In recent times, India has experienced a significant surge in energy consumption, propelled by rapid economic expansion and a growing population. On a global scale, the nation ranks fourth in installed renewable energy capacity (including wind and solar power installations), as indicated by the REN21 Renewables 2022 Global Status Report. As part of its commitment at COP26, the country has set an ambitious goal of achieving 500 GW of energy derived from non-fossil fuel sources by 2030. This ambitious target represents the largest renewable energy expansion plan worldwide.
Undoubtedly, India has made remarkable progress in renewable energy adoption, but some challenges need to be addressed.
Initial high costs: Solar and wind power technologies often incur higher initial costs than conventional fossil fuel-based power generation. This can deter businesses and individuals from switching to RE despite the long-term benefits.
Intermittency and grid integration: The intermittent nature of solar and wind energy sources poses a significant challenge to seamless integration into the existing grid. The absence of adequate reserve power resources can lead to grid instability and potential blackouts.
Further, the distribution of renewable energy adoption varies significantly among Indian states. Rajasthan accounts for around 20% of the overall RE installed capacity (wind and solar) as of July 31, 2023. A substantial proportion of variable renewable energy (VRE) results in mounting difficulties for the states to integrate these sources into the grid.
State leaders are apprehensive about potential surplus VRE generation, prompting considerations for increased power export, displacement of coal-fired plants by renewables, or the curtailment of solar and wind power to ensure grid stability. Emerging issues include escalating fluctuations in hourly demand, heightened ramping needs, short-term frequency fluctuations, and localized voltage challenges.
Inadequate grid infrastructure: India’s current grid infrastructure was designed to support conventional fossil fuel-based power generation, which is more predictable and reliable. The integration of renewable energy requires significant upgrades to the grid to accommodate the variability and decentralized nature of these sources.
Land procurement and environmental concerns: Securing large tracts of unobstructed land for renewable energy projects, particularly solar installations, can be complex and time-consuming. Opposition from specific population segments due to environmental damage and land use concerns can further hinder progress. Overcoming these objections requires effective communication and stakeholder engagement.
Government support and incentives: The Indian government has demonstrated a strong commitment to renewable energy by implementing regulations and incentives. Aggressive expansion benchmarks and up to 100% foreign direct investment (FDI) for renewable energy initiatives showcase the government’s pro-renewables stance. Furthermore, the government has put efforts to stimulate green energy, including exempting inter-state transmission system charges for solar and wind power sales and establishing of a renewable purchase obligation trajectory until 2029-30 and Ultra Mega Renewable Energy Parks Scheme to expedite solar projects.
Declining technology costs: The cost of renewable energy technologies has been on a downward trajectory, enhancing affordability for businesses and individual consumers alike. This trend is expected to continue, bolstering the competitiveness of renewable energy against conventional fossil fuel-based power generation.
Innovations such as battery storage and intelligent infrastructure hold promise for overcoming challenges associated with renewable energy integration.
Growing energy demand: India’s robust economic growth translates to rising demand for energy. This demand provides a substantial market for renewable energy investments, encouraging firms to venture into this sector.
Employment: The renewable energy industry in India has the potential to create significant employment opportunities. As the sector expands, more jobs will be generated, offering individuals a chance to contribute to the sustainable energy transition.
Global leadership potential: With government support, falling costs, and increasing demand, India is well-positioned to emerge as a global leader in renewable energy. The country’s commitment to sustainable development could pave the way for substantial contributions to the global renewable energy landscape.
India’s renewable energy targets are reshaping its energy landscape. The surge in energy demand, coupled with robust economic growth and rising population, underscores the significance of clean energy adoption for homes, businesses, and communities to curb pollution while fostering self-reliance. India can navigate the various challenges to scaling up RE adoption through strategic planning, investments, and collaborative efforts and emerge as a shining example of sustainable energy transformation on the global stage.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own, and do not necessarily reflect those held by pv magazine.
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