“The world has enough for everyone’s needs, but not everyone’s greed” – what Mahatma Gandhi famously said once, is now true, more than ever before. Our ‘must-have, must-get’ economy has begun diminishing the earth’s resources at an alarming rate. Gandhi said rightly that Mother Nature has enough resources for everyone but people have been trying to utilise much more than what is needed to survive, creating not just socio-economic disparities, but severe ecological inequality. In the last few years, ‘energy’ has become an important issue, being discussed all over the world. It has been agreed by governments, organisations and scholars alike that to help save our nature, sustainable development and usage of renewable energies is the key. In a developing country like India, what are its implications? In this essay, we shall look at the growth of renewable energies (RE) in India, its achievements and challenges.
What is sustainable development and renewable energy?
Sustainable development refers to the development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of the future generations to meet their needs. It is possible by use of sustainable energy and by ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for citizens.
Renewable resources are those that can be replenished quickly, over a relatively shorter period of time, such as:
On the other hand, non-renewable resources are available in limited supplies and may take centuries to be replenished. These include:
The sources of electricity production such as coal, oil, and natural gas have contributed to one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions. It is essential to raise the standard of living by providing cleaner and more reliable electricity. Renewable energy sources play a vital role in securing sustainable energy with lower emissions. It is already accepted that renewable energy technologies might significantly cover the electricity demand and reduce emissions. In recent years, India has developed a sustainable path for its energy supply. Awareness of saving energy has been promoted among citizens to increase the use of solar, wind, biomass, waste, and hydropower energies. It is evident that clean energy is less harmful and often cheaper.
Growth of sustainable development and renewable energy in India: its progress
Indian power sector is witnessing substantial activity in order to meet the increasing energy needs backed
the country’s industrial and infrastructure growth and increased manufacturing activity. With modernisation, there is a constant uptick in demand for power capacity to sustain lifestyles. To meet this demand, moving towards renewable and clean sources of energy are at the top of the national agenda
. In fact, India is running one of the largest and most ambitious renewable capacity expansion programs in the world. Some recent progress in the development of renewable energies in India are listed below:
·India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, made an announcement at the UN Climate Action Summit in September 2019, with a commitment to increase his country’s renewable energy capacity to 450GW – a significant increase on the existing 2022 target of 175GW of new renewables. (Source: ey.com)
·Last year, India established 83 GW clean energy. About 29 GW of renewable energy was under installation.
·Given the government’s focus, Indian renewable energy sector is attracting foreign and domestic investors. As per industry estimates, India’s renewable energy sector is expected to attract investments of up to $80 billion in the next four years.
·New programs - PM-KUSUM, solar rooftop phase-2, development of Ultra Mega Renewable Energy Power Parks (UMREPPs) - are slated to give a further thrust to renewable energy sector in India.
·With an advantage of being one of the best recipients of solar energy due to its location on the solar belt, India has made tremendous progress in use of solar energy in the recent years. Solar power generation is likely to outweigh other sources, including wind, small hydro, biomass, etc. by 2022. The subsidies and incentives provided by the Government and Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (JNNSM) since 2010 have contributed immensely in the adoption of solar energy.
·Installations in the Indian solar market rose by 36% year-on-year during year 2019, reaching 2,170 Mw from 1,592 M. Compared to the second quarter of 2019, installations are up by 44%. (Source: powertechreview.com)
·According to BP Energy Outlook 2019, the consumption of coal will decline from 56% in 2017 to at least 48% by 2040. NITI Aayog has also confirmed this report by stating that coal will have at least 44% of the energy share by 2040.
Challenges to the development of renewable energies
India is adopting clean energy technology and if necessary measures are not taken, India will not be able to adapt to the era that is defined by sustainable energy technologies. It is evident that India has a vast amount of renewable resources. What India doesn’t have is the conventional energy sources like petrol and diesel. India imports 84% of its oil needs. With the volatile nature of international politics in the Middle East, India constantly faces insecurity in the global oil trade. If India opts for renewable energy source, the global oil prices won’t affect India’s economy. Moreover, according to a study in 2019, 7 of the world’s top 10 most polluted cities are in India. New Delhi is deemed to be the most polluted capital on Earth. It is vital that we address the issue before the situation worsens in the major cities in India.
RE is making enormous progress in India, but it is driven more by targets, governmental support, and simple economics than a consumer push for being green. It is noteworthy however that prices for RE, especially solar power (photovoltaics, or PV) is falling dramatically. There are some key challenges nonetheless that we need to address in order to fully use India’s RE potential:
·low investor sentiment due to delayed or non-payment by discoms to clean energy developers.
·Ambiguity over goods and services tax (GST) on solar equipment is also hampering the growth. Other major deterrents include safeguard duty on imported solar panels and lack of funding.
·The issue of storage of renewable energies also needs to be addressed.
·Land for renewable projects is another challenge in India as the high cost reflects on the price of electricity. To address this challenge, government is looking at barren lands for building renewable projects so as to avoid any clash with growing need for agricultural production.
·Weather-dependent: Renewable energy sources like solar, wind, tide, etc., are dependent on weather conditions. If the favourable weather conditions are not available, it becomes inefficient and unfeasible.
Conclusion: The way forward
Renewable energy sector in the country has witnessed significant strides in the last decade. Apart from being a sustainable alternative to polluting fossil fuels, renewable energy can satisfy the country’s energy demand, while bringing down the cost. As per estimates, replacing coal plants with renewable sources is expected to save India Rs 54,000 crore annually due to reduced power costs. Further, renewable energy sector will also favourably impact employment generation. According to the International Labour Organization, Indian renewables sector will create around 330,000 new jobs by 2022 and more than 24 million new jobs by 2030. India is currently targeting to increase the share of renewable energy in the national energy mix to 40% by 2030. The country is evaluating new technologies, such as floating solar, offshore wind, wind–solar hybrid and storage to attain this target. It is essential to integrate the new technology with the existing infrastructure to reduce the cost of renewable technology. If this is done, the limitations of the clean energy sources can be easily overcome.