Last week, Prime Minister Narendra Modi reiterated that India is confident of having 175GW of renewable energy (RE) by 2022 and 450GW by 2030. On November 26, the PM will inaugurate the third Global Renewable Energy Investment Meeting and Expo, once again signaling to the global renewable community India’s commitment to the development and scaling up of RE to meet its energy requirements. As of September 30, India’s total installed power capacity is over 373 GW, and, of that, coal accounts for 199.59 GW while renewable is 89.22 GW.
With a population of 1.4 billion and a growing economy, India will be vital for the future of global energy markets. Ensuring citizens access to electricity and clean cooking has been at the top of the political agenda. Around 750 million people in India gained access to electricity between 2000 and 2019. There has been significant progress in reducing traditional biomass in cooking, the leading cause of indoor air pollution. The government has encouraged clean cooking with liquefied petroleum gas. It promotes cleaner cooking and off-grid electrification solutions, including shifting toward using solar photovoltaics for cooking and charging batteries.
Yet, experts have raised valid questions about India’s ambitious RE target: If India is genuinely going for 450 GW of RE, then why is the government auctioning more coal blocks since the coal sites already licensed is much more than the actual demand? The solution may lie in enhancing efficiency and improving finance instead of adding more generation capacity. At the same time, planners have to factor in that India’s energy demand could double by 2040, with electricity demand potentially tripling due to increased appliance ownership and cooling needs. Despite the present challenges the sector is facing — fall in energy demand by almost one third, prevailing price instability impacted investment decisions, projected contraction in global energy demand — India must stick to the green path to meet its climate and sustainable development goals.