• Electrical India
  • Jan 5, 2017

Future Perspective For Renewable Energy In India

The power generation shortfall in India is estimated at 11% of the total energy, and 15% of the peak capacity requirements and these figures are likely to increase. This is despite the fact that the country is already consuming more than 2 million barrels of imported oil a day – a figure that is growing by about 10 percent annually...

- Jay B. Thakar

 Power is one of the most critical components of infrastructure crucial for the economic growth and welfare of nations. The existence and development of adequate infrastructure is essential for sustained growth of the Indian economy. Currently, the power sector is at a crucial juncture of its evolution, with many private producers and domestic manufacturers also playing a significant role in various capacities, and greater reliance on markets, subject to regulation. Developers of Power Plants have been facing numerous constraints like coal/gas allocation, environment clearance, land acquisition, financing and funds tie-ups, etc. for last about 4 years. This has resulted in only very few new projects coming up.

Present Electricity Scenario

  India's generation capacity will have to increase up to seven times the present figure to meet our growth needs. The major part of our energy mix consists of fossil fuels. They are finite sources and have serious environmental consequences. In times of depleting resources and climate threats, the best way forward for India is to take the dual path of energy efficiency and renewable power generation like wind power generation and solar electricity generation. It is imperative to tap into these huge renewable power sources and judiciously utilize the non-renewable resources, keeping energy conservation in mind.

  To achieve this, the renewable energy programme is investing in supporting mechanisms that strengthen the call for clean and renewable energy policies through advocacy and awareness building and creating a supportive renewable energy implementation environment. Its activities are also aimed at helping compliance with evolving renewable energy deployment targets; and building supportive policy evidence through research around grid as well as off-grid business models.

Power Sector At A Glance All India

Total Installed Capacity: (As on 30.09.2016)

Environmental Effects Of Fossiel Fuel Based Power Plants

• Varying Impacts

Power companies use a variety of processes to create electricity, and not all processes affect the environment in the same way. For example, coal is a much more environmentally problematic source of energy than solar power, which has minimal environmental effects. Other forms of electricity generation include natural gas, hydroelectric power plants, nuclear energy and oil.

• Greenhouse Gases

Most mechanisms for generating electricity release carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases – gases that absorb and emit radiation – into Earth's atmosphere. While small quantities of carbon dioxide exist naturally in the atmosphere, the generation of electricity has greatly increased the presence of greenhouse gases in the planet's atmosphere. The overwhelming majority of scientists believe that this contributes to an unnatural degree of global warming that has the potential to affect the global climate, destroy animal populations and change local ecosystems.

• Pollution and Acid Rain

Almost all forms of electricity generate waste. For example, natural gas releases carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxide. Earth's atmosphere traps these gases, leading to air pollution and smog. Weather patterns and geological variations can affect the prevalence of smog in a particular area. For example, a valley trapped between hills with little wind might trap a pocket of smog. When smog containing sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide is released into the atmosphere, it can contaminate precipitation and rain back down as acid rain.

• Waste Disposal Challenges

Almost all forms of electricity generation produce some waste, but energy sources such as nuclear energy produce dangerous solid wastes. Some sources of radioactive waste remain radioactive for thousands of years, which means the waste can cause cancer and genetic mutations in humans and animals. Radioactive waste may alter the soil's chemical composition, making it unsafe for local wildlife and potentially killing off plant species. Burning coal produces a type of solid waste called ash, which is frequently deposited in landfills, contributing to landfill overfill. The Environmental Protection Agency says it is possible to recycle this material into cement and other useful products, and some coal manufacturers recycle their waste.

• Injuries to Wildlife

Both the generation and delivery of electricity can harm local wildlife. Birds may fly into power lines, resulting in electrocution. Wind farms endanger flying animals such as bats and birds. No power generation system can be perfect, and power plant accidents can also injure animals. For example, a 2009 study found that the Chernobyl nuclear disaster resulted in lower animal populations even 20 years after the disaster.

Renewable Energy In India

  India was the first country in the world to set up a ministry of non-conventional energy resources, in early 1980s. Renewable energy in India comes under the purview of the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE). Newer renewable electricity sources are targeted to grow massively by 2022, including a more than doubling of India's large wind power capacity and an almost 15 fold increase in solar power from April 2016 levels. Such ambitious targets would place India amongst the world leaders in renewable energy use and place India at the center of its International Solar Alliance project promoting the growth and development of solar power internationally to over 120 countries.

  As of 30th April 2016 India's cumulative grid interactive or grid tied renewable energy capacity (excluding large hydro) reached about 42.85 GW, surpassing the installed capacity of large scale hydroelectric power in India for the first time in Indian history. 63% of the renewable power came from wind, while solar contributed nearly 16%. Large hydro installed capacity was 42.78 GW as of 30 April 2016 and is administered separately by the Ministry of Power and not included in MNRE targets.

  From 2015 onwards, the MNRE began laying down actionable plans for the renewable energy sector under its ambit to make a quantum jump, building on strong foundations already established in the country. MNRE renewable electrictricity targets have been upscaled to grow from just under 43 GW in April 2016 to 175 GW by the year 2022, including 100 GW from solar power, 60 GW from wind power, 10 GW from bio power and 5 GW from small hydro power. The ambitious targets would see India quickly becoming one of the leading green energy producers in the world and surpassing numerous developed countries. The government intends to achieve 40% cumulative electric power capacity from non-fossil fuel sources by 2030. 

Renewable Energy Overview And Targets

Installed Grid Interactive Renewable Power Capacity in India as of July 31, 2016 (RES MNRE)

• Wind Power: 27,441.15 MW (61.3%)
• Solar Power: 8,062 MW (18.0%)
• Biomass Power: 4,860.83 MW (10.9%)
• Small Hydro Power: 4,304.27 MW (9.6%)
• Waste-to-Power: 115.08 MW (0.3%)

Grid Connected Renewable Electricity

  The table 1 refers to newer and fast developing renewable energy sources, and are managed by the Ministry for New and Renewable Energy (MNRE). In addition, as of April 30th 2016, India had 42,783 MW of installed large hydro capacity, which comes under the ambit of Ministry of Power.

  In terms of renewable energy sources under the responsibility of the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy by April 2016, wind power was the leading source of renewable power with 26.9 GW installed capacity, almost two thirds of the total renewable power installed capacity. Next came solar power with 6.8 GW installed capacity and biomass power with 4.8 GW accounting for 15.8% and 11.3% of the total renewable power installed capacity. Small hydro power accounted for 4.3 GW and waste-to-power accounted for just over 0.1 GW installed capacity. Total installed renewable power capacity in this category was just under 43 GW by April 2016.

  In terms of meeting its ambitious 2022 targets, as of April 30, 2016, wind power was almost half way towards its goal, whilst solar power was below 7% of its highly ambitious target, although expansion is expected to be dramatic in the near future. Bio energy was also at just under half way towards its target whilst small hydro.

Installed Grid Power Capacity All Source In India As Of April 30, 2016

•   RES MNRE: 42,849.38 MW (14.1%)
•   Large Hydro: 42,783.42 MW (14.1%)
•   Coal: 185,992.88 MW (61.4%)
•   Gas: 24,508.63 MW (8.1%)
•   Diesel: 918.89 MW (0.3%)
•   Nuclear: 5,780 MW (1.9%)

  Power was already 85% of the way to meeting its target. Overall India was 24.5% towards meeting its final 2022 renewable power installed power capacity of 175 GW. The total breakdown of installed grid connected capacity from all sources including large hydro was as follows:

  The first figure at the top of the table refers to the fast growing renewable energy sources under the responsibility of the Ministry for New and Renewable Energy and slightly exceeded the installed capacity of large hydro installations. This figure is targeted to reach 175 GW by 2022. Coal power currently represents the largest share of installed capacity at just under 186 GW. Total installed capacity as of April 30, 2016, for grid connected power in India stood at a little under 303 GW.

India’s Renewable Energy Potential Remains Untapped

  India has tremendous energy needs and an increasing difficulty in meeting those needs through traditional means of power generation. On July 30th and 31st, 2012 the world's largest blackout. The Great Indian Outage, stretching from New Delhi to Kolkata occurred. This blackout, due to failure of the northern power grid, caused nearly 700 million people – twice the population of the United States – to be without electricity.

  A grid failure of such magnitude has thrown light onto India's massive demand for electricity, together with its struggle to generate as much power as it needs. India is aiming to expand its power-generation capacity by 44 percent over the next five years but recent problems indicate the scale of the challenge. Even before the blackout, in June of 2012, the country's power generation fell short by 5.8 percent when confronted with a peak-hour demand of 128 GW, according to Government data.

  Electricity consumption in India has been increasing at one of the fastest rates in the world due to population growth and economic development.  India’s economy faces increasing challenges because energy supply is struggling to keep pace with demand, and there are energy shortages (as much as 15 percent daily) almost everywhere in the country.  Such chronic lack of energy and unreliable supplies threaten India’s economic growth.

  For economic as well as environmental reasons India needs to shift to non-polluting renewable sources of energy to meet future demand for electricity.  Renewable energy is the most attractive investment because it will provide long-term economic growth for India. Renewable energy also has the advantage of allowing decentralized distribution of energy – particularly for meeting rural energy needs, and thereby empowering people at the grass roots level.  Solar electricity could also shift about 90 percent of daily trip mileage from petroleum to electricity by encouraging increased use of plug-in hybrid cars. For drivers in India this means that the cost per mile could be reduced by a quarter in today's prices.

  India does not have an overarching energy strategy – instead it has a number of disparate policies. Rather than promoting an overarching energy strategy, to date India has developed a cluster of energy business models and policies that have not been productive.  These policies are definitely affecting renewable energy expansion plans. The present business model needs to be changed from a centralized to a decentralized structure that allows all stakeholders including capital investment coming from state-owned investors, pension funds, and foreign countries. 

Can Renewable Energy Work For India?

  Solar is the prime free source of inexhaustible energy available to all. And, India is one of the sun's most favored nations, blessed with about 5,000 TWh of solar insolation every year.  Even if a tenth of this potential was utilized, it could mark the end of India's power problems – by using the country's deserts and farm land to construct solar plants.  Renewable energy has the potential to re-energize India's economy by creating millions of new jobs, allowing the country to achieve energy independence, reduce its trade deficits and propel it forward as a “Green Nation.”  In short, renewable energy offers too many benefits for India to ignore, or delay its development.

  India should take full advantage of this golden opportunity because renewable energy has particular relevance in remote and rural areas, where there are around 289 million people who don't have access to reliable sources of energy.  Solar energy is the most cost-effective option for India to reduce energy poverty without having to extend national grid services to provide power for individual homes and buildings.

  India's present generation capacity is about 200,000 MW.  The country could potentially increase grid-connected solar power generation capacity to over 200,000 MW and wind energy to over 100,000 MW by 2030 if the right resources (and more importantly, energy policies) were developed.  India can develop massive commercial wind farms to harness the strong onshore costal area and offshore wind to boost the country's supply of clean renewable energy.  But, to tap this vast resource, India must develop and implement smart business models and favorable policies as quickly as possible.

Future Perspectives For Renewable Energy In India

  India is facing an acute energy scarcity which is hampering its industrial growth and economic progress. Setting up of new power plants is inevitably dependent on import of highly volatile fossil fuels. Thus, it is essential to tackle the energy crisis through judicious utilization of abundant the renewable energy resources, such as biomass energy, solar energy, wind energy and geothermal energy. Apart from augmenting the energy supply, renewable resources will help India in mitigating climate change. India is heavily dependent on fossil fuels for its energy needs. Most of the power generation is carried out by coal and mineral oil-based power plants which contribute heavily to greenhouse gases emission.

  The average per capita consumption of energy in India is around 500 W, which is much lower than that of developed countries like USA, Europe, Australia, Japan etc. However, this figure is expected to rise sharply due to high economic growth and rapid industrialization. The consumption of electricity is growing on the worldwide basis. Energy is a necessity and sustainable renewable energy is a vital link in industrialization and development of India. A transition from conventional energy systems to those based on renewable resources is necessary to meet the ever-increasing demand for energy and to address environmental concerns.

A Glance At Renewable Energy Sources In India

Solar Energy

  Solar power, a clean renewable resource with zero emission, has got tremendous potential of energy which can be harnessed using a variety of devices. With recent developments, solar energy systems are easily available for industrial and domestic use with the added advantage of minimum maintenance. Solar energy could be made financially viable with government tax incentives and rebates.

  An exclusive solar generation system of capacity of 250 to kWh units per month would cost around Rs. 5 Lacs, with present pricing and taxes. Most of the developed countries are switching over to solar energy as one of the prime renewable energy source. The current architectural designs make provision for photovoltaic cells and necessary circuitry while making building plans.

Wind Energy

  Wind power is one of the most efficient alternative energy sources. There has been good deal of development in wind turbine technology over the last decade with many new companies joining the fray. Wind turbines have become larger, efficiencies and availabilities have improved and wind farm concept has become popular. It could be combined with solar, especially for a total self-sustainability project.

  The economics of wind energy is already strong, despite the relative immaturity of the industry. The downward trend in wind energy costs is predicted to continue. As the world market in wind turbines continues to boom, wind turbine prices will continue to fall. India now ranks as a 'wind superpower' having a net potential of about 45,000 MW only from 13 identified states.

Hydro Electric Power

  India has a huge hydro power potential, out of which around 20 % has been realized so far. New hydro projects are facing serious resistance from environmentalists. Resettlement of the displaced people with their lands becomes major issue.

Biomass Energy

  Biomass energy can play a major role in reducing India’s reliance on fossil fuels by making use of thermo-chemical conversion technologies. In addition, the increased utilization of biomass-based fuels will be instrumental in safeguarding the environment, creating new job opportunities, sustainable development and health improvements in rural areas. Biomass energy could also aid in modernizing the agricultural economy. A large amount of energy is expended in the cultivation and processing of crops like sugarcane, food grains, vegetables and fruits which can be recovered by utilizing energy-rich residues for energy production. The integration of biomass-fuelled gasifies and coal-fired energy generation would be advantageous in terms of improved flexibility in response to fluctuations in biomass availability with lower investment costs.

Proposed Guidelines for Power Consumers in India

• Explore all possibilities to set-up an independent power plant making use of renewable resources like solar, wind and biomass.
• Use of government / utility electricity supply, only in case of emergency.
• Energy savings by using low wattage / high luminous lamps (LED).
• Use of power factor improves.
• Regular maintenance and servicing of electrical equipments.
• Avoidance of inverters and large storage batteries (except emergency).
• Intelligent power factor correctors to minimize energy losses in capacitor at lower load conditions.
• Frequent energy audits

Proposed Guidelines for Policy Makers in India

• Vigorous promotion of renewable energy by government agencies, corporate, public sector, academic institutions etc.
• Establishment of national-level body to increase awareness of renewable energy at grass-root level
• Financial support and sponsorship for research and development in renewable energy technologies.
• Ambitious goals and targets for power generation non-conventional sources.
• Installation of solar / wind / biomass power generation systems and energy saving in every government office to encourage and inspire people.
• Restriction on using large battery energy storage systems.
• Compulsory installation of solar water heating systems for all urban residential and commercial establishments.
• Mandatory renewable energy systems provision for new residential, commercial and industrial buildings.
• Attractive incentives and subsidies for installation and successful operation of renewable energy equipment.
• Abolishing duties / taxes on import of small-scale renewable energy generating equipment
• Cultivation of energy crops on marginal and degraded land
• Use of biofuels in vehicles.
• Soft loans for setting up renewable energy enterprises.
• Additional incentives for buyers and manufacturers of renewable energy equipments in rural areas.

Guidelines for Research Professionals

• Development of comprehensive educational and awareness modules for renewable energy systems.
• Development of cost-effective, high-efficiency and long-lasting photovoltaic cells.
• Development of high efficiency wind turbines, ranging from 300 W – 10 kW, to generate energy even at low wind velocity.
• Development of small-scale, low maintenance biomass gasifiers to make use of abundant biomass resources in rural areas for cogeneration

Benefits Of Renewable Energy

  Renewable energy resources, such as wind and solar energy, are constantly replenished and never run out. Key benefits of renewable energy are:


  There is an urgent need for transition from petroleum-based energy systems to one based on renewable resources to decrease reliance on depleting reserves of fossil fuels and to mitigate climate change. In addition, renewable energy has the potential to create many employment opportunities at all levels, especially in rural areas. An emphasis on presenting the real picture of massive renewable energy potential, it would be possible to attract foreign investments to herald a Green Energy Revolution in India.

Jay B. Thakar
Solar Energy Sector & Electrical Contracting Business

If you want to share thoughts or feedback then please leave a comment below.