There is no Planet B!
If you had an option to choose the time you would like to get born, would you select 1900’s or 1950’s or 2000’s? The medicinal, technological progress, reduction in violent deaths, increasing literacy rates and improving living standardsmake this as the best time in Human history to be alive! The next question which comes to mind is – are we doing enough to preserve the planet for the future generations? The undeniable truth is that we continue to do great damage to Mother Earth, the consequences of which are real and can be seen in the form of extreme weather, declining quality of food, water and air and declining wildlife population leading to ecological imbalance. Although there is more awareness about the actions needed to reduce carbon emissions, the efforts needed to limit the increase in global average temperature well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels by 2100, are lacking by a huge margin. Humans need to take unprecedented actions to cut carbon emissions over the next decade. 80% of the world’s energy comes from fossil fuels.Hence, de-carbonising our energy systems by adopting renewable energy on a large scale will determine if the next generation inherits a more liveable and sustainable planet, or a planet plagued with climate chaos.Recognising that global warming can have devastating environmental effects, in 2015, 197 nations came together in Paris, to pledge phasing out coal and fossil fuel vehicles, increasing share of renewables in electricity generation, protecting forests & wildlife and achieving net zero emissions by 2050.
India takes pole position in the race for clean energy transformation
India committed to generate 40% of its energy from non-fossil fuels, reduce its emissions intensity by 33-35% from 2005 levels, and create additional carbon sink of 2.5-3 Bn tonnes of CO2 by increasing the forest cover by 2030.In order to achieve the above, India announced an ambitious plan of adding 175 GW of Renewable energy (100 GW of solar, 60 GW of wind, 10 GW of bioenergy and 5 GW of small hydro) by 2022. It also proposed scrapping of plans of adding coal based generation till 2026, selling only EVs by 2030, reducing energy intensity of industries under Perform Achieve & Trade scheme. Further initiatives like selling more than 310 Mn LED bulbs mandatory star rating of appliances like Refrigerators, ACs, etc have resulted in significant reduction in carbon emissions.
Shortly after the Climate Change Conference in Paris in 2015, India along with France unveiled the International Solar Alliance (ISA) with an idea to “harmonize and aggregate demand for solar finance, solar technologies, innovation, research and development, and capacity building”. The ISA aims to mobilise $1 trillion low-cost financing for massive deployment of solar energy by 2030, and bring together 121 countries that lie between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn that receive plenty of sunshine and are mostly developing nations. In less than 2 years, 70 countries out of 121 countries have signed the ISA framework agreement.
India’s commitment to cleaner energy
Renewable energy is the foundation of India’s emissions reduction strategy. One of India’s major advantages today and going forward is that its renewable energy (RE) potential is vast and largely untapped. Recent estimates show that India’s solar potential is greater than 750 GW and its announced wind potential is 302 GW (actual could be higher than 1000 GW). India Energy Security Scenarios show a possibility of achieving a high of 410 GW of wind and 479 GW of solar PV by 2047. The potential of biomass and small hydro is also significant. Thus, renewable energy has the potential to anchor the development of India’s electricity sector.Hence, India has chosen “Renewable Energy” as a solution to address the trilemma of universal energy access at affordable cost, energy security and sustainability.
Sunny Days Ahead
Solar Energy makes up the lion’s share of the RE capacity target at 100 GW. India’s location between the Tropic of Cancer and the equator is very appealing to solar power because it receives 4-7 kWh of solar radiation per square metre per day for 250-300 sunny days annually. India experiences an average temperature of 25°C to 27°C and has a solar energy potential of 5000 trillion kWh per year, which far surpasses its annual energy consumption and can enable India to become a global leader in solar power.
As on 30th Sep 2018, India’s installed solar capacity was 26 GW. India is 5th largest producer of solar energy in the world. Solar was the leading source of new power capacity additions in the calendar year 2017 with installed capacity of approximately 9.5 GW accounting for 45 percent of total power capacity additions. Wind was the second most installed power source with 19.6 percent followed by coal at 18.9 percent. Solar and wind together made up for almost 65 percent of new capacity added.This is the first-time coal was over taken by any other source of energy in terms of capacity addition in a single year, reflecting a fundamental shift in India’s power mix as the country continues its transition from fossil fuels to cleaner sources of energy.
The government is playing an active role in promoting the adoption of renewable energy resources by offering various incentives, such as generation-based incentives (GBIs), capital and interest subsidies, viability gap funding, concessional finance, fiscal incentives,etc. It is undertaking various policy measures like enforcement of Renewable Purchase Obligation (RPO) and for providing Renewable Generation Obligation (RGO); setting up of exclusive solar parks; development of power transmission network through Green Energy Corridor project; guidelines for procurement of solar and wind power through tariff based competitive bidding process Other initiatives are National Offshore Wind Energy Policy, Repowering of Wind Power Projects, Standards for Deployment of Solar Photovoltaic systems/ devices, orders for waiving the Inter State Transmission System charges and losses for interstate sale of solar and wind power for projects to be commissioned by March 2019. Further actions are in identification of large government complexes/ buildings for rooftop projects; provision of rooftop solar and 10 percent renewable energy as mandatory under Mission Statement and Guidelines for development of smart cities; amendments in building bye-laws for mandatory provision of roof top solar for new construction or higher Floor Area Ratio. The government has accorded infrastructure status for solar projects; raising tax free solar bonds; providing long tenor loans; making roof top solar as a part of housing loan by banks/ NHB; incorporating measures in Integrated Power Development Scheme (IPDS) for encouraging distribution companies and making net-metering compulsory, and raising funds from bilateral and international donors, as also the Green Climate Fund to achieve the target.
Bumpy ride ahead
While the progress madein the last 3 years has been impressive, the country fell short of its 12 GW annual target in FY17. Slow progress on solar rooftop installations, poor transmission infrastructure, frequent policy changes and lack of access to finance have impeded growth.India will need to increase the rate of solar capacity additions to at least 18 GW per year, if it is to reach the 100 GW goal in 2022. But the rate of capacity addition has slowed down due to India’s conflicting desires to procure cheap solar equipment, on the one hand, and to encourage a domestic manufacturing base through imposition of safeguard duties, on the other. The latter means slower capacity additions and higher tariffs in the short run. The other reason for slowdown is the expectation by power buyers, mainly state-owned utilities, that solar power will be available at dirt-cheap rates in all parts of the country, when the cost of generating solar power can vary vastly depend on the climate. Many bids have been cancelled as the outcome was not as per expectations. As we move ahead, one of the biggest issues for India is going to be integrating so much new variable renewable energy into the country’s electricity grid. Grid investment has been significantly accelerated, but even more will be needed to accommodate greater interstate transmission requirements.
The Government has been the real catalyst till date in pushing the green agenda and will have to continue holding fort till the country reaches the finish line. Although a handful of naysayers and sceptics doubt India’s ability to reach the 175 GW target by 2022, there are far more believers who strongly feel that India may reach this target well before 2022.
Our generation has an opportunity to shift to more sustainable ways of living and ensure that next generation inherits a better Planet than we did!
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