This is the best news coming from India as 2022 unfolds. It has surpassed its renewable energy target nine years ahead of its commitment at the 2015 Paris Climate Summit. India had pledged that 40% of its power capacity would be met by non-fossil fuels by 2030. That target was met, official data reveal, in December 2021.
India’s power capacity in 2021 was 390 GW, the non-fossil fuel component being 156GW. Of this solar and wind energy make up 106 GW, the rest is hydroelectric power. Seeing this momentum, GOI has raised the RE (renewable energy) target for 2030 from 400 GW to 500 GW.
How India managed to achieve this incredible feat is a study in how dreams can be realized with a mission approach. India could use the same zeal in solving major problems such as malnutrition, building health and education infrastructure as well. It is evident that India is good at, just like how it achieved amazing milestones in space tech, if it focuses on moonshot ideas but struggles with addressing existing social, economic and environmental problems.
Many a time, achieving a target is easier but does the ecosystem have the capacity to absorb massive energy coming into the system, especially with dipping demand due to the pandemic?
Storage of RE is one of the biggest challenges. Unlike thermal or hydro power, energy production is solar and wind depends on light and wind which are inconsistent. The plant load factor of solar and wind is around 20% compared with an average of 50% in thermal plants. The good news is that big private players like Mukesh Ambani and Adani and public sector organizations like NTPC, ONGC, BPCL, IOC have committed big investment in green energy. Green hydrogen could be the star player in the coming years.
However, massive distribution challenges could make a mockery of the achievements in new capacity building. Transmission and distribution losses are criminally high around 25%.. Privatization or public-private-partnership model for distribution are the only solution. The GOI and state governments seem to lack the expertise in negotiating with multiple stakeholders. A confrontational approach seldom achieves intended results.
Reforms of state electricity boards is going at a snail’s pace. Most boards have outstanding payments to power generation companies of more than a year affecting their balance sheets and their share prices.
Big announcements on domestic investment in building massive storage capacity have been made and more are on the cards. Low interest rates and easier access to green finance have will help with dynamic pricing.
India has reasons to celebrate its achievements yet it has to ensure that, even at the marginally higher cost, it adheres to all environmental factors that come with chasing growth. There are no short cuts. Today, balanced and sustainable development is the only option. What’s important is to strengthen institutions that ensure adherence to strict environmental standards. Crony capitalists have a tendency to arm-twist governments.
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