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Road to India@100: Renewables will power the new India

Road to India@100: Renewables will power the new India

As India transforms into an economic powerhouse, it needs to plan well and address the challenges around green energy

Rahul Munjal, Chairman and MD of Hero Future Energies Rahul Munjal, Chairman and MD of Hero Future Energies

Being home to almost 18 per cent of the world’s population, India’s economic growth is of global interest. Latest studies indicate that a young workforce, strong manufacturing sector and rapidly growing digital economy will enable India to witness a sustained GDP growth of 7.5-8 per cent. India’s consumption levels are poised for exponential growth as well with per capita income increasing sixfold. Moreover, as the world gears up to combat the looming threat of climate change, all eyes are on how a rapidly growing India develops its energy sector. The size of India’s grid is expected to expand to almost 2,300 GW by 2050 as per capita consumption of electricity catches up with the world’s average. Maintaining this growth trajectory, while addressing energy security will depend on affordable and reliable clean energy. And the signs are extremely encouraging. India’s wind and solar capacity has quadrupled to 100 GW in a decade, and the cost of power generated from wind and solar is amongst the lowest in the world, thereby making India one of the most attractive destinations for clean energy investment.

I envision that by 2047, India will have universal power access with renewable energy as the dominant source of power. I wish to see healthy competition between electric utilities and consumers enjoying the freedom of choosing their service provider. Electric vehicles (EVs) should be ubiquitous, enabling cities to breathe cleaner air. India would very likely be an innovation hub in low-carbon technologies and a global green manufacturing player with high output giga factories. In particular, I would like to see India as the green H2 capital of the world and amongst its lowest cost producers. I also hope to see steel, cement, and fertiliser as certified green products and a circular economy reducing wastage and increasing competitiveness of our industries.

For this vision to be translated into reality, we need to plan well and address certain challenges. Firstly, India would have to add around 20-30 GW of renewable energy capacity per annum. All this wind and solar energy must be rapidly integrated into the grid. Misalignment between demand and supply peaks must be managed.

Secondly, achieving supremacy in next-generation clean technologies require investments in innovation, R&D and infrastructure. Incentivising investments in development of such risky technologies in an uncertain future and limited or non-existent ecosystem is a challenge. Next, the poor financial health of state-owned discoms has dampened investor sentiment and can decelerate sectoral growth. This must be addressed.

Lastly, India’s land acquisition process for its renewable projects is slow and tedious. The reasons being small land holdings, poor land records, and state-specific procedures. Additionally, the choice of land is restricted by the availability of power evacuation capacity nearby.

Several measures must be taken by policymakers and private players to achieve system flexibility for integrating large amount of wind and solar power. Continuous expansion and strengthening of the grid is crucial to ensure sufficient transmission capacity is available. The grid must be interconnected to transfer excess generation to states less endowed with renewable energy resources.

All the grid infra must be complemented by demand side flexibility and virtual power plants (VPPs). Demand side flexibility would require regulatory interventions such as time-of-day pricing and smart metering. VPPs can also be promoted by regulators for participation in capacity, ancillary services markets, etc.

A wide array of green technologies would be required for India’s low-carbon growth and most of these technologies are emerging, some just confined to laboratories. Therefore, how do we get the promising technologies to scale up rapidly within a short window? The government should set up cutting edge R&D centres in collaboration with renewable energy companies, businesses, academia and investors. Such innovation hubs could be focussed on advanced solar PV and wind turbine technologies, solar materials, Li+ batteries, alternate energy storage solutions, recycling technologies, smart metering, grid solutions, electrolysers, green H2 storage and transportation solutions.

Attracting long-term capital for development of such technologies also depends on stable and effective polices providing financial and demand side support. Production-linked incentive (PLI) schemes for capital-intensive sectors such as solar cells/modules, advanced cell chemistry batteries, EVs, electrolysers and fuel cells are worth continuing till we achieve giga scale production to fulfil our growing clean energy needs.

Viability gap funding coupled with demand side assurance for adoption of green H2 in sectors such as fertilisers, steel, etc., will go a long way in helping it become a mainstream fuel, and thereby eliminate the need for energy from fossil fuels.

Structural challenges associated with discoms’ health and land must also be addressed as they threaten to derail the sector. Implementation of the proposed Electricity Act is crucial for the revival of discoms. Direct benefit transfer, discom privatisation, strict RPO compliances and safeguards against contract renegotiation are urgently needed to hasten renewable capacity addition.

The government must undertake various measures for tackling land issues. They can support IPPs by compiling the data of land parcels with high wind and solar generation potential, provide single-window clearances though online applications and undertake digitisation of land records with online maps.

Switching to low-carbon energy is crucial not just to prevent climate change but also because it makes economic sense. It is difficult to say which clean energy will predominate a few decades from now. US scientists achieved a breakthrough in nuclear fusion just a few days ago, creating a vision of a world powered by unlimited, cheap and non-polluting energy.

Nevertheless, energy transition has presented India with a once-in-a-century opportunity to leverage its vast scale and size and channelise its innovative spirit, entrepreneurial and young workforce, and credible institutions into making India a green economy superpower. 


The writer is Chairman and MD of Hero Future Energies

Published on: Feb 05, 2023, 9:28 AM IST
Posted by: Arnav Das Sharma, Feb 05, 2023, 9:27 AM IST