Home Renewable Energy Sinister clouds loom over India’s shining climate goals
Sinister clouds loom over India’s shining climate goals

Sinister clouds loom over India’s shining climate goals

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At the world’s biggest climate meet in Poland, India shone bright for its renewable energy targets and being on track for achieving its climate goals. The country’s pledges are quite ambitious compared to other developing economies. However, latest data reflects some lacunas. TOI analyses various data

Katowice (Poland): ‘We are well ahead of achieving our climate targets’. The bold statement made by India at the climate change meet COP 24 here won high praises from the delegates assembled around the world. Though it was not entirely off the mark, the latest government figures present a smoggy picture which does not completely substantiate the claims. Some numbers also suggest the need for revising the country’s commitments made in the Paris Agreement of 2016.

TOI’s analysis of government data and policies, done with the help of international analysts, reveals that the country’s progress in installing renewable energy is not keeping pace with its clean energy target. In its National Electricity Plan (NEP), India has committed to install 175 gigawatt (GW) of clean energy by 2022. However, in some recent statements, power minister RK Singh announced that the government will achieve this target in the next two years and is now aiming to add around 227GW by 2022.

The most recent data of the Central Electricity Authority (CEA) shows that up to November end, the total installed capacity of renewable energy in the country is around 72GW which is not even half of the earlier 175GW target and is only 32% of the increased goal.

But, in a positive trend, the data also shows that the capacity increased from 34GW in 2014 to 72GW as of today. “Given that renewable capacity more than doubled, achieving 175GW in the next four years seems to be within reach,” said Yannick Monschauer of Ecofys, a Navigant company, which is one of the three research organizations that produces scientific analysis Climate Action Tracker (CAT).

Achieving the target depends on various factors. Said Sunil Dahiya, senior campaigner at Greenpeace India, “As per the recent figures of the ministry of new and renewable energy, it looks possible. But a lot of it depends on actual translation of these numbers and plans on ground in form of implemented projects.”

The electricity plan further states that by 2022, the country will install around 100GW of solar energy. According to latest government data, only 24GW of solar energy has been installed till now. Adding as much as 76GW in the next three years might prove to be an arduous task for the government.

A bigger concern, however, is not installed capacity-based targets but the actual generation of electricity from fossils and non-fossils. Three months back, TOI had reported that total energy generation from renewables was only 8.08% between July 2017 and June 2018.

The data on electricity generation shares available with CAT states that power generated from renewables between 2006 to 2016 increased from 2 to 7%. On the other hand, the values remained steady at 80-81% for electricity coming from fossil fuels during the same ten years.

However as per experts, reading between figures present a brighter picture. “With 21%, renewables have seen the highest average annual growth rate from 2006-16. The rate for fossils has been 7%,” said Yvonne Deng of Ecofys.

The analysis on India by CAT is hopeful that the country can meet the 227.6GW target too. “The additional 52GW capacity will require investment of $50 billion. This seems feasible considering that over $42 billion have been invested in renewable energy sector in India in the past four years,” said Monschauer.

Another major cause of concern for India remains to be the increasing consumption of coal, an issue which found a place in global debates at COP 24 too. Documents procured through Right to Information (RTI) Act by Greenpeace India had revealed that from 447.8 metric tonne (MT) in 2012-13, the coal consumption by power plants rose to 605.9 MT in 2017-18.

According to CAT analysis, coal consumption increased by 4.8% or 27 million tonnes last year. “The latest electricity plan still forecasts net coal capacity additions of 46GW. Abandoning those plans can bring India close to being compatible with the 1.5° Celsius ambition of the Paris Agreement on climate change and provide health benefits to people,” added Monschauer.

An international report, which was released by Germanwatch at COP 24 four days back, also warned that building new coal-fired plants may threaten India’s progress on clean energy.

Analysis done by CAT also highlights the “not-so-good change” in the draft and final electricity plans. While the draft NEP projected that the country needs no new coal plants after 2022, the final plan foresees capacity additions in this period. “There is a risk of some of this capacity becoming a stranded asset,” the analysis states.

As reported by TOI recently, 34 stressed coal fired plants have an outstanding debt of Rs1.74 lakh crore. Last year, power sector alone accounted for Rs11.7 lakh crore out of the total credit of Rs77.9 lakh crore.

The CAT analysis further stated that India can achieve some of the other NDC targets with current policies. In its NDC, India committed to achieve 40% power installed capacity from non-fossil fuels. The CEA data claims that India has also reached a share of non-fossil capacity of 36%.

But the data has also included installed capacity from nuclear and hydro under non-fossils — a move not well-received by environmentalists. “Building large hydro projects involves submerging forests and displacing communities. Nuclear, on the other hand, is expensive, unsafe and time-consuming. The best solution to move away from fossil fuels in an economical and safe way by adopting solar and wind technologies,” said Dahiya.

Experts also feel that it’s time for India to revise its NDCs. “Although ambitious when compared to other major economies, India’s NDC is ripe for ratcheting. The country is on track in achieving its 40% capacity target more than a decade earlier and is currently on track to halving emissions intensity by 2030. It is now time to increase the targets,” added Deng.

A REAL POWER STRUGGLE

Slow on solar: Committed to install 175 gigawatt (GW) of clean energy by 2022, later increased the target 227GW; Installed 72 GW till now, which not even half of earlier 175 target and only 32% of the increased goal

Fast on coal: From 447.8 metric tonne (MT) in 2012-13, the coal consumption by power plants rose to 605.9 MT in 2017-18. Last year, it increased by 4.8% or 27 million tonnes

The ‘real’ power: Increase in actual generation from renewables from 2006 to 2016 – 2 to 7%, Actual generation from fossil fuels: 80-81%

Reading between the figures: Renewables see highest average annual growth rate with 21% (2006-16), fossils see 7%

The coal challenge: 34 stressed coal fired plants have an outstanding debt of Rs 1.74 lakh crore. Still, more being added

Money matters: To add 52 GW of clean energy more, it needs $50 billion. India managed to invest over $42 billion in last 4 years.

The bright side: India can achieve some of its climate goals with current policies

Time to change: India needs to revise its climate action plan

Source: timesofindia.indiatimes

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Anand Gupta Editor - EQ Int'l Media Network