India plans massive renewable energy expansion but fossil fuel-based energy to stay powerful

by Autocar Pro News Desk , 05 Jul 2019

Even as India drives towards an ambitious vehicle electrification programme aimed at reducing pollution levels in its cities, town and country, the well-to-wheel analysis of energy continues to be a debate in industry and environment groups.  

From a macro perspective, electric vehicles can only be as clean as their power supply or the charge they draw to travel. So, whether it is a hybrid or a battery-powered vehicle, plugging into a charge of electricity which in itself has been generated by fossil fuels could be self-defeating. India, at present, has the majority of its electricity generated by coal-powered thermal plants. This, though is set to change, with a new focus on renewable energy generated from solar, wind and hydro power plants. 

Globally India stands fourth in wind power, fifth in solar power and fifth in overall renewable power installed capacity. As per the Economic Survey tabled yesterday in Parliament by Union Minister for Finance and Corporate Affairs, Nirmala Sitharaman, the share of renewables in total electricity generation increased from 6 percent in 2014-15 to 10 percent in 2018-19. Additional investments in renewable plants up to the year 2022 are to be about US$ 80 billion and US$ 250 billion for the 2023-2030 period.  

The Survey states that renewable energy sources are a strategic national resource: “Harnessing these resources is part of India’s vision to achieve social equity and energy transition with energy security, a stronger economy and climate change mitigation.”

Stating that India has been undertaking one of the world’s largest renewable energy expansion programmes, the Survey notes that the share of renewable energy is progressively increasing in the Indian electricity mix.  As per the Economic Survey, the share of renewable (excluding hydro above 25 MW) in total generation was around 10 percent in 2018-19 compared to around 6 percent in 2014-15. 

“Now, globally, India stands fourth in wind power, fifth in solar power and fifth in overall renewable power installed capacity. The cumulative renewable power installed capacity (excluding hydro above 25 MW) has more than doubled from 35 GW on 31st March, 2014 to 78 GW on 31st March, 2019.  The target is to achieve an installed capacity of renewable based power of 175 GW by the year 2022”, the Survey adds. 

The Survey estimates that additional investments in renewable plants up to year 2022 (without transmission lines) would be about US$ 80 billion at today’s prices and an investment of around US$ 250 billion would be required for the period 2023-2030.  Thus, on an annualised basis, investment opportunity for over US$ 30 billion is expected to come up for the next decade and beyond.

The government will be looking to generate electricity through nuclear energy. In FY2018, the share of atomic energy in the overall electricity generation in the country was about 2.93%.

However, the Survey adds, while renewable energy capacity has been expanded manifold, fossil fuel- based energy is likely to continue to be an important source of power.

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