Greening the Grid
TerraGreen|August 2021
How Close is India to Meeting its Renewable Energy Targets?
Dhruv Suri, Jai Shekhar, and Azade Y Aria

In this article, Dhruv Suri, Jai Shekhar, and Azade Y Aria discuss India’s trajectory towards planned renewable energy targets and describe the implications of myopic thinking on future progress. They also stress on the fact that merely increasing renewable energy targets and installing new capacity is simply not enough. Economically maintaining a balance of supply and demand and designing technically-reliable grids while adopting an overarching systems-level approach are the need of the hour.

The global energy system is facing a stiff paradigm shift. Energy-consuming countries face the two-pronged paradox of providing communities access to affordable and reliable electricity while also bearing the ramifications of increasing energy demand and energy access on climate change. Although electricity has been widely recognized as a pivotal lever that enables the upward economic mobility of communities and countries, it may as well be the source of difficult conversations among policymakers and other stakeholders as they gear up for the next decade of progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

India has seen extraordinary growth in its renewable energy sector in the past few years. With the global impetus towards sustainable development and the need to cater to the growing energy demand of almost 1.5 billion people, India has made steady strides to increase the penetration of renewable energy generation within the country’s energy mix. In the last decade, the country has provided electricity access to hundreds of millions of people residing in last-mile communities, restructured its lumbering utility sector, and introduced key measures to achieve a carbon-neutral economy by 2050. Catering to the energy needs of a burgeoning population while meeting sustainability goals is not a trivial challenge—it requires effective coordination and innovation across three key verticals: technological innovation, financial innovation, and business model innovation.

India’s Installed Capacity: Present Status and Pledged Contributions

India is the third-largest renewable energy producer in the world with 36 per cent (136 GW) of total installed energy capacity in 2020 generated from renewable sources as per Ernst & Young’s 2021 Renewable Energy Country Attractiveness Index (RECAI)—an indicator that ranks the top 40 countries based on investment in renewable energy (Table 1).

Table 1: India’s renewable energy-specific RECAI scores and global rank. India achieved a RECAI score of 66.2 in 2021 and was behind the United States (70.7) and China (68.7)

For its Nationally Determined Contributions as part of the 2015 Paris Agreement, India made a commitment to produce 40 per cent of its total electricity from non-fossil fuel sources by 2030, subject to assistance for technology transfer and low-cost finance. In 2018, India’s Central Electricity Authority set a target of producing 57 per cent of the country’s total electricity from non-fossil fuel sources by 2027. India is also on track to meeting its ambitious renewable energy target of 175 GW by 2022 which includes 100 GW of solar, 60 GW of wind, 5 GW of small hydro, 10 GW of biomass power, and 0.168 GW of waste-to-power. At the United Nations Climate Change conference in 2019, India increased its renewable energy target to 450 GW by 2030, with 15 times the solar and twice the wind power capacity compared to April 2016. Clearly, the availability of renewable energy technology for capacity installations is not limiting the country from further expanding its portfolio.

Recent national targets have showcased that the Indian Government has a clear intention to reach COP26 as a global leader and tackle climate change at its roots. However, since a regulatory transition is to be expected in almost every carbon-producing industry, an expedited low-carbon transition within the energy space stands at the forefront in the fight against the ever-increasing climate uncertainty.

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