Sustainable development and a transition to renewable energy seem to be the vogue topic at the moment amongst administrators. The renewable bug has hit India and the Union Budget presented in July by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman was a testimony to this. Renewable energy is a highly debated topic primarily due to the intermittency of the energy source making it an unreliable alternative. Let us take a look at what the buzz is all about.
The Paris Agreement provided the spark for India’s renewable energy vigor. The Paris agreement was a treaty signed by 197 countries and ratified by 185 aimed at minimizing the emission of gases contributing to global warming. The primary objective of the whole process was to ensure that global warming remained within 2 0C. With this agenda in mind, the Indian government has initiated certain policies to ensure this objective. The renewable sector has been gaining momentum of late in India for its competitive costs and is cited as having the lowest renewable energy cost in the Asia Pacific as per a report by the consultancy Wood Mackenzie. Moreover, the installed renewable energy capacity stands at 80 gigawatts at the moment and Prime Minister Narendra Modi has set a lofty target of 175 gigawatts by the year 2022. Recent statistics indicate that approximately 34% of India’s installed power capacity is contributed from renewable power. All of the above numbers serve as an impetus to keep the renewable energy dream alive. However, there are numerous kinks that need to be straightened to bring this dream into fruition.
The biggest obstacle towards a renewable energy transition is money. For the 2022 target to have some ounce of realism, Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) around the vicinity of $30 billion need to flow in. To put this in perspective, the last five years were only able to bring $5 billion into the country. Another vital factor is India’s economic position. Aggressive reforms to improve the economic situation in India such as the “Make in India” movement will find itself in a pickle as the renewable drive will add to rising capital and utility costs unless subsidized by the government. Moreover, solar power, which is touted to lead the renewable drive, is heavily land-intensive and the government’s commissioning of solar parks have already run into land acquisition complications. Also, a good chunk of the open areas designated for building solar parks was used by pastoral communities and the loss of the land could very well spell the end of their livelihoods.
India’s future in renewable energy is mired in difficulties that would require both scientific and administrative intervention. With competent innovation and management, renewable energy could prove to be a viable alternative in the future. However, the short term prospects of renewables seem pretty bleak with respect to the current scenario.