In India, there exists a dilemma concerning development and environmental protection. While there is an urgent need to reduce emissions and shift to clean energy, there is also the need to provide an adequate standard of living for a large section of the population, which will no doubt increase the overall ecological footprint of the nation. So while there is a need to improve human development indicators, the threat of ecological destruction still looms. The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) has ambitious targets set for 2022 in terms of increase in renewable energy, with a doubling of India’s wind power capacity (which supplies almost 61 per cent of India’s renewable energy needs), and a fifteen-fold increase in India’s solar power capacity from April 2016 levels.
From 2015 onwards the MNRE began laying down actionable plans for the renewable energy sector under its ambit to make a quantum jump, building on strong foundations already established in the country. MNRE renewable electricity targets have been up-scaled to grow from just under 43 GW in April 2016 to 175 GW by the year 2022, including 100 GW from solar power, 60 GW from wind power, 10 GW from bio power and 5 GW from small hydro power. “The direction of travel has been set for a bright future of renewables in India. The 175 GW target is likely to be a floor rather than a ceiling. That said, we need to work strategically to lower risks – offtake, currency, regulatory, grid integration – so that investors gain more confidence, cost of finance becomes lower, and we are able to deploy at greater scale and faster.”, says Dr Arunabha Ghosh, CEO of the Council on Energy, Environment and Water.
Shifting to renewable energy is the best bet for the population, and as per India’s NDC targets with regards to the Paris Agreements, 40 per cent of the population will need to shift to renewable energy by the year 2030. With about 300 million people still with no access to electricity, it is integral that there is a move to decentralised production of renewable energy. Coal is still responsible for half of the electricity production in the country, but there is an urgent need to shift away from coal, given the environmental and health cost attributed to it. According to Sudhir Sinha, CEO of CSR Inc, “In the coming years, despite facing stiff challenges to its economy, environment and energy security, India will have no options other than achieving its energy security by shifting to non-polluting sources of energy”. “And, the good news is that India is slowly moving towards increasing its technological and economic capabilities to secure the country’s future energy demand by utility-scale and rooftop PV, concentrated solar power, onshore and offshore wind, geothermal, and conventional hydropower”, adds Sinha.
The ambitious targets of the MNRE would see India quickly becoming one of the leading green energy producers in the world and surpassing numerous developed countries. The government intends to achieve 40 per cent cumulative electric power capacity from non-fossil fuel sources by 2030, and a 33-35 per cent decrease in emission intensity, which will require a tectonic shift from fossil-fuel based sources. “India’s renewable energy push is as much, if not more, due to its own energy security concerns as it is for meeting its climate commitments.”, says Leena Srivastava, Vice Chancellor of TERI University. “India now needs to urgently prioritise decentralised renewable energy solutions so as to provide access to energy services for all in rural India as well. Only then can we hope to meet our development aspirations, provide decent jobs and propel economic growth through rural economic activities”, adds Srivastava.