Roadmap to Responsible & Rapid Renewable Energy Deployment at Scale in India

By identifying renewable energy development zones pro-actively, state governments could help meet India’s ambitious renewable energy at scale targets by avoiding conflicts and related delays and cost over-runs.

September 22, 2020. By Manu Tayal

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Appropriately locating Renewable Energy (RE) projects is essential for India to meet its ambitious renewable energy goals without compromising on its environment commitments or delaying the RE projects.

By identifying renewable energy development zones pro-actively, state governments could help meet India’s ambitious renewable energy at scale targets by avoiding conflicts and related delays and cost over-runs.

This amid other suggestions, are made by a new paper titled Scaling up renewable energy deployment in India: Pathways to reduced socio-ecological risks, released by The Nature Conservancy – India during the New York Climate Week 2020.

The paper recommends that siting guidelines support developers in taking into account social and environmental considerations. The paper also outlines frameworks that should inform financing decisions regarding renewable energy projects through safeguards and due diligence processes.

A decision-support tool called SiteRight that helps decision-makers, investors and financiers to appropriately locate renewable energy projects without compromising on India’s ambitious goals, is also being launched at a webinar organized as part of the week. The tool — developed by The Nature Conservancy – India and partners, namely, Centre for Science, Technology and Policy (CSTEP), Foundation for Ecological Security (FES) and Vasudha Foundation (VF) — enables policymakers, project developers, and financiers to make better choices in selecting land for siting solar and wind projects.

Rapid expansion of renewable energy is critical to meeting India’s energy needs and addressing climate change. However, new solar and onshore wind energy projects cannot be poorly sited, for there could be unintended impacts on ecosystems and local communities. Such consequences can come in the way of further growth of renewable energy in the country.

While discussing about the organisation’s analysis, Seema Paul, Managing Director, The Nature Conservancy – India, said “our scientific analysis shows that India has the potential to develop ten times its 2022 target of 175 GW if we take steps today to guide the expansion of renewable energy to lower impact areas. Developing guidelines for project siting, identifying renewable energy zones, improving planning and procurement processes, and strengthening environmental and social performance standards of renewable energy financing, are some such steps.”

The report shows that such measures can help in more informed land use decisions, thereby accelerating deployment of renewable energy in India while ensuring minimal impacts to rural communities and the country’s natural heritage.

“Wide adoption of SiteRight tool would also support India to improve its carbon sequestration goals by avoiding areas with high reforestation potential; protect connectivity between important forests and natural lands, enabling wildlife movement; avoid conversion of forest and agriculture land important for people and nature; avoid impacts to socio-cultural values and livelihoods,” says Dhaval Negandhi, Ecological Economist and SiteRight Project Lead at The Nature Conservancy – India.

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