A high-ranking official at India’s Ministry of New & Renewable Energy recently claimed that the country will surpass its target to have 175 gigawatts of operational renewable energy capacity by March 2022.
The official also indicated the roadmap for achieving this seemingly impossible target. The Ministry is looking to open the offshore wind energy market for developers and has already taken initial steps in that direction. But perhaps the most radical step planned by the Ministry will lead to the modification of the definition of renewable energy projects for hydro power projects.
The Ministry plans to classify all hydro power projects with more than 25 megawatts of capacity as renewable energy projects. While the idea is not new and has been under deliberation by the current for several months now, no decision has been taken so far. As we move closer to the March 2022 deadline a firm decision on the same may soon be implemented.
At present, hydro power projects with less than 25 megawatts of capacity only are defined as renewable energy projects. However, government officials as well as ministers have stated that this is not the international norm and several countries count larger hydro power projects as renewable energy projects and that India should adopt the same practice.
As of the 31st of August 2017, India had an installed renewable energy capacity of 58.3 gigawatts, which includes 32.5 gigawatts of wind energy, 13.1 gigawatts of solar power, 8.2 gigawatts of bio power and 4.4 gigawatts of small hydro power capacity. If the large hydro power capacity of 44.6 gigawatts is added to this tally, India’s renewable energy capacity will instantly balloon to 102.9 gigawatts. This will collectively make renewable energy technologies the second-largest power source in India in terms of installed capacity with a share of over 31%.
Only way to achieve 175 gigawatts by 2022
Some, especially environmentalists, may object to India’s move to redefine large hydro power projects, while the Indian government justifies the move by comparing it with the practices followed in other countries. Few would object to the belief that this may be the only way for India to achieve the 175 gigawatt renewable energy target by 2022.
With the current installed capacity of 58 gigawatts, India needs to add 117 gigawatts by March 2022 which equates to adding nearly 4 gigawatts every months for the next 31 months (September 2017 to March 2022). The Ministry has set a target of adding 14.5 gigawatts of renewable energy capacity during the current financial year, which equates to 1.21 gigawatts per month.
India had planned to add 12 gigawatts of solar power during FY2016-17 but managed to add just 5.5 gigawatts, taking the total solar power capacity to 12.2 gigawatts by end of FY2016-17. The target for FY2017-18 is 10 gigawatts. Even if the target for current financial year and upcoming financial years is achieved, the installed solar power capacity at the end of March 2022 will be around 60 gigawatts — 40 gigawatts short of the 100 gigawatt solar power target.
This 40 gigawatt gap can be met instantly with the classification of large hydro power projects as renewable energy projects. Other renewable energy technologies would have to contribute an additional 30 gigawatts of capacity upon their 31 March 2017 figures to get to the 175 gigawatts target by March 2022.
Image Credit: Tehri Dam | Arvind Iyer | CC-BY-SA 2.0