was made, the price of sugar would sometimes fall, and the farmers would not get their money. Sometimes the price of sugar would increase, and the consumer would suffer. In other words, there was no system in place. At the same time, we used to import petrol for our cars and scooters, which ethanol could also do. Now there is 10 per cent blending of ethanol in petrol in the country. This will not only increase the income of sugarcane farmers, but will also create new employment opportunities.
We are endeavouring to prepare the country for its future energy needs from today itself. So, on the one hand, the country is focusing on natural gas and on the other, it is diversifying its energy resources. Work on the world’s largest renewable energy plant started recently in Gujarat. Similarly, the new Jammu & Kashmir is moving ahead fast in the energy infrastructure sector. Hydropower is one of the best examples of how much it has accelerated in the past two to three years. Prior to this, in seven decades, 3,500 MW of power capacity had been generated in Jammu & Kashmir. In the past two to three years, we have added 3,000 MW of capacity.
Meanwhile, in our metro rail systems, we are experimenting with a braking system in which 50 per cent of the energy released by the brakes goes back to the grid. Today, 130 MW of solar power is being used in metro rails, which will be increased to 600 MW. And not only that, the electric mobility sector, along with the infrastructure associated with it, is also being given a lot of incentives. Our government is working with full commitment to ensure adequate, cheap, pollution-free fuel and electricity for every countryman.