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Renewable Energy In India - At The Cusp Of A Breakthrough

By Author: Nikhil Mehra
Total Articles: 33

India’s challenges on the energy front are two-faced. On the demand side, the growth has been frantic, almost 6% p.a. The demand is expected to grow even further if industrial production is ramped up to provide more growth and employment possibilities for the country’s teeming 1.2 bn people.

India is already the third largest energy consumer in the world, but on a per capita level Indians still consume far less than the global average. However the ability to meet future energy requirements in a timely, secure, affordable and sustainable manner has now become crucial for India’s development.

Coal is India’s main energy source. However the mining, transporting and burning of coal is associated with heavy social and ecological costs. The limited reserves of oil and gas make importing a costly option. Nuclear power projects remain a niche energy source with new projects having a gestation period of decades.

Onshore wind, hydropower or biomass, have a robust potential, but are too limited to be anything more than a complementary energy source. Offshore wind is unexplored and involves large grid investments.

In the light of the above, renewable energy sources offer the most potential to power the needs of the new, emerging India. Of the available options in the RE segment, solar energy projects are best suited to meet India’s customised energy requirements.
Its potential as an energy source is practically without limit: The amount of solar energy that India’s surface area receives every year is around 6,000 times as much as the demand for power in the country. India is positioned right within the global Sun Belt and irradiation is high throughout almost the entire country.

Cost has been a serious concern in the past with solar power generation costing two or three times more than conventional alternatives. However with rapid technological advancements in recent years, power from very large solar plants is already competitive with power from new coal plants and solar from industrial rooftop plants are beginning to compete with grid tariffs.

With the government showing its intent to harness the enormous potential offered by renewable sources by hiking the country’s RE target five-fold by end of 2022, India is now poised at the cusp of a twin breakthrough on the energy front.

The first includes a technological and commercial shift from fossil fuels to RE sources (especially solar) driven by lower costs. The second pertains to the transformation of the industry – with a better distributed power generation, more players and an improved, flexible grid.

The market will be driven by innovators, many of whom will be new entrants with diverse skills. Not only will it reduce the cost power through more competition but it will also make India’s energy supply more resilient through increased flexibility.

There is a need to leverage the vast potential offered by solar power in India to keep pace with the growing demand for energy fueled by its economic growth.

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