The government has tied up with several foreign companies to invest in the renewable energy sector in India while encouraging Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) without any limits. Tarun Kapoor, Joint Secretary, Ministry of New & Renewable Energy, Government of India, in conversation with Gautam Debroy of Elets News Network (ENN) speaks on how green energy is the need of the hour.
How do you plan to boost the renewable energy sector in India?
The renewable energy sector in India is divided into two parts: one is off-grid segment and the other, grid-connected one. As the main issue with the grid connected segment is transmission, we have to build proper transmission systems. That is why we are motivating state governments to build such systems.
We have to encourage distribution companies to buy solar power. For this, we need a revision in the renewable purchase obligation, for which, we have requested to the Power Ministry. Interestingly, the Ministry is also coming up with an amendment in the tariff policy, so that the renewable purchase obligation becomes higher and the enforcement stronger.
We are also talking to financial institutions to join the renewable energy sector. Significantly, the Finance Ministry has recently allowed raising of Rs 5,000 crore through tax-free bonds for the renewable energy sector. In addition, foreign funding agencies are also coming in a big way. We are appealing our domestic partners to come to the industry. We are also trying not to impose too many restrictions, as the partners think that this is a risky sector. But frankly speaking the risk is less.
Through off-grid segment, we try to light the remote and inaccessible areas. Our main objective is to make such systems more reliable and cost-effective. We target those areas which are not likely to be electrified in the near future.
How will renewable energy be sustainable?
Renewable energy is sustainable by its very nature, as it comes from the natural sources. Wastes remain a major concern whether they are released in the air or not. Harnessing renewable energy, such as wind and solar, is the first consideration in sustainable development, because apart from constructing the plant, there is no depletion of mineral resources and no direct air or water pollution. The criteria for any acceptable energy supply will continue to be cost, safety and security of supply as well as environmental considerations.
What are the major target areas for renewable energy?
Our target area is the entire grid. Another major target is that we should increase the penetration level in the grid to around 20 per cent, and out of that, solar should be around 10 per cent.
And, on the off-grid side, we should replace kerosene completely. The Ministry is implementing a programme for providing financial support for electrification of those remote unelectrified villages, where grid extension is either not feasible or not cost-effective, and are not covered under the Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojana. Such villages are provided with basic facilities for electricity and lighting through various renewable energy sources.
How do you encourage both government and private players to invest in renewable energy?
There are several programmes in the government system to encourage renewable energy, like initiatives where the government provides financial support. Loans are provided by financial institutions, like IREDA, PFCI, among others.
We also have some special arrangements; for example, transmission of solar power is free of cost, and there are duty concessions for manufacturing.
We have a Special Area Demonstration Project scheme in the Ministry. It was introduced with the objective of demonstrating application of various renewable energy systems in a project mode at places of national and international importance, including world heritage sites, heritage monuments, religious locations and places of public interest, to create greater awareness of renewable energy and to supplement the energy requirement at such locations.
Lots of waste is generated daily, which is not treated properly. Once we are able to utilise those, we will be able to serve two purposes, i.e. cleaning up the area and creating clean energy
Do you have any plan for converting waste into renewable energy?
Waste management is a very important area. Lots of waste is being generated daily, which is not treated properly. Once we are able to utilise those, we will be able to serve the two purposes, i.e. cleaning up the area and creating energy.
But to encourage this, we need right kind of technology in India. And, we have already tied up with several foreign companies as well. Interestingly, the Ministry of Urban Development is also coming up in a big way to assist in the waste management sector.
Are you asking foreign companies, too, to come and invest in the energy sector of India?
Yes, we are in talks with several foreign countries. In fact, we have already tied up with several foreign companies to come and invest in the sector. We are also encouraging Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) without any limits.
Five years down the line, what should be the targeted capacity for renewable energy?
With a five time increase, we aim to generate 1,75,000 MW renewable energy by 2022. Recently, the Cabinet has also approved 1 lakh MW solar by 2022. So, this is an established target now.