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India plans to expand renewable generation capacity more than three-fold to 175 gigawatts by 2022, with the majority from solar which along with wind is the backbone of renewable, clean and global source of energy. Apart from resolving financing and regulatory issues, the country needs to develop a culture for green energy and without that all set targets and intents are meaningless.
Developing a green culture across the country for energy is crucial in several ways including meeting the challenges of global warming. Sourcing more solar energy will also help India meet the carbon emissions reduction target that it has committed to as part of the recent global climate change agreement.The power sector in India produces about half of all CO2 emissions in the country (805.4 million tonnes), according to the power ministry's Draft National Electricity Plan 2016; coal is the most polluting of all power sources.
In 2015, the world, through the Paris Agreement, agreed to limit the rise of the earth's temperature to under two degrees Celsius by the year 2100. As many as 162 countries, including India, had submitted their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC), documents which describe steps countries will take to limit global warming. As part of its INDC, India has committed to source 40 per cent of its electricity from non-fossil fuel sources by 2030. India's INDC or the carbon emission reduction target is to lower the emissions intensity of economy by 33 percent from 2005 levels.
In October 2016, renewable energy made up 15 per cent of India's installed electricity production capacity, up from 13.1 per cent in August 2015, according to the Ministry of New and Renewal Energy (MNRE) data. The government's ambitious target has created awareness about renewable energy. But a lot needs to be done. Promotional policies need to be outcome based. Mere providing subsidy for renewable energy would not help much. Even companies that do not benefit from government subsidies for renewable energy projects point out that it would be rather better if solar and wind energy projects should be included in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) so that adoption of villages for providing solar power to create a culture for clean energy across the country.
More people now recognise that alternative sources can provide electricity within the household without being connected to the grid. There are several companies which build small energy grids .that power a few households or a village.
In 2015, India invested $10.2 billion of public and private money in renewable energy, about a quarter of the annual investment needed, according to a report by Institute for Energy, Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA), a US-based research organisation. Government financing forms only a small part of the total investment. In 2016-17, the government budgeted $758 million (Rs 5,035.79 crore) for renewable energy. Budget 2017-18 does not offer much to the sector as allocation to the Ministry was hiked by 8.7 percent and it is now Rs 5473 crore. However, it is encouraging to note that Budget 2017 -18 either reduced or completely did away with taxes and levies on machinery used for the general of solar cells, wind energy, fuel cells, biogas, and more.
The biggest bottleneck we see is states’ DISCOM apathy towards promoting solar energy at village level. Reluctance to give no objection certificate to install of solar panels in villages clearly signals towards lack of proper regulatory mechanism to promote clean energy.
Solar power: Backbone of renewable energy
India has an estimated renewable energy potential of about 900 gigawatt (GW) from commercially exploitable sources—wind 102 GW, small hydro 20 GW, bio energy 25GW and 750 GW solar power, according to the Ministry. Generation from conventional sources showed an annual growth rate of over 5 percent in the 11 months period of 2016-17 while output from renewable power projects rose more than 26 percent during this period. The target from various renewable energy sources has been increased to 175 GW by the year 2022 (which include 100GW from solar energy and 60GW from wind energy).
The government has pledged to electrify all villages by May 2018 and supply power to every citizen by 2019. But ground realities are different. In 2014, the World Bank ranked India as home to the world’s largest unelectrified population. Power was either unaffordable, inadequate or non-existent for 240 million people, according to data from the International Energy Agency. The government has met 77 percent of its target to link villages to power grids, yet only about 14 percent for villages earmarked for off-grid power like solar. Some 47 million rural households are still without electricity, and even those connected to the grid suffer frequent outages.
States/DISCOMs need to focus on training their ground staff on Net metering and Solar alternates as without their help it is very difficult for an individual to erect small plants at household also. The state governments distribution agencies need to make GRID transfers available for excess production from these solar units as in absence of grid connection facility, electricity would be wasted. Building of these infrastructures is the key for a green ecosystem, so that benefits could be reaped from the efforts made.
Green Energy & CSR
If we still undermine the importance of green and renewal energy, it will be late to recover from damages we will do to the society. Though there is a clear understanding of natural resources / limited resources to people around the world but specifically in India people are very non- serious of the issue. Be it Energy /power when it comes to Green Clean Energy, people take it as just a money saving exercise rather than energy or planet saving.
The government is making all possible efforts to scale renewable energy projects but still people think it to be an alternate to reduce production from convention energy sources. People see solar energy as an alternate not just to save increasing electricity bills but also as an unlimited resource which will help generations to come. The green culture should develop around us, we should develop large platforms where we must initiate an ecosystem of Green Clean energy from households to corporates.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s initiatives in these directions will only be successful when we together pledge to take benefits of the large solar initiatives carried by the government recently through the Solar Energy Corporations of India and the MNRE.
Our Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) calls for less use of generators and more of solar power, be it Telecom space or for that matter rooftops solar panels in Industries and other sectors.
It is enlightening to note that most of the Tower and Telecom companies have taken step forward in this area and have given a kick start to building of a green ecosystem.
The Way Forward
India has an estimated renewable energy potential of about 900 gigawatt (GW) from commercially exploitable sources. The government has announced ambitious scheme to double solar power generation capacity under the solar park scheme to 40,000 MW by 2020 apart from various on-going solar power programmes. Apart from solar park scheme, we need to focus at village level.
We, at Corporates, need to take forward the green culture. It should be our main corporate social responsibility to think and build on the green ecosystem because of the increasing threat of climate change and environmental hazards today. The country needs quick actions from us for the benefit of present and future generations to come. The government needs walk mile and should go beyond subsidy scheme. A policy push would require to develop a green culture. Corporates must act to correct themselves and actively engage in the sector with their CSR activities. Or else it will be too late to reap benefits of life for our kids and their families.
(Author is a senior official at Cambridge Energy Resources which is part of Cambridge Clean Energy, UK. Views expressed are personal)