Renewable Energy scenario in India

Dr. Parshotam S. Manhas
Renewable energy is produced from sources that do not deplete and naturally replenished on a human timescale. The most common examples include solar, wind, hydropower, biomass, and geothermal. This is in contrast to non-renewable sources such as fossil fuels, coal, nuclear, petroleum, and natural gas. Most renewable energy is derived directly or indirectly from the sun. Uneven solar heating of the Earth’s surface causes wind whose energy is captured with turbines. Plants also rely on the sun to grow and their stored energy can be utilized for bioenergy. Geothermal energy utilizes the Earth’s internal heat, tidal energy relies on the gravitational pull of the moon and hydropower relies on the flow of water. While renewable energy systems are better for the environment and produce less emission than conventional energy sources, many of these sources still face difficulties in being deployed at a large scale including technological barriers, high start-up capital costs, and intermittency challenges.
Renewable energy with least carbon emissions can help to combat climate change caused by fossil fuel usage. Coal mining and petroleum exploration and refinement produce solid toxic wastes such as mercury and other heavy metals. The burning of coal to produce electricity uses large quantities of water often discharges arsenic and lead into surface waters and releases carbon dioxide, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and mercury into the air. Gasoline and other petroleum products cause respiratory illnesses and death in humans, produce acid rain that damages buildings and destroys fragile ecosystems and deplete the ozone layer. It was evident that climate change and global warming are caused by human production of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.
India is the world’s third largest producer and consumer of electricity. India has seen an exponential growth in its renewable energy (RE) sector in the past five years. As of 31 March 2021, 36.8 % of India’s installed electricity generation capacity is from renewable sources (140.6 GW out of 382.15 GW). In 2015, the government made its intentions to transition to a lower-emission electricity system clear by declaring an ambitious target of 175 GW from renewables by 2022 which includes 100 GW from solar, 60 GW from wind, 10 GW from bio-power and 5 GW from small hydro-power. Government of India has also set a target for installation of Rooftop Solar Projects (RTP) of 40 GW by 2022 including installation on rooftop of houses under ‘rent a roof’ policy.
India is among the top-five clean-energy producers globally and is well on course to surpass its original target. Indian Government has signalled its commitment to promoting green energy by declaring an aggressive target of 450 GW of green energy capacity by 2030. As of November 2020, India’s renewable energy capacity stood at 90.39 GW, with a target of 175 GW by 2022.
In the Paris Agreement India has committed to an Intended Nationally Determined Contributions target of achieving 40% of its total electricity generation from non-fossil fuel sources by 2030. The country is aiming for even more ambitious target of 57% of the total electricity capacity from renewable sources by 2027 according to Central Electricity Authority’s strategy blueprint. India aims to have 275 GW from renewable energy, 72 GW of hydroelectricity, 15 GW of nuclear energy and nearly 100 GW from ‘other zero emission’ sources.
India is committed towards the development of renewable energy infrastructure. The ambitious project of 30-GW Renewable Energy Park at Gujarat’s Kutch is in line with the Government of India’s vision to install 175 GW of renewable energy capacity by the year 2022 and generating 450 GW power by the year 2030. The initiative proposed by Hon’ble Prime Minister Sh. Narendra Modi in 2015 for the formation of International Solar Alliance (ISA) of 121 sun-rich member countries to work for efficient consumption of solar energy to reduce dependence on fossil fuels is an example in sight. Apart from solar, the country is also exploring hydro power potential in the north-eastern states which are an abode to the hydro power opportunities.
Renewable Energy Sources in India:
Solar Power: India is endowed with a vast solar energy potential. India receives one of the highest global solar insolations around 5,000 trillion kWh per year over its land mass with most parts receiving 4-7 kWh per sq m per day. Solar power can be produced through PV cell which is made of semiconductor and can be used for a number of purposes such as lighting, pumping, communications, and power supply in unelectrified areas. Total solar power installed capacity as of 28 Feb 2021 was 38.79 GW and set a target of 100 GW by 2022.
Indian Government have earmarked a 35,000 sq km area of the Thar Desert for solar power projects to generate energy ranging from 700 to 2,100 GW. India is home to the world’s first and only 100% solar powered airport, located at Cochin, Kerala. India also has a wholly 100% solar powered railway station in Guwahati, Assam.
Wind Power: Wind power accounts for 10% of India’s total installed power capacity. As of 28 Feb 2021, the installed capacity of wind power in India was 38.68 GW and set a target to generate 60 GW of electricity from wind power by 2022. In India, solar power is complementary to wind power as it is generated mostly during the non monsoon period in daytime.
Bio Energy: India is an ideal environment for Biomass production given its tropical location and abundant sunshine and rains. Biomass is a resource of renewable energy that is derived from carbonaceous waste of various human and natural activities. Bio energy encompasses biomass power, bagasse cogeneration, waste to energy, biomass gasifier, bio ethanol, bio diesel etc. As of 28 Feb 2021, the installed capacity of biomass power in India was 10.14 GW and already achieved the set target of 10 GW by 2022.
India is the 5th largest producer of hydroelectric power in the world after Canada, the US, Brazil and China with total installed base standing at 50 GW. As of December 2020
Snapshot of Baglihar Dam, J&K
India’s installed utility-scale hydroelectric capacity was 46.2 GW, or 12 % of its total utility power generation capacity of 382.15 GW.
Small hydroelectric projects (classified under 25MW capacity) with a total capacity of 4.73 GW have been installed and set a target to generate 5 GW of electricity by 2022.
Geothermal Energy:
The estimated potential for geothermal energy in India is about 10.6 GW. However, there are no installed and fully functional geothermal power plants in India.
Biogas: India Biogas program, one of the most successful programs in Rural India is to set up biogas plants in around 12 million households that have enough cattle to maintain a regular supply of dung. Waste to energy has total installed capacity of 1.68 GW.
As per the research study put forth by Finland University of Technology, India has great potential to move into a fully renewable electricity system by 2050. This is possible if we can employ sophisticated technologies. Renewable energy’s development in India looks bright as around 293 global and domestic companies have committed to generate 266 GW of solar, wind, mini hydel and biomass-based power in India over the next decade.
In such a scenario, a bright and sustainable future beckons both for sustainable energy growth and employability. The renewable energy sector creates a lot of jobs at all levels, especially in rural India. India has limitless renewable energy to bridge the gap between demand and supply so we must persistently put in efforts to harness various forms of renewable energy sources by employing newer technologies to form a clean and safe place for generations to come.
(The author is Associate Professor of Physics at GDC, Samba)