India Lacks Solar Waste Handling in India

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    In Context

    • The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) estimated that the global photovoltaic waste will touch 78 million tonnes by 2050, with India being one of the top five generators of such waste.
      • India currently considers solar waste a part of electronic waste and does not account for it separately.

    India’s Solar Capacity

    • India has set a target of producing 100 GW of solar energy by 2022. 
    • The cumulative capacity of grid-connected solar photovoltaic (PV) installations is around 40 GW and of the current capacity, about 35.6 GW, is generated from ground-mounted plants and 4.4 GW from rooftop solar. 
      • A gigawatt is 1,000 megawatt.
    • A recent International Energy Agency (IEA) report states that by the end of 2040, India will represent 30% of the world’s solar installed capacity

    Solar waste handling in India

    • There was no commercial raw material recovery facility for solar e-waste operational in India, but a pilot facility for solar panel recycling and material recovery had been set up by a private company in Gummidipoondi, Chennai, Tamil Nadu.
    • A committee was constituted under the chairmanship of the Ministry’s Secretary to propose an action plan to evolve a “circular economy” in solar panels, through the reuse/recycling of waste generated. 
    • Solar panel waste is harmful to the environment as it contains toxic metals and minerals that may seep into the ground. 

    How are other countries handling solar waste?

    • The European Union: The Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive of the EU imposes responsibility for the disposal of waste on the manufacturers or distributors who are introducing or installing such equipment for the first time. 
    • The United Kingdom: It also has an industry-managed “take-back and recycling scheme” where all PV producers will need to register and submit data related to products used for the residential solar market (B2C) and non-residential market (B2B).
    • United States: There are no federal statutes or regulations in the United States that talk about recycling, there are some states who have proactively defined policies to address End-of-Life PV module management. 
    • Australia: The federal government has acknowledged the concern and recently announced an AUD 2 million grant as part of the National Product Stewardship Investment Fund to develop and implement an industry-led product stewardship scheme for PV systems. 
      • It is expected that the scheme will encourage shared responsibility throughout the supply chain to manage the impacts of PV modules through their life cycle.
    • Countries like Japan, South Korea have already indicated their resolve to come up with dedicated legislation to address the PV waste problem.

    Roadmap to Handle Solar Waste

    • India needs a three-pronged approach to handle the mammoth quantum of PV waste it will generate in the next 10 years.
    • At Policy Level
      • India needs comprehensive, all-encompassing legislation for handling PV waste that will also ensure that we explore the avenues PV recycling/management has to offer. 
      • Some of the policy suggestions include carving out a separate category for PV waste in the waste regulations apart from imposing a landfill ban for modules while implementing a legislative framework for a mandatory Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR)
        • The EPR legislation for all PV equipment or all Renewable Energy equipment, in general, should be separate from the e-waste rules in order to streamline our efforts to effectively handle PV waste.
    • At Industry Level
      • The second important aspect is Industry-led intervention. We have seen in the UK, Australia and especially in the EU how Industry has been at the centre of any legislation or policy measure. 
      • Given the resilience of the Indian solar industry, it is imperative to have the perspectives of Indian solar industry stakeholders by allowing them to propose a sustainable and long-term solution for the waste generated.
    • At Technology Level
      • A parallel effort is required in ensuring home-grown recycling technologies are nurtured, incentivized and promoted. 
    • Government-funded research is necessary to identify and develop module recycling technologies and their allied infrastructure. 
    • India should look at joint collaborations on the Research and Development front to leverage the existing technologies and Indianising/ indigenising them for the Indian context.

    Source: TH