India praises “milestone” for its renewable energy capacities, challenges remain

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Solar panels in the Indian state of Karnataka.

Jonas Gratzer | LightRakete | Getty Images

The Indian government has stated that the country’s installed renewable energy capacity has passed “the milestone” of 100 gigawatts.

In a tweet on Thursday, RK Singh, India’s power minister, described the news as “another milestone” in the history of the country’s energy sector.

The number excluding large hydropower represents the latest evolution in India’s attempt to reach 450 GW of renewable capacity by 2030 – which refers to the maximum amount plants can produce, not necessarily what they are currently producing .

In addition to this goal, India wants to achieve 175 GW of renewable capacity by 2022, a major challenge given the considerable expansion that is still required.

While Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government is keen to highlight India’s progress in expanding renewable energy capacity, the country still has some work to do on decarbonisation.

“India is the third largest CO2 emitter in the world, despite low CO2 emissions per capita,” according to the India Energy Outlook 2021 report from the International Energy Agency. “In particular, the CO2 intensity of its electricity sector is well above the global average,” adds the report.

The IEA report, released earlier this year, said coal is “the bedrock of India’s energy industry and accounts for 44% of the primary energy mix.”

Even so, there is potential when it comes to developing renewable energies on a large scale.

In a foreword to the IEA report, Executive Director Fatih Birol described the “growth of India’s renewable energy sector” as “very impressive”.

The country, he said, would “lead the world in areas such as solar energy and batteries for the next few decades”.

In addition to solar energy, wind represents another development opportunity. As early as June, a report by the Global Wind Energy Council and MEC Intelligence, a research and consultancy firm, stated that India is expected to add almost 20.2 GW of new wind power capacity between 2021 and 2025 will.

So-called green hydrogen is another area that has sparked interest. Its potential was highlighted last December in a report from the New Delhi-based Energy and Resources Institute.

“To date, essentially all of the hydrogen consumed in India has come from fossil fuels,” said TERI’s report, entitled “The Potential Role of Hydrogen in India”.

“By 2050, however, almost 80% of India’s hydrogen is expected to be ‘green’ – produced by renewable electricity and electrolysis,” she added.

In the medium term, according to TERI, the cost of hydrogen from renewable energies would fall by over 50% by 2030, which enables the company to “compete with hydrogen produced from fossil fuels”.