A Snapshot of Renewable Energy in India

By Reita Hutagalung, Global MBA student 2012-2013, Indonesia

My final IIP project in India is related to renewable energy, so I’d like to share some facts about the current state of Indian renewable energy. As India’s economy experiences rapid growth, its energy consumption is likewise increasing rapidly: it increased 64% from 2001/2002 to 2011/2012 and, according to the Indian Planning Commission, it is projected to grow an additional 72% by 2021/2022. India’s current energy supply, primarily made up of fossil fuels (majorly dependent on coal) can’t keep up with the fast growing demand, as both the local reserve is thinning while importing coal is becoming more expensive due to the increase in coal prices. The energy deficit is growing as evidenced by regular power cuts (as much as approx. 15% daily). Also, the so-called “Great Indian Outage” happened on July 30th and 31st, 2012. It stretched from New Delhi to Kolkata and occurred due to the failure of the northern power grid. It was said to be the world’s largest blackout, since it caused nearly 700 million people to be without electricity.

As the price of fossil fuels increases, non-polluting, renewable sources of energy are becoming good options, economically and environmentally, to meet future demand for electricity. Renewable energy is also advantageous in that it allows decentralized distribution. In the case of India this is beneficial to meet rural energy needs, as most of the population is still living in rural areas and don’t have access to electricity.

One of the biggest hurdles India is facing is its lack of an overarching energy strategy — states regulate their policies separately. These policies result in varied expansion capabilities for the renewable energy industry. Some renewable energy developers also complain that the policies are not consistent; with a change in authority, regulations could also change following political forces. These hurdles disrupt the possibility of the industry to mature quickly in India. This is unfortunate, as India has a large potential for its renewable energy resources. Solar is the main source of inexhaustible energy available consistently throughout the year. Due to its location, India is blessed with bright sunlight year long, constituting about 5,000 TWh of solar insolation every year. Utilization of a tenth of this potential could end India’s power problems! India’s wind energy industry is also quite developed, more than its solar industry, and has strong potential for harnessing the strong onshore costal area and offshore wind.

Even with the above obstacles, Indian renewable energy industry is growing rapidly. India is among the world's leaders in wind power and it has a "national solar mission" that aims to turn India's development-stage solar industry into a full commercial stage, thus able to create thousands of jobs. Let’s hope the renewable energy industry grows even faster to be the sustainable answer for India, environmentally, economically and socially. Keep the spirit!

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