Gearing up for Renewable Energy Push


    In Context

    • The government has recently invited bids for 50 GW of renewable energy capacity annually for the next five years.

    About renewable &  non-renewable resources of energy

    • Renewable energy:
      • Renewable energy is energy derived from natural sources that are replenished at a higher rate than they are consumed.
        • Sunlight and wind, for example, are such sources that are constantly being replenished. Renewable energy sources are plentiful and all around us.
    • Non-renewable energy:
      • Fossil fuels – coal, oil and gas – on the other hand, are non-renewable resources that take hundreds of millions of years to form. 
      • Fossil fuels, when burned to produce energy, cause harmful greenhouse gas emissions, such as carbon dioxide.
    • Significance of renewable resources of energy:
      • Addressing Climate crisis:
        • Generating renewable energy creates far lower emissions than burning fossil fuels. 
        • Transitioning from fossil fuels, which currently account for the lion’s share of emissions, to renewable energy is key to addressing the climate crisis.
      • Cheaper & employment generator:
        • Renewables are now cheaper in most countries, and generate three times more jobs than fossil fuels.
        • The sources also have comparatively low maintenance costs.
      • Atmanirbhar Bharat: 
        • Investment by the private sector in renewable energy would also be helpful in fulfilling the Government’s objective of self-reliance. It will also create employment opportunities in the country.

    Common sources of renewable energy

    • Solar Energy:
      • Solar energy is the most abundant of all energy resources and can even be harnessed in cloudy weather. The rate at which solar energy is intercepted by the Earth is about 10,000 times greater than the rate at which humankind consumes energy.
    • Wind Energy:
      • Wind energy harnesses the kinetic energy of moving air by using large wind turbines located on land (onshore) or in sea- or freshwater (offshore). 
    • Geothermal Energy:
      • Geothermal energy utilizes the accessible thermal energy from the Earth’s interior. Heat is extracted from geothermal reservoirs using wells or other means.
    • Hydropower:
      • Hydropower harnesses the energy of water moving from higher to lower elevations. It can be generated from reservoirs and rivers. Reservoir hydropower plants rely on stored water in a reservoir, while run-of-river hydropower plants harness energy from the available flow of the river.
    • Ocean Energy:
      • Ocean energy derives from technologies that use the kinetic and thermal energy of seawater – waves or currents for instance –  to produce electricity or heat.
    • Bioenergy:
      • Bioenergy is produced from a variety of organic materials, called biomass, such as wood, charcoal, dung and other manures for heat and power production, and agricultural crops for liquid biofuels. Most biomass is used in rural areas for cooking, lighting and space heating, generally by poorer populations in developing countries.

    Renewable energy capacity in India

    • About:
      • India currently has a total renewable energy capacity of 168.96 GW (as on February 28, 2023) with about 82 GW at various stages of implementation and about 41 GW at tendering stage. 
      • This includes 64.38 GW Solar Power, 51.79 GW Hydro Power, 42.02 GW Wind Power and 10.77 GW Bio Power.
    • Upcoming plans:
      • The government invited bids for 50 GW of renewable energy capacity annually for the next five years.
      • These annual bids of ISTS (Inter-State Transmission) connected renewable energy capacity will also include setting up of wind power capacity of at least 10 GW per annum.
      • The plan finalised by Ministry of New & Renewable Energy (MNRE) was in accordance with India’s COP26 commitments.
    • Major initiatives:
      • National Solar Mission (NSM) 
      • Pradhan Mantri Kisan Urja Suraksha evam Utthaan Mahabhiyan (PM-KUSUM).
      • Atal Jyoti Yojana (AJAY) Phase-II
      • Solar Parks Scheme
    • Potential:
      • Considering that Renewable Energy projects take 18-24 months for commissioning, the bid plan will add 250 GW of renewable energy and ensure 500 GW of installed capacity by 2030. 
        • The Power Ministry is already working on upgrading and adding the transmission system capacity for evacuating 500 GW of electricity from non-fossil fuel.
    • Challenge:
      • The challenge is the availability of equipment and infrastructure to implement this ambitious plan as well as evacuation of the power.
      • While financing these projects may not be a challenge, as money is flowing into the clean energy sector, who will supply the equipment like turbines and modules, power cables etc will be an issue as there are only a handful of original equipment manufacturers.

    Reasons for the growth of renewable energy:

    • Expansion of electricity coverage: 
      • Increased coverage of electricity, along with the provision of last-mile connectivity to all households under the SAUBHAGYA scheme or Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojana (see inset), has led to higher demand for energy.
      • As urbanisation increases, there is also an Increase in the per capita consumption of energy leading to the growth of energy demand.
    • Growth: 
      • Despite the COVID-induced slowdown, India is one of the few countries which are looking at a substantial growth rate in the future, thus increasing the requirement of energy in the post-COVID world.
    • Growing acceptance of electric mobility: 
      • Electric and hybrid vehicles have become the technology of choice around the world. This will create additional power demand for charging the needs of the Electric vehicles.
    • Rise in importance of clean energy: 
      • India’s commitments under the Paris climate deal: Apart from decreasing the energy intensity and creation of carbon sink, India has also committed itself to meet 40% of its total energy demand from non-fossil sources. 
      • Thus, it is imperative to invest in renewable energy to meet this target.

    Way Ahead

    • India’s switch from coal to clean power is a win-win and a promising step towards meeting the country’s net zero emissions target by 2070
    • Governments and private sector organizations need to collaborate and work together to develop innovative solutions and strategies that can help to overcome these obstacles.
    • India’s energy demand is expected to increase more than that of any other country in the coming decades due to its sheer size and enormous potential for growth and development.
      • Therefore, it is imperative that most of this new energy demand is met by low-carbon, renewable sources.


    Daily Mains Question

    [Q] What is the significance of the growth of renewable energy capacity in India? What are the initiatives undertaken by the government? Examine the challenges for the sector.