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India’s annual economic survey counts the steps taken and the milestones crossed in the quest to generate 175 GW through renewable energy sources by 2022; most of the road lies ahead

Windmills in Thar desert in Jaisalmer, Rajasthan (Image by Nevil Zaveri)

Windmills in Thar desert in Jaisalmer, Rajasthan (Image by Nevil Zaveri)

Blessed by more than 300 sunny days a year over much of the country, strong wind corridors along the coasts and mountain passes, and the world’s largest cattle population, India has tremendous renewable energy (RE) potential. The government’s 2015-16 economic survey puts it at 896.6 GW in the medium term — including solar (749 GW, wind (100 GW), small hydro (20 GW) and biomass (26.8 GW).

India has a target of generating 175 GW from RE by 2022 — 100 GW from solar, 60 from wind and 15 from biomass.

Right now, the country has the capacity to generate 38.82 GW from RE sources. The survey says that of this, 3.03 GW of grid-connected power generation capacity has been added between April and December 2015. In addition, the equivalent of 74.68 MW has been installed off-grid, providing distributed generation, lighting, pumping and motive power.

The survey lists some major initiatives in this field.

  • Solar Rooftop: The government has scaled up the budget from Rs 600 crore ($87.2 million) to Rs 5,000 crore ($727 million) for implementation of grid connected rooftop systems over a period of five years up to 2019-20 under the National Solar Mission (NSM).
  • Solar Parks: Following the scheme announced by the government in the 2014-15 Budget to set up 25 solar parks and ultra-mega solar power projects with an aggregate capacity of 20 GW in the next five years in various states, 34 solar parks with capacity of about 22 GW have been sanctioned in 22 states.
  • In February 2015 the government approved a scheme to set up 15 GW of grid-connected solar PV power projects under the NSM in three tranches by 2018-19. By December 31, 2015, tenders had been issued 2.75 GW including 400 MW with domestic content requirement.
  • Solar Pumps: Against a target of installation of 100,000 solar pumps for irrigation and drinking water, 121,524 pumps were sanctioned by December 31, 2015 and Rs 73 crore ($61 million) released to various agencies. By January 2016, 15,500 solar pumps had been installed.
  • Solar Cities: 56 solar city projects against a target of 60 under the Development of Solar Cities Programme have been approved.
  • The Surya Mitra scheme was launched in May 2015 to create 50,000 trained personnel by 2019-20.

In addition, major policy initiatives taken by the government during the year include

  1. The National Offshore Wind Energy Policy 2015 to exploit the vast 7,600 km coastline for development of offshore wind energy in the Indian Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ);
  2. Inclusion of renewable energy in the priority sector and bank loans up to Rs 15 crore limit to borrower categories for purposes like solar-based power generators, biomass-based power generators, windmills, micro-hydel plants and for nonconventional energy-based public utilities like street lighting systems, and remote village electrification and for individual households, up to Rs 10 lakh per borrower to be covered under priority sector lending norms;
  3. Investments in renewable energy are on automatic route, with automatic approval for up to 74% foreign equity participation in a JV and 100% foreign investment as equity is permissible with the approval of the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB);
  4. Approval to the amendments in the National Tariff Policy 2005, adding promotion of renewable power as a key objective of the policy and enhancing Renewable Purchase Obligation (RPO) targets.

New mission on climate change and health

A new mission on climate change and health is “under formulation” and a national expert group on climate change and health has been constituted, the survey says. The mission had been announced months ago, but nothing more was heard about it till now. India’s National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) still has eight missions.

The survey also talks about a proposed waste-to-energy mission that will incentivise efforts to harness energy from waste and is aimed at lowering India’s dependence on coal, oil and gas for power production. Then there will be a national mission on coastal areas (NMCA) to prepare “an integrated coastal resource management plan and map vulnerabilities” along India’s 7,600-km coastline.

The survey points out that India now has a National Adaptation Fund for Climate Change (NAFCC) with an allocation of Rs 1,350 crore from April 2015 to March 2017. So far, projects worth Rs 117.98 crore have been approved.

The government is now sitting on a large kitty called the National Clean Energy Fund (NCEF), thanks to the cess on coal that has been progressively increased and is now Rs 200 per tonne. The survey says the NCEF now has 56 projects recommended to it by various ministries, and has allocated Rs 4,700 crore in 2015-16.

Also see Renewables sector expects big Budget push

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