Let there be Light

Can India ensure ‘24×7 power for all’ by 2022 without increasing its emission? Yes, India can. The government has decided to invest hugely in renewable energy to meet its growing power demands in the wake of fast-paced urbanisation and economic development. The new policy decisions in the sector have to balance feasibility, affordability and environmental sustainability


India is an energy poor country. Over 300 million people and almost 18,000 villages do not have access to electricity and per capita power consumption (1010kWh) is far below that of many developing nations. The neighboring China has a per capita consumption of 4,000kWh and the average of developed nations is around 15,000kWh per capita.

India is poised to grow and many new initiatives of the government such as Make in India, Smart Cities Mission, Digital India and many others for improving standard of living and accelerating economic development would spur the power demand drastically. The government’s ambitious plan of electrifying all villages and providing 24×7 uninterrupted power supply to all will need immaculate planning and swift execution to meet the increasing demand. The work also involves improving the financial health of distribution companies and building an efficiently linked national grid. And, all of this needs to be done in sustainable manner.

Clean energy

The nation has renewed its renewable energy targets to achieve 175GW power from renewable sources by 2022. 100GW of this is planned through solar energy, 60GW through wind energy, 10GW through small hydro power, and 5GW through biomass-based power projects. Of the 100GW target for solar, 40GW is expected to be achieved through deployment of decentralized rooftop projects, 40GW through utility scale solar plants, and 20GW through ultra-mega solar parks. It does not seem unattainable.

India is poised to grow and many new initiatives of the government such as Make in India, Smart Cities Mission, Digital India and many others for improving standard of living and accelerating economic development would spur the power demands drastically

The country has made steady progress in terms of generating power and per capita consumption. According to the data available with Central Electricity Authority, over the years the installed capacity of Power Plants (Utilities) has increased to about 3,02,088 MW from a meager 1713 MW in 1950. Similarly, the electricity generation increased from about 5.1 Billion units in 1950 to 1,107 BU (including imports) in the year 2015-16. The per capita consumption of electricity in the country has also increased from 15 kWh in 1950 to about 1,010 kWh in the year 2014-15. But the progress in generating electricity through renewable sources has not made significant improvement for multiple reasons. The most important is the unavailability of advanced and effective technological options and poor policy regime to encourage growth in the sector. With hi-tech advancements in the energy sector, the RE projects can be made operational from one year to three years after conceptualizing while the conventional power plant would require ten years.

As per the Report of the Expert Group on “175 GW Renewable Energy by 2022” by Niti Ayog, “One of India’s major advantages today and going forward is that its renewable energy (RE) potential is vast and largely untapped. Recent estimates show that India’s solar potential is greater than 750 GW and its announced wind potential is 302 GW (actual could be higher than 1000 GW). India Energy Security Scenarios 2047 show a possibility of achieving a high of 410 GW of wind and 479 GW of solar PV by 2047. The potential of biomass and small hydro is also significant. Thus, renewable energy has the potential to anchor the development of India’s electricity sector.”

This is important because the energy demand in the country is likely to grow manifold with more cities and industries coming up in the country. The government is building new cities and attracting manufactures from all over the world to set up their plants here. It will not only increase the power demand but also put a pressure on emission. Moving towards RE is required to bring about a technical shift in the energy sector which will not only cut down cost in long run but also help in bringing down carbon emission and stick to commitments made in Paris meet last year.

To achieve the RE targets smoothly within the deadline set by the government, the Niti Ayog recommends “…all non-financial support options should be made available to RE e.g. project development, policy support, legislative enablers, and coordinated implementation ecosystem. Such interventions are critical to reach the 175GW RE targets. The ecosystems should also ensure that all direct and indirect incentives should get reflected in the tariff of RE at the procurement end. Further the incentive design and procurement mechanism should be specific to the characteristics of resource and technology under consideration.”

Opportunities abound

The government has launched a series of initiatives to boost the growth of RE sector in India. The success of the initiative would require ironing out the wrinkles in the related sectors including power grid management and distribution system. To promote the development of Smart Grid in the country, Government of India has launched ‘National Smart Grid Mission (NSGM)’ in March, 2015 for planning, monitoring and implementation of policies and programs related to development of Smart Grid in India. The total estimated cost for NSGM activities for 12th plan is Rs980 cr including a budgetary support of Rs338 cr. Under NSGM, 30 per cent funding will be provided for development of Smart Grid in selected Smart Cities in the country along with development of micro grid in the country. 100% funding is also proposed for training & capacity building,consumer engagement, etc. Two smart grid projects i.e. Chandigarh Electricity Department, Chandigarh and MSEDCL, Maharashtra have been approved with an approved project cost of Rs 28.58 Crores and Rs 90.05 Crores respectively. According to a report by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), a London-based energy consultancy, India needs $100 billion in asset financing for renewable energy over the next six years. Government financing forms only a small part of the total investment. In 2015, India invested $10.2 billion of public and private money in renewable energy, about a quarter of the annual investment needed. In 2016-17, the government budgeted $758 million (Rs 5,035.79 cr) for renewable energy. ‘Renewable Energy and Jobs- Annual Review 2016’ by International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) estimates that global renewable energy employment increased by 5 per cent in 2015 to reach 8.1 million. An additional 1.3 million people are employed in large hydropower.

The employment generation potential of Indian Renewable energy market is significant. With more investors coming in the sector, the number of jobs created in the sector would go up. According to the report ‘‘Filling the skill Gap in India’s Clean Energy Market: Solar Energy Focus’’ released by Natural Resources Defense Council and the Council of Energy, Environment and Water, India’s target of 100 GW of solar power would generate more than one million jobs by 2022. The 60 GW wind target is projected to create a further 183,500 jobs across the various phases.

This is an opportunity for cities to invest in renewable energy and take benefit.

Can a city run on 100% renewable energy?

Yes. Many cities around the world are adopting renewable energy to cut down carbon emissions, protect urban environment, reduce pollution and also save money. Even cities in the developed world and in the countries where fossil fuels are available in abundance are turning to sustainable energy options. After Burlington, Aspen, Columbia and Greensburg in the United States of America, Las Vegas became the largest US city to run on 100 per cent renewable energy. “We can brag that the city, this city of Las Vegas, is one of the few cities in the entire world that can boast using all of its power from a green source,” Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman said in a press conference after Boulder Solar 1 — a solar power plant on the edge of Boulder City, Nevada — went live. According to newspaper Huffington Post, the plant’s acres of solar panels will provide 100 per cent of the city’s municipal power, excluding commercial and residential buildings. Even the countries in Middle-east are lapping up renewable energy options despite having oil and gas in abundance. The world of energy is changing faster than ever and it is changing the world. At one time, most of the world was wholly dependent on fire wood then it shifted to fossil fuels and now, everyone is talking about renewable energy. But the hesitation of being dependent on RE for power needs remains. The general apprehensions about renewable energy include it is expensive, involves complex systems and is less reliable e.g. when sun is not shining and wind is not blowing. However, technological interventions have cleared the air and proved that renewable energy is the future in a sustainable world that all the nations are committed to build.

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