Scope of Renewable Energy in India

India’s population is increasing rapidly and is expected to be the world’s most populous country by 2020. India is currently facing huge energy demand. Although its energy production has expanded over the years, its population is also increasing at an alarming rate. India has the 5th largest power generation portfolio. As the country is facing a huge energy crisis, there is a high need to tap the potential renewable energy resources.

India is endowed with vast potential of renewable energy with current energy contribution at 31.70 GW of  the total installed capacity of 245 GW in the country as on 31st March 2014.

India is the fourth largest importer of oil and sixth largest importer of petroleum products. India’s increase use of renewable resources is expected to reduce the dependence on expensive imported fossil fuels. Economic growth, increasing prosperity, growing urbanization and rising per capita energy consumption along with the government’s increasing role in the development of cleaner fuels, has widened the renewable energy generation in India. India has a major potential in solar, hydro, wind and nuclear energy.

Solar Energy:

India is blessed with huge potential for solar energy generation in India. This is primary because of its geographical location. India is a tropical country which receives solar radiation almost throughout the year. Almost all parts receive 4-7 KWh of solar radiation per sq. metres. The country is rapidly emerging as the major manufacturing hub for solar power plants with key potential areas in Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Punjab, Rajasthan and West Bengal.

On 11 January 2010, the then Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh launched the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (JNNSM) which aims to generate 20,000 MW of solar power by 2022 , creating a positive environment among investors keen to tap into India’s potential. Its main objective is to establish India as a global leader in solar energy by creating a policy condition for its large scale diffusion across the country as quickly as possible. -(JNNSM, Solar Energy Corporation of India)

sectors-renewable-energy-iconThis national-level mission focuses to transform India’s rural economy through the spread of solar lighting systems, solar water pumps and solar power based application. Lack of access of electricity to rural households (where more than 75% of India’s population resides) is majorly blocking the way to India’s economic growth and this initiative aims at overcoming this barrier through its various projects being taken up.

Apart from this, Solar Photovoltaic (PV) is the fastest growing segments of renewable energy industry. However, PV projects suffer from various challenges. Firstly, the manufacture of PV projects involves huge installation cost. This is mainly because of its dependence on imports of silicon and solar wafer which are key ingredients in making solar cells. Secondly, manufacturers have tied up with developed countries like Europe and US where they gain from the sale of solar PV cells and modules at higher prices, thereby reducing the supplies to the country’s fast growing local markets. Thirdly, the complexity of subsidy structure and involvement of too many agencies like MNRE, IREDA, SNA etc makes the development of PV project difficult.

The Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI) is designated as a nodal agency for implementation of 750 MW of Solar PV projects under JNNSM Phase II, Batch-I wherein SECI has been entrusted with the responsibility of project selection, monitoring and timely execution, handling funds and trading of power generated. – (www.seci.gov.in)

The MNRE (Ministry of New and Renewable Energy) also plans to set up 25 solar parks, each with a capacity 500-1000 MW, thereby targeting around 20,000 MW of solar power installed capacity in 5 years.

As of 2015, Government has received proposals from 12 states for setting up of solar power parks/ ultra Mega Solar Power Projects totaling 22,100 MW capacities including the biggest 7500 MW to be set up in Leh and Kargil in Jammu and Kashmir. Land is also been identified in Rewa district in MP for 1500 MW project, in Mehboob Nagar in Telangana for 1000MW project, Anantpur district in Andhra Pradesh for 2500 MW, Bijapur in Karnataka for 100MW project; Jalam, Sonabhadra and Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh for 600 MW and near Guwahati,Meghalaya for 50 MW project. In addition, solar projects have also been identified in Punjab (2000MW), Jaisalmer in Rajasthan (3700 MW), Tamil Nadu (500 MW) and Odisha (1000 MW).

India has a long way to go in this sector. It should definitely work in exploring new potential areas and exploit it to the maximum extent to attain world leadership.

Hydro Energy:

Hydro power is one of the most economic and non-polluting sources of energy. India currently ranks 5th in terms of the exploitable hydro-potential on global scenario. India became one of the first countries in Asia to tap the hydro power with the establishment of a hydropower project at Darjeeling and Shimsha (Shivasamudra) in 1898 and 1902 respectively. India (4710 dams) is also the third country in the world after US and Russia in terms of the number of dams built.

India’s total potential installed capacity stands at 148,700 MW out of which about 30,164 MW (nearly 21 %) has already been developed while 13,616 MW (9.2%) of the capacity is under development.

From a regional point of view, the northeastern states have a huge potential of hydro energy generation at 93%, primarily in the parts of Brahmaputra river basin. Currently, NTPC is also planning to set up country’s biggest dam in Arunachal Pradesh at Siang which if constructed could generate around 10,000-12,000 MW making it the largest hydroelectric dam in the South-Asia. On the other hand, in southern and western parts of the country, more than 65% of the energy potential has already been tapped.

India’s Small Hydro Power (SHP) projects are vital areas for power generation in the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy. It can play a critical role in improving the overall energy scenario of the country, particularly in remote and inaccessible areas.

India currently has an estimated SHP potential at 20,000MW.The MNRE is responsible for developing SHP projects of up to 25MW capacities, aiming to cover a target of 7000MW by the end of the 12th plan.

India’s hydropower generation suffers from various shortcomings which have led to its slow growth like environmental concerns, land acquisition problems, long clearance and approval procedures etc. Construction of dams adversely affects the vegetation of the areas and leads to submergence and rehabilitation of huge population. The “Narmada Bachao Andolan” is based on this drawback. It has caused many inter- state disputes over sharing of river waters and energy generation. The government has tried to overcome many such problems through various acts like the recent amendments made to the Land Acquisition Bill. The SHP programme aims to lower the cost of equipment and encouraging projects in areas which can give maximum advantage in terms of capacity utilization. All these efforts by the government, has made the sector investment friendly as many private firms has actually come up in investing in these projects. Through the combined efforts of the government and private sector, the gap between planned and actual energy generation would finally be bridged and hydropower sector would experience accelerated growth thereby helping Indian economy meet its ever increasing energy deficit.

Wind Energy:

Wind energy is the country’s largest renewable energy source. Currently, wind energy in India accounts for 70% (21.1GW) of installed capacity, thereby making India the world’s fifth largest wind energy producer in the world after China, US, Germany and Spain.

The country is blessed with a long coastline of 7517km and its “on-shore” potential for wind energy utilization in electricity generation is 65,000MW.

India-renewabale-energyMNRE is currently vested with the responsibility to study the status of grid availability in 6 states with maximum wind velocity. The government originally planned to tap 18,500 MW of wind energy during the 12th plan period. – (The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, India ) However, wind energy which often get overshadowed by solar projects, got a big boost with the new governance in 2014. The new government accelerated wind power capacity to reduce dependence on imported fuels and increase the share of environment friendly energy resources. The main focus is to increase volume of energy generation which would lower the average cost of production and tariff due to economies of scale, thereby making it more investment friendly.

However, there are certain challenges which restrain the country to achieve its desired targets and exploit the resource fully. Firstly, there is a need to resolve issues related to wind power evacuation and renewable power purchase obligation of state utilities. Secondly, Indian wind turbine makers face competition from Chinese counterparts in terms of availability of cheap finance to investors in wind energy. Thirdly, electricity generation depends on wind speeds, location, season and temperature and thus, various monitoring systems are needed which may be expensive.

Many Indian firms are enjoying world leadership in wind turbine production like the firm Suzlon which was among top 10 manufacturers in the world market share of 6.7%. Many major world companies are pouring into the fast evolving wind energy market in India. Companies like Vestas, GE Wind etc have already opened up various establishments in many Indian cities. If the trend continues, India would one day be able to tap its potential and attain world leadership in this sector.

Nuclear Energy:

In 1970, India was excluded from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty due to its weapon program. As a result, India was debarred from trade in nuclear plants or other similar materials. It boosted India to tap its nuclear energy and meet all the requirements (India lacked indigenous uranium) independently. India is credited for uniquely been developing a nuclear fuel cycle to exploit its reserves of thorium. India also lacked technical assistance in this sector due to complete isolation from the rest of the world in this sector. Nevertheless, it managed to develop Pressurized Heavy- Water Reactors (PHWRs) in 1964 which needed less natural uranium than the traditional reactors, needed no enrichment and was in sync with the country’s engineering capacity at that time.

Today, nuclear power plants account for nearly 3.5% of total electricity generation and its share in India’s future electricity generation will be less than 10% even if the installed capacity is tripled. India expects to generate nearly 14,600 MW of nuclear energy by 2020 and also aims to supply 25% of electricity from this source by 2050. However, along with other sources of energy such as hydropower and solar-power, it will play a role in reducing India’s reliance on coal for generating electricity. Although this resource is not as environment-friendly as other renewable sources are but it is a highly efficient source.

Before 2008, India’s nuclear power reactors operated at 50% capacity because India did not produce sufficient uranium to run these reactors at full steam. But now fuel availability is no longer an issue as the nation has collaborated with countries like US, Russia, France, Kazakhstan and Australia. Moreover, the cost of imported fuel is just Rs 330 crore per annum which makes nuclear power cheaper than other fuels. However, as compared to other fuels like coal etc, nuclear power suffers from huge initial costs which need to be reduced through government intervention.

Recently, India entered into a pact with Canada to supply 3,000 tons of uranium over 5 years. This would lead to continuous and sustained power generation through this sector. Currently, 21 nuclear power plants operated by Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) have a generation capacity of 5,780 Mw. Of these reactors, the supply of imported uranium is currently made to 11 reactors with generation capacity of 2,620 MW. India has a flourishing and largely indigenous nuclear power program. India has a great scope in this sector primarily because of its expertise in fast reactors and thorium fuel cycles.

Conclusion

India’s is one of the largest programs in the world for deploying renewable energy products and systems. It has definitely stepped into the world markets of renewable energy and is steadily becoming a leading destination for investors from developed countries. The government’s active participation in the promotion of renewable energy projects along with key incentives offered like tax concessions managed to attract investment in this sector. The government’s aim to increase the use of cleaner fuels finally bore fruit with key credit to the dedication of institutions working towards the same like the MNRE, IREDA etc.

However, the government needs to sort out its internal issues which are hindering the nation to achieve its target to tap potential energy resources. One of the thrust areas in this regard is the inter-state disputes on a particular energy resource.  India is blessed to have such a huge potential in renewable energy resources and the country should exploit this to the maximum extent so as to meet its on-going energy deficit issues and reduce its dependence on other countries to acquire fuels and other resources. India has the required capabilities of becoming self-sufficient in energy generation and can even attain world leadership in this sector.

-Mishika Jain

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