Renewable Energy to Surpass Thermal Energy Growth in India: But Solar Vision needs boost!

India’s aggressive push towards green energy shift is finally picking up speed, catching up with country’s current primary energy generation source, thermal energy. In FY 16-17, while the thermal energy generation capacity stood at 11.5 GW, renewable energy reached 11.3 GW capacity, promising to surpass thermal power in a short time span. It is great news for the country, since the government and private players have been shouldering challenging ventures to bring about drastic changes in the nation’s energy mix. From implementing new policies, to bringing in foreign investment for the renewable sector, the initiatives have finally shown results that the country hoped for. However, a curious mind will eventually find lack of symmetry in this growth, especially for solar.

India is Championing Solar

It is no secret that India has chosen solar to lead the green energy shift, due to its numerous benefits (such as- confirmed availability, increasing global acceptance, feasibility of installation, low maintenance, etc…) that far outweigh other sources of renewable energy. But surprisingly, solar has very little share in the recent growth of renewable energy that is contending thermal capacities.

Lay of the Land

A closer inspection reveals that the total capacity of the renewable energy sector has reached 57 GW. However, solar stands with only 12 GW of the cumulative capacity. Our Hon’ble Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi’s solar target announcement, which gave solar 100 GW target out of total 175 target capacity, makes solar the first priority of growth initiatives. However, the current scenario has faltered in realizing that growth.

It is also undeniable that Government backing and plethora of policies offering easy financing, long tenure loans, net metering, mandating solar installation in Government buildings, viability gap funding, and initiatives like International Solar Alliance have helped Indian solar sector to claim the position of the 3rd largest solar market in the world (overtaking Japan). The Indian Government has taken progressive initiatives and prompt decisions which have electrified more than 12000 villages and led India to double its capacity in 1 year (from 5 GW in 2015, to 10 GW in 2016).

However, in the similar vein, we also need to highlight that achieving the set targets of 100 GW, approximately 18 GW of capacity installation each year is needed for the next 4-5 years, which is more than 3 times the capacity it has added in 2016. And although doubling solar capacity in 1 year is a commendable feat, considering the lack of advanced industrial structure within the country, it has to be noted that India fell short to reach the set solar target in FY 16-17 by 6,474 MW. Therefore, we can state that the intensity of the efforts are coming up short in reaching the humungous solar target that India has established.

The Way Forward

Arguments about statistics aside, India has done a terrific job in moulding its energy infrastructure to welcome green energy revolution. All it needs, is a push in the right areas to bring about a symmetrical growth for renewable energy, where solar shines bright (since that is what solar reliance is all about).

  • Introducing more projects (especially DCR category)
  • Focusing on domestic manufacturing (just like China and USA has done)
  • Imposing anti-dumping (to create demand for domestic players and to maintain high quality modules for countrywide installation)
  • Speeding up the project awarding process after completion of auctions
  • Stabilizing tariffs (to attract more investors, and to protect project sustainability)
  • Establishing more R&D and quality control facilities (currently we have only 5)

Focusing on these primary challenges can help India to increase its solar installations and assure energy sustainability at the same time. We are still at the beginning of building our solar empire. Taking positive and bold decisions now, will have great impacts on our energy future. Therefore, we should all come together and join the solar revolution to make the next energy success a greener and brighter one.