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 Climate Change

Guest Column
Published on: Nov. 17, 2022, 5:21 p.m.
Powering India’s net zero target with solar
  • As of August 2022, solar installations represented 89 per cent of India's new renewables capacity

By Gyanesh Chaudhary. The author is Vice Chairman and Managing Director, Vikram Solar

We are currently at the precipice of irreversible climate change that can dismantle our way of life and make extinction level events a very probable threat! The average global temperature has increased by 1°C due to fossil fuel usage. It has caused terrible shifts in the weather and is affecting countries with warm climate.

The decline in monsoon rainfall levels, floods, frequent droughts, significant fall in crop yield, damaged groundwater resources, falling water table, rising carbon dioxide levels, increasing chances of pandemics and possibility of world-wide loss of resource and life at an unprecedented level – are a few of the many initial effects of climate change.

India has been taking charge and leading by example to accelerate climate action at multiple levels including the clean energy transition. With the country’s population consistently rising and expected economic growth (at an average real GDP growth of 6 per cent from 2022-2030), the demand for grid-connected electricity is expected to reach 2040-2857 TWh by 2030. In such a scenario, where over 80 thermal power plants in the country suffer from coal shortage, clean energy transition seems to be the best plausible solution.

Announcements by our Prime Minister, Narendra Modi at the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26 Summit) in Glasgow have given India’s RE sector an incredible boost to bring in transformational changes across industries, economy, utility and society. With favourable policy support and public-private partnership, India has become the world's third-largest producer of renewable energy, fulfilling its COP21 commitment of achieving 40 per cent of its installed electricity capacity from non-fossil energy sources by 2030.

This has been achieved, 9 years ahead of schedule in December 2021. India continues to significantly step up its clean energy transition efforts. According to a recent analysis, new solar installations witnessed 22 per cent growth in first 8 months of 2022 as compared to the same period last year. As of August 2022, solar installations represented 89 per cent of India's new renewables capacity. 

The right time to take another big step: India ranks 7th out of 181 in the Global Climate Risk Index 2021 and a study has also suggested that climate change could reduce 2.5-4.5 per cent of India’s GDP annually.  In pursuit of transitioning to a low-carbon economy, India has been consistently taking action to reduce dependence on fossil fuels. This is evidenced in the fact that more than 606 GW of coal-fired power projects have been cancelled or shelved and 15.6 GW retired in India during the 2010-2022 period.

The government of India has taken incredible steps supported by policies and schemes like  Central Public Sector Undertaking (CPSU) Scheme, Pradhan Mantri Kisan Urja Suraksha evam Utthan Mahabhiyan (PM-KUSUM) scheme, Solar Park Scheme, Viability Gap Funding  (VGF) Schemes, must run status, making solar an essential service, subsidies, reverse bidding, supporting force majeure during initial months of the pandemic, boosting domestic solar manufacturing with the Production Linked Incentive Scheme (PLI), Basic Custom Duty (BCD), Approved List of Models and Manufacturers (ALMM)  to enable India’s Energy Security and the Atmanirbhar Bharat vision. These initiatives are driving investment and encouragement into the renewable energy sector.

The country showcases a phenomenal trajectory in Renewable Energy (RE) generation and adoption. The country’s renewable energy sector has grown 250 per cent from 2014 to 2021. India added a record 7.2 gigawatt (GW) of solar power in the first half of 2022, so far the highest ever capacity addition.

Cop 27: A new opportunity: The COP 27 held in Egypt, is expected to focus towards building on the progress of the last year’s goals. This would be an opportunity for world leaders to move beyond just conversation and drive climate action. The time is ripe now to pave the way for future ambition to effectively tackle climate change.

It is important to note that India is well on track towards fulfilling its Panchamrita strategy, announced at COP26. Since a quarter of the economy’s total GHG emission comes from the manufacturing sector, it is the right time for India to prioritise clean energy adoption and focus on domestic solar manufacturing to power its green goals.

A focus on solar manufacturing can save India $42 billion by 2030 from solar imports and can save fossil fuel import cost, which was $119 billion in FY22. Further, the solar rooftop segment requires a significant boost. Currently, the primary demand for solar has been dominated by the utility sector. India is trying to build a stable infrastructure to realise its rooftop solar vision (rooftop solar has a growth trend of 72 MW-227 MW per year since 2013). Considering that the potential for rooftop solar is close to 200 GW in India, the focus on C&I and the residential sector will yield great results in fulfilling the clean energy transition,

The Indian solar sector hails the government’s stance and agenda at COP27 to insist on action from developed nations to deliver on commitments pertaining to finance and technology transfer. Developed countries here must shoulder the responsibility to come forward and meet the commitment targets for collaboration. According to the World Resources Institute, climate finance has to grow 10 times faster than present rates to face up to the Paris Agreement’s 1.5 degrees Celsius goal.

However, in recent times, climate finance has failed to match the growing requirements. Additionally, the issue of disparity between the allocated finances and true estimated cost of clean technology adaptation among lower income population groups has presented another challenge in the path of success.

As an aspiring country that is playing a major role in Paris Climate Agreement, India must stand up for increased financing and greater clarity about the global goal on adaptation, making a ‘loss and damage’ fund available for those disproportionately affected by the climate crisis, better focus on climate risks in the financial system, collaboration on international best practices, improving data collection on risks, improving and analysing metrics and targets, setting up insurance and introducing carbon ratings in capital markets in COP27 ¬– all this will yield great results in climate restoration.


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