Views of Raj Kumar Singh

“A collective effort can enable energy transition at a faster pace”

India’s installed renewable energy capacity has crossed an impressive 90 GW, and significant capacity additions are in the offing. This has been made possible, to a large extent, by the political will and clear policy initiatives of the government, which has made India’s renewable energy market an attractive destination for investors from all over the globe. As the sector moves into a new decade, the focus of the government as well as the industry is moving to cutting-edge energy segments such as green hydrogen and round-the-clock power, which can help in accelerating India’s energy transition. At recent industry events, Raj Kumar Singh, minister of state (independent charge) for power and new and renewable energy, spoke about India’s renewable energy achievements, proposed budget provisions and prospects for the near future. Renewable Watch presents edited excerpts from his speeches…

On renewable energy achievements

As regards the promotion of renewable energy, efforts are being made towards the renewable energy target of 175 GW by 2022 under the Paris Climate Agreement. Various steps have been taken to promote green and renewable energy, such as waiver of interstate transmission charges for solar and wind and competitive bidding guidelines for the procurement of wind, solar, hybrid and round-the-clock power. Stalled hydropower projects aggregating 3,470 MW have been revived and central public sector enterprises have also been involved for small-hydro construction.

Our renewable energy capacity addition growth rate is the highest in the world. We have installed 92,500 MW of renewable energy capacity. Moreover, 49,500 MW is under installation and 27,000 MW is under bidding. We have emerged as the most favoured destination in the world for investments in renewable energy.

We have come out with many innovative projects such as solar-wind hybrid, floating solar and round-the-clock renewable energy. We have a Solar Cities Programme, under which 17 states have identified one city each to be converted into a solar city. We have proposed to come out with a bid for green hydrogen and we are also carrying out a survey for the installation of offshore wind. Our survey and preparatory work for the installation of 10,000 MW of renewable energy in Ladakh and its evacuation is at an advanced stage. We also have projects for promoting carbon neutrality in Andaman and Lakshadweep.

On budget provisions

The Union Budget 2021-22 proposes a comprehensive National Hydrogen Mission to be launched in 2021-22 for generating hydrogen from green power sources. This green hydrogen will then be used to produce green ammonia. India currently imports ammonia for its fertiliser industry, and with this local production of green ammonia, imports will no longer be necessary. Further, green hydrogen can be used to store energy. Currently, lithium-ion-based battery energy storage systems are being used for storing power. We import the lithium that is used to manufacture these batteries. If we start using hydrogen for our energy storage applications, then we will not need imported lithium.

Moreover, hydrogen will help the country in reducing its gas imports. Thus, our fossil fuel import bills will reduce drastically. In addition, hydrogen can be used for the decarbonisation of long distance heavy-haul trucks as well as buses as it is quite challenging to electrify them using batteries owing to their large battery sizes. Thus, green hydrogen can also help in developing clean mobility ecosystems.

In order to empower consumers, the budget proposed the development of a framework that would give consumers the right to choose from more than one discom. This is a big vision, which will entail multiple discoms in a particular region or area. Discoms that are already present will continue to exist. Apart from this, more companies will be allowed to foray into the distribution space in that region. Thus, consumers will be able to choose the discom from which they want to buy power based on the quality of services provided to them. This reform is going to be different from earlier schemes like the Integrated Power Development Scheme and the Deendayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana, under which the government continued to bail out discoms irrespective of their poor financial and technical performance. Now, under the reforms-based result-linked power distribution sector scheme, discoms will get financial support from the government based on improvements in their financial health.

The government has set a target of 175 GW of renewable energy installations by 2022 and 450 GW by 2030, which we will surely achieve as our demand is increasing rapidly. To achieve this target, we are focusing on strengthening our implementing agencies. For instance, the budget proposes a capital allocation of Rs 10 billion for the Solar Energy Corporation of India, which has grown over the years and will continue to grow with the increasing renewable energy capacity. Similarly, Rs 15 billion is proposed to be allocated to the Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency, which finances renewable power projects, in order to make it a larger entity.

On the inauguration of various power projects in Kerala

The entire power generated from the 50 MW Kasaragod Solar Power Project will be consumed by Kerala. Thus, Powergrid’s 320 kV, 2,000 MW Pugalur (Tamil Nadu)-Thrissur (Kerala) HVDC project is a timely gift to Kerala. We have expanded the interregional transmission capacity from 35,950 MW in 2014 to 103,550 MW at present. We have also increased the interregional transmission capacity to south India from 7,250 MW in 2014 to 21,450 MW, of which the interstate transfer capacity to Kerala stands at 3,300 MW.

The transmission line is a voltage source converter-based HVDC system, the most modern in the world and the first of its kind in India. It enables safe and faster transmission with reduced losses. It also enables transmission through cables. Of the 165 km of transmission lines, about 27 km are underground cables. The technology facilitates smart grids, provides greater flexibility for reactive power management, and enables the integration of renewable energy resources.

On climate change mitigation

We have around 10 years to meet sustainable development goal (SDG) 7 to ensure access to affordable, reliable and sustainable energy for all. The attainment of SDG 7 will require concerted efforts around the world. It will also require strong political commitment and innovative ways for expanding energy access, promoting renewable energy and increasing energy efficiency. I am happy to see the commitments of international organisations and various countries towards energy transition. India is one of the global champions of the high-level dialogue on energy and looks forward to working with all stakeholders including governments, multi-lateral organisations, non-government organisations and the private sector. The private sector, in particular, will have to play a key role in scaling up action for the energy transition and promoting the objectives of SDG 7.

A collective effort can enable energy transition at a faster pace. We hope that India’s achievements in ensuring universal access and promoting renewable energy will serve as an example for others. To scale up renewable energy in India, we have taken several steps to promote the rapid deployment of grid-connected renewable energy plants as well as citizen-centric measures such as the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Urja Suraksha evam Utthaan Mahabhiyan (PM-KUSUM) for the solarisation of agriculture. The solar PV rooftop programme has been transforming energy consumers into prosumers. We also look forward to learning from the experience of others during the dialogue. The challenges in achieving SDG 7 are huge. But I am sure that collectively we can address these challenges and ensure a clean energy future for the generations to come. All of us need to join hands and make efforts to make it truly a year of energy action.

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