100 GW Renewable Energy Milestone Achieved, Much Work Ahead In India

Highlights :

  • 100 GW has been installed, 50 GW is under installation and 27 GW is under tendering.
  • India now stands at fourth position in terms of installed RE capacity. Fifth in solar and Fourth in wind in terms of installed capacity.

In self-congratulatory messages sent out yesterday, Power Minister R.K. Singh highlighted the key milestone of 100 GW of renewable energy capacity, excluding large Hydro, that has been reached in India. After including large Hydro, the number goes right up to 146 GW.

According to India’s power ministry, India now stands at fourth position after China, the USA, and Japan in terms of installed renewable energy capacity. Fifth in solar and Fourth in wind in terms of installed capacity.

While 100 GW has been installed, 50 GW is under installation and 27 GW is under tendering according to records. With a 450 GW renewable energy capacity by 2030, the milestone on the road to 450 GW should be welcomed, for the huge achievement it undoubtedly is. There is zero doubt that if the country had been provided with this possibility even a decade ago when it set a target of 20 GW of solar by now, it would have been considered preposterous. But falling solar prices, a concerted effort to clear the way for their installation, and the natural evolution of the market have made the number possible today.

Dr Ajay Mathur, Director, International Solar Alliance had this to say. “A huge accomplishment ! And India has gone from 10 GW to 100 GW in just 15years, between 2005 and 2021. It highlights the success that is achieved with
simultaneous, strengthening availability of both equity and debt, of human and organizational capacity in the solar, financial and policy sectors, and of continuously tweaking business models in light of advances in solar technologies, investments, and markets”.

Along the way, the country has learned some hard lessons on the challenges ahead, along with a precious experience that could open up bigger opportunities providing power-related services to the world as far as renewable energy goes. One of the biggest outcomes has been the current push to make in India, as the country tries to reclaim a key role as a solar equipment manufacturer too, something that was ceded to China almost completely over the past decade. Repeated across multiple countries, in fact. That dependence is considered too risky today, especially with a significant road to be covered on the road to an energy system that is not only electrically driven but mostly renewable energy powered by 2050 or 2060 at most.

Massive shortfalls in the power system, especially on the discom side, have been aid bare as renewable energy has grown. Driven by private sector investments, payment delays, arbitrary rule changes, and varying interpretations of the law have forced multiple interventions by the MNRE and power ministries, culminating with the hotly opposed Electricity Amendment Bill (2020), that parliament has failed to pass yet again in the monsoon session.

What that means is that the 175 GW target for 2022 is out of the frame, for now, likely to be achieved only by 2024, best case. Multiple projects under installation still await power buyers (over 10 GW worth), and for those under tendering, assume a clear 24 months for commissioning, at least.

Then there is the issue of demand growth, the issue of phasing out old thermal plants, and of course, the issue of repowering old wind turbines, and from 2025 onwards, possibly even some older solar plants that will need the right policy environment to move.

The failure to build a thriving market for rooftop solar, especially residential rooftop has to be counted as a big fail, especially as rooftop solar was expected to contribute 40 GW to the 100 GW solar target of 2022. Currently languishing at just around  7.5 GW, rooftop solar would have created many more jobs, innovations, and domestic demand for domestic solar, if handled properly.

Then there are the states that seem intent on turning the clock back. As Martin Scherfler, Auroville Consulting Says, “While India saw its aggregated  installed RE capacity crossing 100 GW, Tamil Nadu has a 7.38 GW of new coal power plants under construction, failed to meet its Renewable Energy Purchase obligations for the last seven years and has prevented the progress of rooftop solar energy by introducing policy and regulatory hurdles.
It’s time for the state to resume its role as a global renewable energy leader and accelerate its transmission towards a carbon free energy future. “

As things stand today, the country knows what it has to do, and even why it has to do it. The big question is, will we be able to collect the political will and consensus to get there?

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