Manufacturing hope: India this year doubled down on its solar manufacturing aspirations by announcing new incentives in an attempt to cut dependence on imports | Photo: Japan Times

Bolstered by lofty ambitions, clean energy enjoys post-pandemic momentum

At COP26 India raised the Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) target of non-fossil energy to 500 GW by 2030 from the earlier 450 GW. India also said it will achieve net-zero by 2070. Power minister said India will have around 450 GW from solar and wind, while 70-100 GW will be from hydropower. India plans to extend the renewable purchase obligation (RPO) regime from 2022 to 2030 to achieve the 500 GW target. According to analysts, achieving just the solar target of 300 GW by 2030 would require India to install 28 GW of new solar capacity annually from 2022 onwards, three times higher than the capacity installed in any given year. The Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI) received additional ₹1000 cr in the budget, which would allow it to float 15GW of  tenders on a yearly basis.

To achieve renewable energy goals and net-zero emissions by 2050, India needs judicious planning of land use for solar and wind generation today, cautioned a new report by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) adding that with a 2050 net-zero target, solar in India could occupy around  50,000-75,000 of land, while wind could occupy 15,000-20,000

The country has now proposed new renewable energy rules to boost the RE sector, including allowing purchase of hydrogen to meet the Renewable Purchase Obligation (RPO). The Centre also categorised waste-to-energy plants as renewable power. IEEFA stated India will fall way short of meeting its targets to install two million off-grid solar irrigation pumps in the agricultural sector by 2022 as farmers fail to access loans because banks do not consider farmers’ land to be strong collateral against a loan.

With just 101 GW of renewable energy capacity in place, the government plans to set up ‘Mission 500 GW’ to achieve its declared target of 500 GW by 2030. According to the Centre, solar energy projects totalling 107.46 GW are either installed or under various stages of implementation or tendering. 

India aims to export solar equipment for which the government plans to increase the production linked incentive (PLI) to domestic manufacturers to ₹24,000 crores from the existing ₹4,500 crores. 

World’s largest coal company Coal India Ltd (CIL) has decided on vertically integrating its solar projects with its coal operations as it plans a foray into manufacturing of solar components. Energy major Adani Green Energy Ltd (AGEL) also announced that the company will set up 45GW of renewable energy by 2030 while its competitor Reliance Industries also announced a massive investment of $10.1 billion in clean energy over three years in a move to become net carbon zero firm by 2035. Reliance will also build solar capacity of at least 100 GW by 2030. The domestic solar manufacturing sector alleged that India’s PLI programme was meant for bigger players, and won’t allow smaller manufacturers to mushroom

In some worrying news, subsidies to the renewable sector have dropped by nearly 45% in India since they peaked in 2017 and the government needs to revive them urgently, stated a recent study. According to IEEFA, India’s launch of a short-term power market will make it easier for renewable project developers to enter into offtake arrangements with DISCOMS without requiring the signing of long-term contracts with discoms for the financial closure of projects. 

India will spend $200 million till 2025-27 to promote the use of hydrogen, reported Reuters. To achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, India needs to generate at least 83% of its electricity from (non-hydropower) renewables sources by 2050, stated the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW). 

With land acquisitions delaying solar projects, state governments are turning to aquatic bodies to float solar panels, which is causing an irreparable loss of biodiversity, reported Mongabay. The Indian Institute of Technology-Delhi estimated that if India deploys 347.5 GW of solar panels by 2030, around 2.95 billion tonnes of solar equipment could enter India’s electronic-waste stream by 2047

In neighbouring China, despite the pandemic, new wind energy additions in 2020 were more than the whole world had set up in 2019. In the US, developers built 16.5GW of new wind capacity last year. With less than 1% of the country’s energy coming from renewables now, major oil-producer Saudi Arabia plans to generate 50% of its energy from renewables by 2030. The IEA said even if all current net-zero pledges by countries were realised, the world would only achieve 20% of the emissions cuts by 2030 required to hit the goal of net-zero emissions by 2050.