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India poised to become global renewable energy powerhouse

EBR Staff Writer Published 03 February 2018

Though India currently generates a large amount of its electricity from fossil fuel, the country’s renewable energy sector has shown a significant growth in the past few years. The growth has been achieved due to renewed push from the incumbent government and expedited capacity addition during past couple of years.

India is at an advantageous geographical location for solar power generation. As the country is located in the equatorial sun belt of the earth, most of the Indian states receive abundant sun light that can support large scale adoption of solar energy. According to the India Meteorological Department (IMD), most parts of the country experience clear sunny weather 250 to 300 days a year. Due to suitable environmental conditions, the country has become home to some of the world’s biggest solar  power plants. Similarly, many parts of country have been assessed to possess wind conditions that are suitable to set up wind power projects. 

India’s renewable energy sector has also secured required policy support in recent years, with the country setting a target of a total renewable energy capacity of 175GW by 2022.  The target includes 100GW from utility and rooftop solar projects, 60GW from wind, 10GW from biomass and 5GW from small hydro electric projects. 

In 2017, India's solar installations reached 20GW on a cumulative basis, reaching the target set by the National Solar Mission four years ahead the schedule. According to a research report published by Mercom Capital, the utility-scale cumulative installations in the country stood at nearly 18.4GW in 2017, with rooftop solar installations at 1.6GW. Besides, solar installations were the top contributors for new capacity additions during the calender year 2017. Overall, renewable energy accounted for 18.37% of the country's energy mix in 2017.

Besides, renewable energy projects have found enough support from the domestic and international financial institutions. In January 2018, Indian private bank Yes Bank has agreed to mobilize $5bn by 2030 for the development of solar projects across the country. 

Wind power: India has witnessed a decent growth in its installed wind power capacity in recent years. As of 30 December 2017, the country had a total installed wind power capacity of 32.8GW, with a significant part of it coming from projects in the South, West and North regions, according to the country’s Ministry of New and Renewable Energy. Identifying the potential of wind energy as early as in 1990s, Tamil Nadu has now emerged as the leading player in wind power. The South Indian state had an installed wind power capacity of 7.5GW as of February 2016, according to figures provided by Tamil Nadu Energy Development Agency. In April 2017, Sembcorp Green Infra had won a bid for the construction of a 250MW wind project in Tamilnadu. The other major wind power producing states in India include Maharastra, Gujarat, Rajasthan, and Madhya Pradesh.











Image: India has witnessed a decent growth in its installed wind power capacity in recent years. Photo courtesy of  Falk Schaaf/FreeImages.com.

Solar energy: With a constant drop in prices, solar energy is fast emerging as a major alternative source of energy to the meet India’s growing electricity needs and reduce harmful emissions into the environment. The falling rates have propelled the growth of solar power projects, with the country emerging as a home of the world’s biggest solar farms. Spread over a total area of 5,932.32 acres in Panyam mandal of Kurnool district, Andhra Pradesh, India, the 1GW capacity Kurnool Ultra Mega Solar Park is considered as the biggest solar project across the world. The project is being implemented by a joint venture of the Solar Energy Corporation of India, Andhra Pradesh Power Generation Corporation and the New & Renewable Energy Development Corporation of Andhra Pradesh.











Image: The falling rates have propelled the growth of solar power projects. Photo courtesy of worradmu/FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Besides, the 750MW Rewa Ultra Mega Solar Park, which will be located in Madhya Pradesh, also figures in the list of the world’s biggest solar plants. Led by Rewa Ultra Mega Solar, the projects comprises of three solar plants of 250MW each. The projects are expected to contribute to India's ambition of generating 100GW of solar energy by 2022 and to offset a million tons of greenhouse gas emissions.      

Hydroelectric power: With an installed capacity of 44.5GW as of end-March 2017, hydroelectric power accounted for 13.5% of the India’s total utility power generation capacity, according to report published by the Central Electricity Authority of India. A significant part of the hydroelectric power is generated by public sector companies in the country. The companies include The National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC), Northeast Electric Power Company (NEEPCO), Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam (SJVNL), THDC, and NTPC-Hydro, among others. As of November 2017, small hydro power plants had a total capacity of 4.4GW.  There were 1085 small hydro power projects across the country, with Karnataka, Himachal Pradesh, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh being the top producers of power from such type of projects. 












Image: Upper Indiravati power house. Photo courtesy of Debasish Rout/Wikipedia.

Bioenergy: Against a target of installation of 10 GW power capacity from biomass by 2022, the country already had about 8.2GW biomass power projects as of December 2017. The total power generated in the country from the municipal solid waste (MSW) stood at 65.75MW, accounting for about 0.02% of total power generation capacity in the country, according to Ministry of New and Renewable Energy.  The government has initiated various programmes such as National Biogas and Manure Management Programme (NBMMP), Biogas Power (Off-grid) Generation Programme (BPGP), and Waste to Energy Programme for setting up of biogas plants based on cattle dung and other mixed biodegradable wastes to meet cooking, heating, lighting & small power and thermal energy needs of the people of remote and rural areas of the country. According to the ministry, nearly 49.6 lakh household size biogas plants have been installed under the NBMMP since the inception of the biogas programme in the country.