450 GW Renewable Energy Target

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Context: India’s renewable energy target will be increased to 450 GW, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said at the United Nations Climate Action Summit. 

Relevance: 
Prelims: Environment & Ecology
Mains: GS III- Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.

Concerned ministry: Ministry of New and Renewable Energy

Current Scenario: 

  • India is one of the countries with the largest production of energy from renewable sources. In the electricity sector, renewable energy account for 34.6% of the total installed power capacity. Large hydro installed capacity was 45.399 GW as of 30 June 2019, contributing to 13% of the total power capacity. The remaining renewable energy sources accounted for 22% of the total installed power capacity (81. 3107 GW) as of 31 July 2019.
  • A target of installing 175 GW of renewable energy capacity by the year 2022 has been set, which includes 100 GW from solar, 60 GW from wind, 10 GW from bio-power and 5 GW from small hydro-power. India is among the countries with the largest production of energy from renewable sources. As of June 30, 2019, India has an installed renewable energy capacity of 80.47 GW, of which solar and wind comprises 29.55 GW and 36.37 GW respectively. Biomass and small hydropower constitute 9.81GW and 4.6GW respectively.
  • Three of the top five largest solar parks worldwide are in India including the second-largest solar park in the world at Kurnool, Andhra Pradesh, with a capacity of 1000 MW. The world's largest solar power plant, Bhadla Solar Park is being constructed in Rajasthan with a capacity of 2255 MW and is expected to be completed by the end of 2019. Major wind energy projects are mainly spread across Tamil Nadu (7,269.50 MW), Maharashtra (4,100.40 MW), Gujarat (3,454.30 MW), Rajasthan (2,784.90 MW), Karnataka (2,318.20 MW), Andhra Pradesh (746.20 MW) and Madhya Pradesh (423.40 MW). 
  • Renewable energy in India comes under the purview of the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE). India was the first country in the world to set up a ministry of non-conventional energy resources, in the early 1980s. Solar Energy Corporation of India is responsible for the development of solar energy industry in India. Hydroelectricity is administered separately by the Ministry of Power and not included in MNRE targets.

Benefits of 450 GW of Renewable Energy: 

India is running one of the largest and most ambitious renewable capacity expansion programs in the world. In 2019 at the UN climate summit, the Prime Minister announced that India will be more than doubling its renewable energy target from 175GW by 2022 to 450GW of renewable energy by the same year. The benefits of achieving a 450 GW of energy target could be manifold: 

  1. zero fuel
  2. electricity prices free from volatility and external influence
  3. reduced imports
  4. dramatically reduced pollution and water use

Why is it important to achieve 450 GW RE target? 

For decades, as demand for power has grown, India has added large-scale conventional power resources. Now, with solar and wind power and other renewable electricity (RE) resources becoming commercially available in the marketplace, there are additional choices available to policymakers and stakeholders concerned with the technical, economic, and environmental characteristics of a future power system that keeps pace with economic growth.
One of India’s major advantages today and going forward is that its RE potential is vast and largely untapped. Recent estimates indicate that India’s solar potential is greater than 10,000 GW and its wind potential could be higher than 2,000 GW.

A target of 450 GW RE would be a costly affair and will need easy and cost-effective technology transfer from the developed western world. But, it also provides India an opportunity to innovate in reducing emissions from coal which is possible through different carbon sequestration technologies. 

  1. India has set a target of achieving 40% of its total electricity generation from non-fossil fuel sources by 2030, as stated in its Intended Nationally Determined Contributions statement in the Paris Agreement. Achieving a target of 450 GW RE would place India among the world leaders in renewable energy use and place India at the center of its “Sunshine Countries” International Solar Alliance project promoting the growth and development of solar power internationally to over 120 countries. 
  2. As India's population is increasing, the demand for energy will also increase.
    • Non-renewable energy resources would not be able to satisfy the huge demand as there is a possibility of those being exhausted in the near future. In such a scenario, India will have to import most of its energy from other countries which can be very costly and can affect the GDP growth. 
    • Further mining of resources will also require huge capitals and technology which India cannot afford in the wake of Climate Change. Instead, the focus should be on Research and Development in the renewable energy sector and mastering RE generation technologies which will be beneficial in the long run. It takes decades to master technology. If India starts investing in RE technologies now, the future demand will be met. 
  3. Targeted RE creation will lead to an industrial boom across various sectors.
    • The Indian renewable energy sector is the fourth most attractive renewable energy market in the world as per the Renewable Energy Attractiveness Index 2018.
    • As of October 2018, India ranked 5th in installed renewable energy capacity.
    • India ranked second among the emerging economies to lead to a transition to clean energy in 2018. India being the cheapest producer of solar energy is not a coincidence but a success story of the effective public-private partnership (PPP) model.
    • Cheap electricity and reduced volatility in the prices would also lead to increased output of other sectors which have a huge electricity demand. 
    • The target can give a boost to electric mobility in India.
  4. A growth in RE creation would also provide ample job opportunities.
    • Production of photovoltaic solar panels, rotors, and turbines for wind energy and many other instruments require high skilled labour.
    • Construction of a solar plant requires only 20-30% high skilled manpower, and the rest are semi-skilled or unskilled labour, easily available and at affordable costs. India has one of the lowest cost of labour allowing RE industry to employ a large number of people resulting in speedy project completion at the lowest cost. For example, the cost of labour in the Middle East is 5 times higher than that in India. The RE industry can utilize the availability of affordable labour to not only offer the lowest cost of power to consumers but also creating ample jobs in the process.
    • This has been one of the primary reasons why the government of India has been focusing on renewable energy since the need of the hour is to create more unskilled or semi-skilled jobs to accelerate our economic growth. According to a recent report by Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW), the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Skill Council for Green Jobs (SCGJ), in 2019 renewable energy workforce in India grew five times in past five years.
    • India also needs to provide skill training to youth in the area, which according to New and Renewable Energy ministry can generate around 10 million jobs by 2022, India’s target year to achieve 175 GW of renewable energy under the Paris climate agreement.
  5. If the RE targets are achieved, there will be significant opportunities to export India's surplus renewable energy.
    • Most of the countries of the tropical region in the International Solar Alliance are third world countries of South America and Africa. India can benefit from the untapped RE potential of these countries by using Build-Own-Operate-transfer (BOOT)model.
    • The target can make India a global leader in new cost-effective solar technologies provided it can beat China, which leads in the manufacturing of cheaper solar photo-voltaic and other equipment. If India can produce good quality solar equipment at the same cost as China, it will surely attract the fastest growing global (solar) market. It is estimated that by 2030, the global solar market would be worth US $1 trillion.
  6. Energy costs per unit will be drastically reduced if the said targets are achieved. This will lead to further energy sector boom due to competition among energy producers. It will also enhance domestic consumption as households will be able to afford various electrical appliances such as A.C., microwave etc which are otherwise costly due to higher electricity rates.  

For India to capture the benefits of renewables as “the main occupant of the house” will require the rethinking and reengineering of institutions, the redefinition of policies, the re-tuning of power grids and systems, and the replacement of old habits with new ones. If India can manage to achieve the target of 450 GW RE creation, it would also contribute to higher GDP growth. 


Criticism:
 

  • Several aspects place the country in the unenviable position of having to reconcile conflicting imperatives: along with a declared programme of scaling up electricity from renewable sources to 175 GW by 2022 and even to 450 GW later, there is a parallel emphasis on expanding coal-based generation to meet peaks of demand that cannot be met by solar and wind power.
  • There is a lack of investment in solar power projects, which should be increased, especially in solar panels because silicon used in making these panels is the second most abundant element present on earth. In addition to this, the efficiency of solar power grids needs to be improved and the energy lost in production and transmission should be curbed. Without taking these actions, the achievement of the said target seems difficult. 
  • The existing internal framework, the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) is more than a decade old. It lacks the legal foundation to incorporate the key national commitment under the Paris Agreement: to reduce the emissions intensity of economic growth by a third, by 2030. Without an update to the NAPCC and its mission-mode programmes, and legislation approved by States for new green norms governing buildings, transport, agriculture, water use and so on, it will be impossible to make a case for major climate finance under the UNFCCC.
  • It is equally urgent to arrive at a funding plan for all States to help communities adapt to more frequent climate-linked disasters such as cyclones, floods, and droughts. There is, no doubt, wide support for India’s position that it cannot be held responsible for the stock of atmospheric carbon dioxide influencing the climate; even today, per capita emissions remain below the global average.  

In the coming years, national actions will have to be demonstrably effective in curbing carbon emissions.



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