Views of Raj Kumar Singh: “We have witnessed the fastest renewables growth in the world”

“We have witnessed the fastest renewables growth in the world”

With clean energy transition and future energy security foremost on their agendas, countries are racing to expand their renewable energy portfolios. India, with a target of 500 GW of non-fossil fuel based power by 2030, is a leading contender in the race, deploying renewables at a rapid pace backed by a strong policy environment and a competitive market. The country is also exploring emerging clean energy technologies such as round-the-clock power green hydrogen and offshore wind to accelerate its transition and ensure a sustainable energy mix.

At recent events, Union Minister for Power and New and Renewable Energy Raj Kumar Singh shared in­sights into the progress of the power and renewable energy sector in India and the role of states in achieving the country’s renewable energy ambitions. He also discussed the upcoming opportunities in areas such as solar manufacturing, green hydrogen, energy storage and offshore wind as well as the importance of international cooperation to enable energy transition effectively.

Progress in the power and renewables space

If we compare the country’s power supply situation, we had a power deficit in 2014 and now we have a power surplus. Further, at the time, there was a significant shortage of 13-15 per cent in power supply, which we have addressed and now we have a power surplus as far as capacity is concerned. We connected the entire country through one grid and added almost 161,000 ckt km. Today, we can transfer 112 GW of power from one part of the country to another. We constructed more than 2,900 new substations and upgraded about 3,800 older substations to higher capacity across the country. We have also put in place additional HT lines and LT lines.

At COP21 that was held in 2015 in Paris, we had pledged that 40 per cent of our installed power generation capacity will be non-fossil fuel based by 2030 as part of our Nationally De­termined Contributions. We achieved this target in November 2021 itself, and our non-fo­ssil fuel-based power capacity reached 161 GW, accounting for 41 per cent of our total installed power capacity.

By definition, non-fossil fuel-based power capa­city includes renewables such as solar, wind, biomass and hydro, and also nuclear power. We have witnessed the fastest rate of growth of renewable energy in the entire world. Today, our renewable energy capacity has reached 158 GW. Bloomberg carried out a survey recently and rated us as the most attractive destination for renewable energy investments.

Apart from the 158 GW of renewable power capacity installed till date, 70 GW of additional capacity is under implementation. If nuclear is also considered, then another 15 GW of non-fossil fuel based power is being deployed. In fact, we have emerged as the only G20 country whose actions are consonant with the sub-2 °Celsius rise in temperature.

The Green Energy  Open Access Rules, 2022, recently notified by the government will enable the commercial and industrial consumers to get faster approval for green energy open access, uniform banking and voluntary purchase of green power. Further, captive consumers can now procure power under green open access with no minimum limitation and discom consumers can de­mand green power supply. This will act as a catalyst in achieving India’s commitment of 500 GW of non-fossil fuel-based power capacity by 2030.

On state-level steering committees for energy transition

The chief ministers of all states and lieutenant governors of union territories have been asked to set up state-level steering committees for en­ergy transition. These steering committees will work under the chairmanship of the chief secretaries of the respective states and union territories. The states and union territories will work on the annual strategy of energy transition under the mandate of the committee.

The states and union territories have a vital role in meeting the state-specific goa­ls of sustainable development in the most energy-efficient way. Energy transition is the only means of reducing carbon emissions and fulfilling our commitments ma­de at international forums. Some states such as Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh and Uttarakhand have already constituted such committees.

The states and union territories must work together on multiple tracks to enable energy transition. The first track is the addition of renewable energy to the electricity generation mix to meet the nation’s ever-increasing demand for electricity. The second track would be the promotion of energy efficiency while the third one is increasing the use of biomass and green hydrogen. If we all work collectively on these points, not only will we be able to achieve our goals, but it will also create new jobs, accelerate development and ultimately benefit every citizen of the country.

I urge the states to make efforts towards zero diesel utilisation in agriculture by 2024 by limiting the consumption of diesel in the agriculture sector. To this end, financial assistance under the Revamped Dis­tribution Sector Scheme may be availed for adopting solar energy for separate agricultural feeders and agricultural feeders under the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Urja Suraksha evam Utthan Mahabhiyan.

The role of the state governments is significant for the successful reduction of the country’s emission intensity by 45 per cent by 2030 as compared to the 2005 level.

On Indo-German collaboration in renewable energy

India has emerged as one of the most attractive destinations for investment in renewable energy. It has focused programmes for capacity addition and energy transition. The nation already has one of the largest renewable energy capacities in the world, and it also has the fastest rate of renewable energy capacity additions. India has huge energy transition ambitions. Thus, there is a need for developing storage, including pumped hydro and battery storage, for balancing renewable energy.

India plans to add some of the largest capacities in battery storage, green hydrogen and green ammonia for its own use and also to meet the growing global energy demand. Going forward, it will become one of the largest producers of green hy­drogen in the world. We will manufacture green hydrogen at the most competitive prices. Germany will need to import large quantities of green hydrogen and green ammonia on its path to energy transition and it can source its requirements from India. Further, India is planning to launch bids for green hydrogen. It will also need large electrolyser manufacturing capacities of for green hydrogen production. The German industry is welcome to come and compete for developing this ecosystem in India. Further, German companies are welcome to participate and compete in the manufacturing of high efficiency solar cells and modules as India plans to set up 50,000 MW of capacity.

Our plans will also create significant opportunities in the offshore wind space and we aim to have a capacity of 30,000 MW of offshore wind in our country. India welcomes innovation and we have nu­me­­rous emerging opportunities. We invi­te Ger­man companies to invest in India. We have a transparent bidding system, an open market, an expeditious dispute resolution system and we are globally ack­nowledged as one of the most attractive destinations for investment in renewable energy.

On international cooperation

India has taken a globally acknowledged initiative of energy transition. It is now time for all countries to come together and contribute to solve each other’s problems. If we are really serious about addressing climate change related issues, we need to work together to set up a fund. Countries do not necessarily have to give financing for free, they can provide loans as well at low interest rates.

This is required urgently, as while India can establish renewable energy capacity and energy storage on its own, other na­tions may not be able to do so without ac­cess to affordable finance. Thus, to tackle the issue of global warming, we have to enable other countries to set up renewable energy and energy storage capacities as renewable energy integration on a large scale requires storage.