Suman Chandra

As one of the most climate-vulnerable nations, India cannot afford to be a passive observer in the fight against climate change. The urgency is real. We are witnessing intensified heatwaves, erratic monsoons, and rising sea levels first-hand, impacting millions and
jeopardizing our hard-earned development gains. Ignoring this reality is not an option. The India Long-Term Low-Emissions Development Strategy (LT-LEDS) is a crucial roadmap outlining a net-zero emissions target by 2070. This necessitates an aggressive push towards decarbonization across every sector – energy, transportation, and industry. The benefits are clear – cleaner air, improved public health, reduced dependence on fossil fuels, and new green jobs.

Delaying action is not only irresponsible, it’s economically suicidal. Climate inaction could cost India 8% of its GDP by 2050. But the converse is also true – embracing decarbonization can unlock enormous economic opportunities, attracting investments in clean technologies and making our exports more competitive in a climate- conscious world. The transition won’t be easy. It demands collective action from our government, businesses, and citizens. However, the cost of inaction far outweighs the challenges. The ingenuity and resilience that define New Bharat allow opportunities to work together to build a cleaner, safer, and more prosperous future for ourselves and future generations.

Achieving a low-carbon electricity system hinges on a two-pronged approach- enhanced system efficiency through infrastructure upgrades, user-end optimizations, and low/ zero-carbon generation deployment like renewables, Best Available Technology (BAT) etc. However, due to their inherent variability, integrating renewables presents initial hurdles in balancing supply and demand. Unlike controllable fuel-based generators, renewables rely on fluctuating factors like sunlight and wind speed. Fortunately, this variability can be mitigated by leveraging energy storage alongside low-carbon flexible generation technologies and expanded transmission networks. By storing excess renewable energy and releasing it during insufficient generation periods, we can achieve the full potential of renewables and pave the way for a sustainable grid future. India is making constant endeavours to address this bottleneck.

India’s electricity story is undergoing a dramatic rewrite, with fossil fuels gradually giving way to the success of renewable energy. While coal once dominated, casting a shadow of vulnerability and pollution, a new chapter is unfolding. The ambitious target of 500 GW non-fossil fuel capacity by 2030 and the resolute pledge to have 50 % of installed
non-fossil by 2030 mark a turning point. Fuelled by policy support and plummeting costs, solar and wind are experiencing meteoric growth, reshaping our grid forever. Transmission lines are strengthening, enabling renewables to seamlessly become the veins of our power supply, while smart grid technology promises to accelerate the path towards efficiency and reliability. A few challenges remain, but the momentum is undeniable. India’s electricity grid, once a symbol of carbon dependence, is transforming into a beacon of low- carbon growth, promising a brighter, cleaner, renewable future.

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This revolution boasts impressive achievements. As of January 2024, India’s installed renewable energy capacity stands at a staggering 182.03 GW, representing a remarkable quantum jump in the past nine years. This includes 74.31 GW of solar power, a 30-fold increase in just nine years, making India the fifth-largest solar power producer globally. Wind power is just a little behind, with a capacity of 68.24 GW, securing India the fourth position worldwide. These numbers translate into real-world impacts. By November 2021, India had already surpassed its target of 40% installed electric capacity from non-fossil fuels, a testament to the rapid transition underway. This clean energy surge has led to a significant decline in emissions, with India witnessing a 10% reduction in carbon intensity between 2014 and 2022.

The driving forces behind this revolution are multifaceted. Ambitious government policies led by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, like the National Solar Mission and the Production Linked Incentive scheme, have played a crucial role in attracting investments and fostering domestic manufacturing. The falling costs of renewable technologies and rising concerns about climate change and air pollution have further fuelled the transition.

Moreover, India’s renewable energy revolution is broader than large-scale projects. Rooftop solar installations are flourishing, empowering individuals and communities to participate actively in the clean energy transformation. Initiatives like PM-Kusum Yojana and Bio-energy Mission provide access to clean energy solutions in rural areas, improving livelihoods with added co-benefits.

A policy-driven metamorphosis is facilitating India’s electricity sector’s low-carbon development. A potent mix of regulatory easing and targeted incentives fuels this transformation.

Firstly, India’s clear climate leadership position sends a strong signal to investors and the world. India has never been a climate doubter/denier, and this is a huge win if we look at other big democracies around the world. Secondly, ambitious targets like achieving 500 GW of non-fossil fuel capacity by 2030 act as guiding lights and our north stars, driving policy frameworks and investments. Ministry of New and Renewable Energy-led policy easing is evident in several areas. Streamlined grid access for renewable energy players through the Green Market Mechanism and Green Corridor projects facilitates smoother integration. Additionally, initiatives like the Renewable Purchase Obligation (RPO) mandate utilities to source a specific percentage of electricity from renewable sources, creating a stable demand base.

Financial incentives are playing a crucial role. Tax cushions, concessional loans, and schemes like the Production Linked Incentive scheme have enabled the attraction of investments and the lowering of project costs. Importantly, mechanisms like Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) enabled the trading of clean energy, creating a market-driven approach to low-carbon development. Regulatory easing extends to land acquisition reforms, simplifying clearances for renewable projects. The recently issued land aggregation model under PM KUSUM is another step in this regard to extending clean energy benefits to the grassroots. Furthermore, constant efforts are underway to harmonize and streamline environmental regulations, reducing delays and uncertainties for developers.

India’s renewable energy revolution isn’t solely driven by policy – it’s fuelled by technological advancements, transforming generation, and grid management.

Solar panels are experiencing an efficiency surge on the generation front, with technologies like bifacial cells and perovskites promising even higher outputs. Wind turbines are growing taller and smarter, reaching higher wind speeds and incorporating artificial intelligence for optimized power generation. Energy storage solutions are evolving rapidly, and explorations into pumped hydro storage and green hydrogen offer exciting possibilities.

Grid modernization is keeping pace. Smart grid technologies are being deployed, utilizing sensors, digital meters, and advanced analytics to optimize power flow, predict outages, and integrate renewables. AI-powered platforms enable decentralized energy management, empowering communities to participate actively in the grid. Microgrids offer localized solutions for rural areas and offer potential use for disaster relief.

Innovation extends beyond technology. Business models are evolving, with innovative financing mechanisms like green bonds and rooftop solar subscriptions unlocking investments.

India’s shift towards a decarbonized electricity sector isn’t just an environmental necessity; it’s an economic goldmine in disguise. The renewable energy boom is expected to generate more new jobs in manufacturing, installation, operation, and maintenance. As India aims for 500 GW of non-fossil fuel capacity by 2030, this trend is likely to accelerate, creating avenues for skilled and unskilled workers alike.

India actively promotes domestic manufacturing of solar panels, wind turbines, and storage solutions. This “Make in India” push attracts investments, strengthens the manufacturing ecosystem, and creates export opportunities, potentially positioning India as a global leader in clean energy technologies. This creates opportunities for construction companies, technology providers, and engineering firms, contributing to economic growth.

As renewable energy costs plummet and become the dominant source of electricity, overall energy costs are expected to decline. This can benefit businesses, households, and industries, improving competitiveness and affordability. However, reaping these benefits requires all of us to come together. Skill development programs are crucial to prepare the workforce for emerging opportunities of today and tomorrow.

The significance of using this forum to highlight these aspects is to propel conquering the Clean Energy Chasm and bridging the Gaps in India’s Decarbonization Journey with a collaborative approach. Grid integration of intermittent sources is still perceived as a key hurdle. We hear that echo at various platforms. Storage solutions, though evolving, require cost reductions and wider deployment.

MNRE’s constant efforts to upgrade transmission lines, deploy smart grids, and foster regional cooperation are gradual steps toward seamless integration across vast distances.
Advanced forecasting tools enable renewable surges and dips and better grid management. The storage solutions, however, need multiple players. Pumped hydro storage offers large-scale solutions, while battery storage caters to smaller grids. Advanced technologies like compressed air energy storage hold promise for the future. Public-private partnerships can accelerate research and development, lowering costs and making storage a mainstream player.

Empowering consumers becomes crucial. Time-of-day pricing can incentivize shifting consumption to peak renewable generation hours. Smart appliances can respond to grid needs, creating a dynamic demand response system.
MNRE is invested in engaging communities in rooftop solar and microgrids to foster ownership and participation.

Addressing these necessitates a collaborative effort. Government, industry, researchers, and communities must join hands to achieve the decarbonization goal successfully.
Decarbonization isn’t a solo performance; it’s an intricate cooperation requiring every national stakeholder and international partner to play their part. The government is committed to setting the tempo with ambitious policies and supportive regulations, creating an enabling environment for clean energy investments. Businesses have an incentive to innovate. As communities become active participants, installing rooftop solar and advocating for sustainable practices, India’s success story will only likely resonate louder. Research institutions have led the innovation, developing next-generation storage solutions and grid modernization strategies.

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But more than national efforts are needed to sustain this drive. International cooperation strengthens this journey, fostering technology transfer, mobilizing finance, and harmonizing carbon pricing schemes. Developed nations must be negotiated into sharing their expertise, accelerating learning curves in developing countries with the sharing of advanced technologies and know-how. Multilateral institutions can propel global carbon markets, ensuring fairness and efficiency. Collaborative research efforts can unlock breakthroughs in key areas like long-duration storage.

This isn’t just about hitting the right notes; it’s about ensuring global harmony. Climate change doesn’t respect borders, and its impacts resonate across nations.

This multi-pronged approach, driven by ambition, innovation, and collaboration, paints a promising picture for India’s clean energy future. The nation is poised to illuminate a brighter, sustainable path for itself and the world by harnessing the power of renewables, smart technologies, and collective action.

Let’s move beyond individual efforts and embrace an all-hands-on-deck approach. We all need to join hands in turning this discourse into a collaborative journey. Remember, a collective voice carries much farther than a singular one for the advancement of New Bharat!

Views expressed by Suman Chandra, IAS, Director, Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE), Government of India.


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