Modi’s Enhanced Renewable Targets A Credit To Minister R.K. Singh

When Prime Minister Narendra Modi committed 500 GW of fresh renewable capacity for India by 2030 at COP26, it was not just a commitment for India contributing its mite to the climate change effort. It was also an acknowledgement of the progress the country has made in reaching its 100 GW renewables milestone, and the grasp the Power and MNRE Minister, R.K. Singh has demonstrated over the complex issues facing the energy sector. That has given Mr Modi the confidence the make some of the most ambitious commitments in renewables everywhere he has gone, even as the country has struggled to find the right answers to issues regarding sustainable housing, ‘smart’ cities and more. It is this ability to find work arounds for challenges, and ensure that the renewable sector remains attractive for investors, that Mr R.K. Singh deserves credit. As a relatively ‘young’ growing sector, the government has shown far more responsiveness to changing market needs, and demands, when one compares with other mature sectors and ministries.

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Thus, it is no surprise that ratings agency Fitch for instance sees an ‘upside risk’ in the fresh commitments. Noting that the target of 175 GW by 2022 will still be missed, with projections for ‘just’ 116 GW by the end of 2022, Fitch nevertheless argues that with non-hydropower renewables set to account for a major share of fresh capacity, it is safe to expect much more action from the government in easing business for these sectors going ahead.

We believe that discom reforms are far and above the biggest change needed to set renewables on a growth path, and those reforms will ensure a sea change in the environment for renewables. The fact of the matter is that even today, if not outright hostility, many discoms treat renewable power with sullen indifference, which has made operating very very difficult. It is manifested most clearly in the miserable numbers the country has to show for rooftop solar, where state level interventions and attitude matters the most.  Less than 8 GW of the 40 GW target for 2022 has been met there, and even the most optimistic players donot expect total rooftop solar capacity to exceed 12 GW by 2022 end. That is a miss that the government has been hard pressed to fill with utility scale solar. Besides the huge opportunity loss in terms of the many more jobs that a thriving rooftop solar market can create. In fact, eventually, it has made all the difference between a close miss and a wide miss of final renewable targets.

More importantly, with every 25 GW incremental addition of large utility scale solar, issues linked to grid integration and modernisation of transmission systems will escalate, not to mention land availability. It really is time to relook the approach to rooftop solar, especially residential rooftop, and place a price and respect for the targets laid down there. 50 GW of rooftop solar for a country of India’s size and resources by 2030 is not at all unthinkable, and it is time the country took it on board.

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Prasanna Singh

Prasanna has been a media professional for over 20 years. He is the Group Editor of Saur Energy International

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