Interview

‘Proud to be at the Forefront of Transition from Fossil Fuels to Renewables’

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renewable energy
Sumant Sinha

Sumant Sinha, Chairman & Managing Director, ReNew Power Ltd

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Successfully emerging as India’s largest renewable energy company with a well-diversified portfolio and a total capacity of more than 8 GW spread across 17 states, ReNew Power is proud to be at the forefront of the transition from fossil fuels to a renewables-driven energy sector, says Sumant Sinha, Chairman & Managing Director, ReNew Power Ltd, in an interview with Jyoti Bhagat of Elets News Network (ENN).

Tell us about the journey of ReNew Power so far.

ReNew Power was established in 2011 with a vision to become a responsible leader in providing clean energy solutions for a sustainable future. In a short span of eight years, we have successfully emerged as India’s largest renewable energy company with a well-diversified portfolio and a total capacity of more than 8 GW (of which 4.6 GW is operational) spread across 100+ sites in 17 states. Our exponential growth comes in the backdrop of a highly conducive environment created by the Government of India’s focused attention and policy support to boost the renewable energy sector. Today, we are proud to be at the vanguard of a major transformation in India’s energy generation mix, as the country is slowly but surely shifting towards renewables as the cleaner, smarter alternative to polluting fossil fuels.

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With Goldman Sachs on board as investor, ReNew Power commissioned its first utility scale wind project in Jasdan, Gujarat, on time, with a capacity of 25.2 MW in 2012. By 2014, we already had achieved total capacity of 388.65 MW with three more investors on board, namely, Asian Development Bank (ADB), Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA) and Global Environment Fund (GEF). In 2016, ReNew Power became the first renewable energy company to reach the milestone of 1 GW of commissioned capacity. Post that, there was no looking back.

Even today, ReNew Power maintains its position as India’s largest renewable energy company with total capacity of more than 8 GW.

What is the expansion plan of the company?

ReNew Power’s expansion till date has been unprecedented in the sector and we would like to continue setting benchmarks. Some of our expansions plans include:

  • Fulfilling India’s energy demands: Research suggests that 7  renewable energy in India has about 900GW of estimated potential. We are on track to exploit this untapped potential and work towards fulfilling the energy needs of India.
  • We are evaluating opportunities in the transmission business and believe that this sector will provide stable returns at low risks and will add good value to our portfolio.
  • We are also evaluating multiple opportunities across different emerging technologies such as floating solar, storage, offshore wind etc.

What factors have influenced the renewable sector’s growing importance in bridging India’s energy gap? How has ReNew Power contributed to this mission?

A key challenge for the government is to ensure a concomitant growth in our resources, to match the surge in demand with an expanding economy and rising population. Energy security and universal access to electricity is a top priority for the government. Our per capita consumption of electricity is today a meagre 1000 kWh per annum and is set to double by 2030. This will require a doubling of our energy output by augmenting capacity. Traditionally, our country has been relying on coal as the primary source of energy but the limitations of this dependence on coal are becoming more and more obvious.

When it comes to coal, we are fast depleting our resource stock. More importantly, we can ill afford continued dependence on fossil fuels as they are a major emitter of harmful greenhouse gases. As the threat of climate change becomes more perceptible, India is under increasing pressure to honor its global commitments on curbing carbon emissions. All of these factors point towards developing an alternate source and renewables emerges as the best option. The fact that India is naturally blessed with abundant sunlight and wind only strengthens the case for renewables. Further, a healthy renewable energy sector would help realise the government’s goal of making electricity affordable and available for our large rural population, besides generating employment. It is now evident that half of India’s fresh energy capacity must come from renewables and this implies adding potentially 25 GW of renewables capacity every year till 2030.

Over the last few years, the renewables sector has received plenty of focus and attention from the government. It has taken several steps to boost the sector through policy changes, fiscal incentives and increased access to funding resulting in a 20 percent annual growth rate in capacity from FY 2014-18. Currently, our installed renewables capacity is over 75 GW and should reach 95 GW by mid-2020. At this rate, we are looking at creating significant capacity by 2022, even if we fall just short of the175 GW target.

At ReNew Power, we are proud to be at the forefront of this transition from fossil fuels to a renewables-driven energy sector. Over the last eight years, we have clocked an exponential growth rate to emerge as India’s largest renewable energy company with total assets of 7.5 GW (including capacity under development). We operate more than 100 utility-scale projects spread across eight states, generating 1 percent of India’s total electricity and mitigating 0.5 percent of India’s total carbon emissions. We have also generated around 40,000 jobs directly or indirectly through our operations and helped lift more Indians out of energy poverty. We are committed to generating efficient clean energy solutions to address India’s energy security in a sustainable fashion and help implement the Government’s vision around this.

What are the key focus areas of ReNew Power for the next 12-18 months?

Given below are ReNew Power’s three key focus areas for the next financial year:

  • Maintain our market position in the renewable energy sector – both wind and solar.
  • Keep a look out for any new emerging technologies – floating solar, storage etc.
  • Asset Management – Having achieved a significant scale of operations, we will now focus on adopting state of the art technologies to further enhance the efficiency of our projects.

What are the CSR and SDG initiatives that have been taken by the Renew Power?

ReNew Power is committed to contributing to four of the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals regarding access to energy, education, gender empowerment and contributing to the socio economic development of the communities where ReNew is operating. Some of ReNew’s key CSR initiatives which are closely interlinked with SDGs are:

Lighting Lives: The programme’s objective is to transform education through clean energy. Under this programme, customised off-grid solutions are provided to rural schools to enhance the learning environment. The effort is directed towards ensuring universal access to affordable, reliable and modern energy service under Sustainable Development Goal 7 (access to affordable and clear energy). Under this programme, till date 29 micro-grids have been installed in and around our operation with 105 kW capacity. It is expected that availability of electricity will improve attendance, increase enrolment and use of ICT (Information Communication Technology) methods in teaching.

ReWIN (ReNew Women India Initiative): Under this programme, ReNew Power is working in rural India promoting Self Help Groups (SHGs) as a tool to empower women, to facilitate their participation in decision making process in economic, social and political life and also access resources. As part of the programme, capacity building and mentorship platform are created for rural women to guide them to establish their own enterprise and in-turn create employment opportunities at the village level. The programme resonates ReNew’s commitment to empower women to play a “vital role” to a role of catalyst in driving development in rural areas is linked to Sustainable Development Goal 5 (Promoting gender equality). As part of this programme, as on date around 1000 women have been impacted across our operations and 6 potential women entrepreneurs from Jath have been identified who are being currently mentored to establish their entrepreneurial venture.

Promoting Information Communication Technology (ICT) based education: As part of this program, Computer labs are being established in rural schools to promote digital literacy besides adopted of ICT methods of teaching for enhancing effective learning in schools and promote lifelong opportunities for all. The programme is aligned to Sustainable Development Goal 4 (quality of education). Around 500 children have been covered under this programme.

ReSET (ReNew Scholarship for Exceptional Talent): The objective of the programme is to ensure quality education for children from under privileged section of the society in order to create equal opportunities for them to participate in and be part of India’s economic story. The scholarship will be awarded to girls and boys from high school, who are interested in pursuing Engineering & Liberal Arts, as part of ReNew’s commitment to Sustainable Development Goal 4 (quality of education).

In addition to some of these key initiatives, ReNew is also committed towards working for the socio economic development of the communities, where it operates by ensuring access of clean and safe drinking water by installing community based water filtration units and supporting village infrastructural development.

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