Welcome to Greendia

In medio stat virtus. Sure, when we look at the BRICS, virtue stands in the middle. The “I” of India has gradually increased its profile, despite being sandwiched in between the other so-called emerging economies of Brazil, Russia, China and South Africa. There is something new going on there. India, given its geopolitical position and its demographic growth potential, is destined to become a major artery of the economic and social growth of the Asian region. The permanence of Delhi among the largest in the world depends on its ability to continue to stimulate growth and economic development. In this scenario, the energy policy assumes strategic importance: the energy is, in fact, an enormous driving force for the national economy as it supports its expansion and is configured as an indispensable asset on which the success of Indian development is projected.

The link between energy policy, foreign policy and security is resulting more and more evident as the capacity of state actors to exercise its authority on the global stage is influenced by one’s ability to be energy independent from other countries. The Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has chosen a policy of vigorous development of photovoltaic and renewable, to meet the great demand for energy in their country and to reduce the continually increasing pollution. This means that India is seen as a propitious land to develop and invest in renewable energy. India, in fact, has the fifth world’s largest power generation portfolio with a power generation capacity of 271.722 GW. India is the first country in the world to set up a ministry of non-conventional energy resources, the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE). Its focus is to develop and deploy new and renewable energy for supplementing the energy requirements of the country.

Nevertheless, India cannot renounce burning coal and, during the COP21, it was among some countries that claimed the right to grow, pointing the finger at the rich nations that must take more responsibility in the fight against climate change. Under National Wind Resource Assessment Programme, Ministry installed and monitored 794 dedicated Wind Monitoring Stations. The National Programme includes wind resource assessment activities, research and development support, and policy support. The Ministry has given out guidelines for wind power development to bring a balanced growth of the sector and regulate preparation of detailed project reports, micro-siting, selection of wind turbine equipment, operation and maintenance, performance evaluation, etc. The ministry has also introduced fiscal and financial incentives as accelerated depreciation, concessional customs duty on specified items, excise duty exemption, sales tax exemption, income tax exemption for 10 years, etc. Besides, State Electricity Regulatory Commissions (SERCs) are determining preferential tariff. Wind energy is the largest renewable energy source in India with a contribution of 63 % of the renewable power.

The installed capacity of wind power is about 27,000,00 MW, mainly spread across Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. Demonstration projects will be taken up only in those states where commercial wind power projects have not yet been started. Wind Electric Generators are made in the country by manufacturers, through joint ventures under licensed production, subsidiaries of foreign companies, under licensed production and Indian companies with their own technology. India is not only a windy land but is also densely populated and benefits of a high solar insolation, an ideal combination to exploit solar power. Indeed, the country offers unlimited growth potential for the solar PV industry that now contributes for 16 %.

The Indian Solar Loan Programme, supported by the United Nations Environment Programme has won the prestigious Energy Globe World Award for Sustainability for helping to establish a consumer financing program for solar home power systems. Over the span of three years more than 16,000 solar home systems have been financed, particularly in rural areas of South India where the electricity grid does not yet extend to. In 2009, the Government of India proposed to launch its Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission under the National Action Plan on Climate Change with plans to generate 1,000 MW of power by 2013 and up to 20,000 MW of solar power by 2022, creating a positive environment among investors keen to tap into India’s potential. By 2020 the Mission aims to achieve grid parity – electricity provided at the same cost and quality as that one delivered on the grid.

Near the city of Challakere, 150 km north of Bangalore a solar concentration test photovoltaic system has developed. To protect solar panels and isolate them from high temperatures and humidity that cause deterioration to the adhesive substances that hold together more modules, polymers are being studied. Dust is also a big problem. But not as big as the monkeys. These funny primates lick the morning dew on the solar panels and gnaw photovoltaic cables. At the moment no solution has been found for the second problem. In Kerala, Southern India, we also find the first airport in the world operating entirely on solar energy – the Cochin International Airport Limited (CIAL). A 100kWp rooftop PV system installed in 2013, but the latest addition brings its solar energy capacity up to 12 megawatts (MW) of power per day, a sufficient amount to run all of the airport’s daily functions. The system is grid-connected without battery storage, with a power banking module established with the Kerala State Electricity Board allowing the airport to feed into the grid as much power as it produces during the day and to buy back power when required.

The airport no longer pays for electricity. It is expected to offset carbon emissions by more than 3 lakh (300,000) metric tons over the next 25 years, the equivalent of planting three million trees or not driving for 750 miles, according to the airport. During a recent visit to the airport, Piyush Goyal, India’s of State with Independent Charge for Power, Coal and New & Renewable Energy and Mines, highlighted that Cochin’s solar initiative is the demonstration on how large-scale transport infrastructure can be powered, and said that Cochin-model solar energy generation facilities could be installed in all Indian railway stations and airports. Recently, the Ministry of Shipping announced the intention to deploy more than 160 MW of renewable energy capacity at 16 major ports across the country by 2017. Solar arrays with a combined capacity of 6.94 MW have already been completed, and almost all of that capacity is located at the Vishakhapatnam port. Other ports with completed solar installations include Kolkata Port, New Manglore Port, VO Chidambaranar Port and Mumbai Port. Hydropower is a further source of clean energy in India.

In fact, India is the 7th largest producer of hydroelectric power and ranks 5th in terms of exploitable hydro-potential on a global scale. In addition to the 45 GW of installed capacity, an additional 14 GW are under construction. Hydropower in Darjeeling and Shivanasamudra stations were built and put into service in 1898 and 1902, respectively, and were among the first in Asia. India has been the dominant player in the global development of hydropower. Also, 56 sites have been identified for pumped storage schemes with a total installed capacity of 94,000 MW. The potential of hydropower in Central India is part of the Godavari, Mahanadi, Nagavali, Vamsadhara and Narmada river basins has not yet been developed on a larger scale because of the potential opposition by the tribal population. Despite the technical problems and public opposition, hydropower can bring multiple benefits as a flexible source of clean electricity and means of water management for flood control, irrigation and domestic use. Bioenergy accounts for about a quarter of India’s energy consumption. Mostly used in the form of biomass for cooking in households, it is linked to several problems, such as especially indoor air pollution and the consequent negative effects on health. India has also developed and implemented other modern bio-energy applications, based on the reuse of waste in the agricultural sector.

A part of bioenergy is produced via a range of gasification technologies using biomass for the production of synthesis gas (syngas). Although modern bioenergy is only a small share of energy consumption at present, Indian policy makers has recognized – with the launch of a national mission Bioenergy – the current bioenergy potential to become a much larger part of the energy picture, especially in areas rural, where it can provide both a valuable source of income for farmers, and power and process heat for consumers. MNRE renewable electricity targets provide the increase from just under 43 GW in April 2016 to 175 GW by the year 2022, including 100 GW of solar power, 60 GW of wind power, 10 GW from bio power and 5 GW of small hydro power. Such ambitious targets would see India quickly becoming one of the top world leader green energy producers, surpassing numerous developed countries, and place it at the centre of its International Solar Alliance project promoting the growth and development of solar power internationally to over 121 countries.

These same targets are likely to stumble upon some very real difficulties. Challenges related to solar energy collection outages have been highlighted for about two hours a day and been stressed by different operators. Besides that, the collapse of the solar energy prices in recent auctions has made photovoltaic projects less convenient. But India is the third largest greenhouse gas emitter in the world, it is heavily dependent on coal, with over 300 million people who still live without electricity, and many millions more who can use it only in part, it is in urgent need of energy. In a context such as the Asian one, marked by the scarcity of hydrocarbons reserves and the growing competition of China, India’s energy security cannot only depend on internal dynamics but, above all, on the ability to establish relations with foreign countries. India is the fourth largest importer of oil and the 15th largest importer of petroleum products and liquefied natural gas (LNG) globally.

The government intends to increase the use of indigenous renewable resources to reduce India’s dependence on expensive imported fossil fuels of 40 % by 2030. India has rescheduled its second renewable energy global investors’ summit on 15-17 February 2017. The Summit is an invitation to projects developers, investors, manufacturers and other stakeholders by the Indian government. Some of the largest renewable energy developers from around the world made commitments to set up renewable energy capacity in India. SunEdison, SkyPower Global, Sindicatum Carbon, Trina Solar, First Solar, Yingli Solar and SolarReserve were among the international companies that made commitments to set up large-scale solar and wind energy projects in India. Thanks to its politic and expansion plans of renewable energy, India has attracted financial investors like the Finnish Wärtsilä Corp. that have decided to look for opportunities in the country’s renewable energy capacity expansion programme. Wärtsilä is interested in supplying know-how and services for balancing and stabilising the grid, which requires massive amounts of renewable energy and is entirely dependent on vagaries of nature such as sunshine and wind availability.

India’s renewable energy passes through ABB equipment. On first of September ABB India inaugurated a new solar inverter manufacturing facility in the city (Bengaluru) to double its output capacity. Tata Group is also interested in becoming one of the largest renewable energy players with a clean energy portfolio spanning wind, solar, hydro and thermal of 1996 MW, which now equates to around 21% of its total generation capacity. Tata has just commissioned its 44 MW Lahori wind farm in Madhy Pradesh together its subsidiary, Tata Power Renewable Energy Limited (TPREL). Development of renewable energy, however, is clashing with the tensions in the management of the electrical network, and the discrepancies with the production cycles (that the continuous production of conventional sources does not suffer). With the risk that the ambitious objectives of India in the field of sustainable energy should be resized. Despite real difficulties of energy harvesting, through the national grid, and the tortuous road to the future of the Renewable program, India’s growth is aligned with the country’s larger vision of clean energy and efficiency and smart cities with reliable power. In April 2016, India’s cumulative grid-interactive or grid-tied renewable energy capacity (excluding large hydro) reached about 42.85 GW, surpassing the installed capacity of large-scale hydroelectric power for the first time in Indian history.

Alice Masili

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