In what seems like a classic case of biting off more than one can chew, the Indian Government is planning to rejig the definition of renewable energy to meet the capacity addition targets.
According to media reports, the Indian Government may include large hydro power projects under the scope of renewable energy. At present, only hydro power projects with a maximum capacity of 25 MW are considered renewable.
Growth in the small hydro power sector has been slow in India as investors now favour wind and solar power projects.
India’s large hydro power capacity currently stands at around 42 GW, which is higher than the 37 GW operational renewable energy capacity. If large hydro power projects are reclassified, the share of renewable energy in India’s installed capacity will increase from 13% to 28%. This re-classification will immediately help India achieve a quarter of its installed renewable energy capacity target of 175 GW by 2022.
While in some countries large hydro power projects are considered renewable energy projects, they do have a massive ecological and environmental footprint. Apart from loss of habitat from several plant and animal species, displacement of human population is another major consequence. Once operational, the projects are also a major source of methane, a highly potent greenhouse gas. So, while large-scale hydro power projects may be renewable in nature, they are certainly not very clean sources of power when compared to other technologies like solar and wind energy.
For this reason, stiff resistance to this potential decision is expected from environmental groups. Incidentally, the Supreme Court of India had stayed work on several large-scale hydro power projects in the northern state of Uttaranchal following the disastrous flash floods of 2013.
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