India is surging ahead in the area of renewable energy. Renewable capacity has reached 73 gigawatt (GW), which is 20 per cent of the country’s total energy capacity. Generation has increased, and solar energy has made tremendous strides. But does this mean the country is well on its way to meet its ambitious 175-GW renewable capacity target by 2022?
No if the policy gaps are not filled soon, says a new analysis released in New Delhi today by Centre for Science and Environment (CSE). The State of Renewable Energy in India 2019 report follows another similar analysis done by CSE in 2014, and according to CSE deputy director general Chandra Bhushan, “takes a close look at where we stand now, what are the strengths of and the challenges facing the sector, and whether the sector can overcome these obstacles and emerge as a viable alternative to conventional energy sources”.
SunitaNarain, director general, CSE, said: “We believe that India needs a renewable energy policy that both de-carbonise the economy and provide access to large numbers of people who are energy-deprived.”
Some favourable policies, combined with good market conditions, has seen the renewable energy sector emerge as a sunshine industry. Solar, in fact, has made considerable progress. Over the last four years, large-scale solar has seen an average annual growth rate of over 70 per cent.
The installed solar capacity has increased from 2.6 GW in March 2014 to 23.1 GW in June 2018 – large-scale solar comprises over 94 per cent of this. At under Rs 3 per unit on an average, wind and solar energy is now cheaper than coal power.
However, CSE says that 2018 witnessed a slowdown triggered by financial difficulties being faced by distribution companies, import tariffs, and subsequent tariff increases.
Inconsistent policy has been the bane of the sector. Says PriyavratBhati, advisor, energy group, CSE: “Nothing can be more disruptive for an emerging sector that seeks to attract global investors, than ad hoc and abrupt policy changes.” A classic example is that of the solar module manufacturing industry.
CSE also found that solar rooftop has failed to make any headway in the current market which is skewed towards large-scale renewable energy. The country is aiming for a 40-GW capacity by 2022, but till November 2018, only 1,334 megawatt (MW) of grid-connect solar rooftop systems had been installed. Also, the preference has been for commercial and industrial installations – residential consumers, who hold immense potential, account for less than 20 per cent of the total installed capacity.