India hails ‘milestone’ for its renewables capacity, but challenges remain


Solar panels in the Indian state of Karnataka.
Jonas Gratzer | LightRocket | Getty Images

The Indian government has said that the country’s installed renewable energy capacity had “crossed the milestone” of 100 gigawatts.

In a tweet Thursday, R. K. Singh, India’s minister of power, described the news as “another landmark day” in the history of the country’s power sector.

The figure, which excludes large hydro, represents the latest development in India’s attempt to hit 450 GW of renewable capacity — which refers to the maximum amount installations can produce, not necessarily what they are currently generating — by the year 2030.

Alongside this goal, India has said it wants to reach 175 GW of renewable capacity by the year 2022, a major challenge given the significant expansion that’s still required.

Indeed, while Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government is keen to highlight India’s progress when it comes to increasing renewable energy capacity, the country has work to do when it comes to decarbonization.

“India is the third-largest global emitter of CO2, despite low per capita CO2 emissions,” according to the International Energy Agency’s India Energy Outlook 2021 report. “The carbon intensity of its power sector in particular is well above the global average,” the report adds.

The IEA’s report, which was published earlier this year, said coal remained “the bedrock of India’s energy economy, commanding a 44% share of the primary energy mix.”

Despite the above, there is also potential when it comes to developing renewable energy at scale.

In a foreword to the IEA’s report, Executive Director Fatih Birol described the “growth of India’s renewable energy sector” as being “highly impressive.”

The country, he said, was “set to lead the world in areas like solar power and batteries in the coming decades.”

As well as solar power, wind represents another opportunity for development. Back in June, a report from the Global Wind Energy Council and MEC Intelligence, a research and consulting company, said India was expected to add almost 20.2 GW of new wind power capacity between the years 2021 and 2025.

So-called green hydrogen is another area to have generated interest. Its potential was highlighted last December in a report from The Energy and Resources Institute, which is based in New Delhi.

“As of today, essentially all of the hydrogen consumed in India comes from fossil fuels,” TERI’s report, called “The Potential Role of Hydrogen in India,” stated.

“However, by 2050, nearly 80% of India’s hydrogen is projected to be ‘green’ — produced by renewable electricity and electrolysis,” it added.

In the mid-term, TERI said the cost of hydrogen from renewables would drop by over 50% by 2030, enabling it to “start to compete with hydrogen produced from fossil fuels.”

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