Indian Energy Scenario - Renewal Energy

Continued from “Indian Energy Scenario - A Perspective”

Large scale electrification and consumption of the fossil fuel based electricity featured only in 20th Century in the history of civilization. Till late 20th century, more developed West, like industrialization and modern technology, took lead in this sector too but the rest of the countries including India are now catching up fast to meet their growing energy needs in the modern age living. Fossil based fuels like coal, gas, diesel etc. are exhaustible energy sources which are fast depleting globally due to large scale mining world over to meet growing energy needs. Hence the future of the humanity seems viable only with the growth of new and renewable energy sources.

Fossil fuels are basically hydrocarbons such as coal, lignite, oil and natural gas formed from the organic remains of the prehistoric organisms – plants and animals. While coal and lignite were usually formed under the land mass from the remains of land vegetation, the oil and natural gas represent the fossilized remnants of the marine organisms which became encased within the sea-floor sediments over the millions of years. When these fuels are extracted and burnt in controlled conditions, the entrapped energy is released which is harnessed to generate electricity for human use. The formation of these reserves under land or sea has taken millions of years and it is obvious that there is no way that these can be replenished in any timeframe that the man can visualize to match his growing needs. Hence the express need to look for the alternative renewable sources of energy.

Besides, the combustion of large scale fossil fuels has adverse impact on global warming and human health too. The discharge of carbon dioxide consequent to the burning of coal is a major contributor to the global warming and its harmful effects on human health worldwide. Besides coal combustion also releases particulate matter (fly ash), nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, mercury and many other substances which pollute environment and are hazardous to human health, particularly for the respiratory system, the cardiovascular system, and the nervous system. Hence minimizing the impact of the green house gas emissions with carbon footprints have been the major concern worldwide necessitating to look for alternative sources of cheap, green and clean energy. Needless to mention, this alternative has been found in the renewable energy sources of the planet.

By definition, the renewable energy falls in the category of energy which is constantly replenished in the nature. For illustration, the sunlight, wind, tides, waves, rain, biomass and biofuels and geothermal heat are everlasting resources which have potential to serve as alternative of conventional fossil fuels in areas like electricity generation, motor fuels, water heating and rural energy needs. The added advantage of these sources is that they are abundantly available and can be tapped over a large geographical area as against the fossil fuels which are localized only in certain countries and areas.

Though sunlight, wind, tide power etc. were known to mankind for long as source of energy and were being tapped in a limited way by countries but concerted efforts to tap it have been started only with the dawn of the 21st century. In fact, the world’s first government level international conference was held in June 2004 in Bonn, Germany which was attended by participants from as many as 154 countries. The global outlook on renewable energy has considerably changed for good during the last ten years. This period has witnessed continuous technological advances, rapid expansion and deployment of technology in various countries to exploit full potential of the renewable energy sources. Towards the end of 2012, renewable energy constituted about 19% of the global energy consumption and it is continuously growing. Of course world leaders continue to be countries like China, USA, Germany, Spain, Japan, UK, Canada etc.

Fortunately, India is geographically placed in a region where there is no dearth of wind and sun light. Besides, the country generates a tremendous amount of biomass annually. The country is now seriously endeavoring to tap these energies and is perhaps one of the few countries which have an exclusive Ministry for New and Renewable Energy Sources to pursue unhindered progress of renewable energy as popular means of futuristic affordable power.

Currently it has one of the largest programs in the world for deploying renewable energy products and systems. Since its formation, the Ministry has launched one among the world’s largest and ambitious projects and schemes through various promotional efforts. Besides, the north and north-eastern region of the country have tremendous big and small hydro potential of which even 25% have not been tapped so far. Efforts are also on to utilize the hydro potential by removing existing barriers and bottlenecks in the development of Hydro Power Plants.

Towards the end of July, 2014, the country has total installed capacity of renewal energy from all sources at 33,447 MW. Of this, 32,424 MW (Table-1) is grid-interactive power from the electricity generated through the sources like wind, small hydro, solar, biomass, baggase cogeneration etc., while the remaining 1023 MW is off-grid and captive power. The key drivers for the promotion of the renewable energy are existing demand-supply gap, large untapped potential, growing concern for the environment, imperative need to strengthen India’s energy security, pressure on high-emission industry sectors and need for a foreseeable and viable solution for rural electrification. In the following paragraphs, we shall briefly see the position of major renewable energy sources and their emerging trends in the country.

Table-1 Grid Interactive Power (Capacity in Megawatts)

Sr. No. Category As on
July, 2013
As on
July, 2014
1. Wind Power 19661.15 21692.98
2. Solar Power 1839.00 2753.00
3. Small Hydro Power 3706.15 3826.18
4. Biomass Power & Gasification 1264.80 1365.20
5. Bagasse Cogeneration 2337.43 2680.35
6. Waste to Power 96.08 106.58
Total 28905.21 32424.29

Source: Ministry of New and Renewable Energy website

Solar Power

India’s geographical location between the Tropic of Cancer and the Equator enables it to have an average annual temperature range not below the range of 25-27 Centigrade with almost the entire central and southern peninsula with high solar potential. India has a vast solar energy potential. About 5,000 trillion kWh per year energy is incident over India’s land area with most parts receiving 4-7 kWh per sq. m per day. Hence both technology routes for conversion of solar radiation into heat and electricity, namely, solar thermal and solar photovoltaics, can effectively be harnessed. Sunlight also provides the ability to generate power on a distributed basis and enables rapid capacity addition with a short lead time. Off-grid decentralized and low-temperature applications could be advantageous from a rural electrification perspective. From an energy security perspective too, solar is the most secure of all sources, since it is abundantly available.

Currently, India has a total capacity of about 2753 MW of solar power with grid connectivity. Solar energy is tapped by deploying photovoltaic (PV) cells on the roof top of houses and commercial buildings and collectors like mirrors or parabolic dishes to move and track the sun during the day. The Government had launched Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (JNNSM) in January, 2010 with an objective to develop and promote the solar energy technologies in the country.

Solar PV systems are taken as viable option by many users as well as generators because of its reasonable cost and ability to install in various capacities (kW to MW). The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy has come out with various schemes for promoting solar power projects from off-grid applications of 100 kW to utility scale megawatt size projects of various capacity. Even roof-top systems provide that generated power is consumed by the owner and excess power is fed to the grid. The scheme is implemented through the Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI) by providing part subsidy (30%) to developers with the specific objective of reducing the dependence on the consumption of diesel during the day as also dependency on the grid power. Under the scheme, all buildings of the government, PSUs, commercial establishments, industries, hospitals, cold storage, warehouses and educational institutions are covered. Usually the projects of 100 kW to 500 kW are covered under the scheme. Besides, the government’s own PSUs and private developers have undertaken several projects of the size of 5 MW and above.

Wind Energy

India has a vast potential of wind energy of an estimated 48,500 MW across the country especially in north-west and southern states like Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamilnadu and Odisha. The wind energy is particularly favoured because it one of the most environment friendly, clean and safe energy source. Besides it has many other advantages like a) a low gestation period compared to the conventional energy sources; b) equipment erection and commissioning is completed only in a few months; c) low operating and maintenance costs since any fuel is not required, and d) the capital cost (Rs 50-60 million/MW), unlike solar, is almost in the range of conventional power plants.

The Wind Resource Assessment Programme which is being coordinated by the Centre for Wind Energy Technology (C-WET) under the aegis of the government has so far covered 31 States and Union Territories involving establishment of about 1244 wind monitoring and wind mapping stations. The cost of setting up a wind monitoring station is shared between Central and State Governments in ratio of 80:20 and 90:10 in the North Eastern Region and hilly States. Usually, two types of wind turbines namely ‘stall regulated’ and ‘pitch regulated’ are being deployed in the country for the grid-interactive power. The stall regulated wind turbines have fixed rotor blades whereas pitch regulated wind turbines have adjustable rotor blades that change the angle of attach depending upon wind speed.

The total installed capacity of wind power in the country towards the end of July, 2014 is about 21,693 MW. Wind energy has a vast potential in India. The wind station/farm is ideally suited at sites with high wind resource, adequate available land with suitable terrain and good soil conditions, maintenance access to the site and nearby power grid for connectivity. The government is in favour of promoting more and more wind stations because of its categorical advantages over the fossil fuel based power stations which inter alia include its being inexhaustible resource, zero emission and no adverse impact on environment being pollution free and environment friendly.

Biomass Energy

Biomass has always been an important energy source in the country considering the benefits it offers. It is renewable, widely available, carbon-neutral and has the potential to provide significant employment in the rural areas. Biomass is also capable of providing firm energy. About 32% of the total primary energy use in the country is still derived from biomass and more than 70% of the country’s population depends upon it for its energy needs.

Biomass includes solid biomass comprising of the organic material of biological origins, biogas mainly methane and carbon dioxide produced by anaerobic digestion of biomass and combusted to produce power and/or heat, bio-based liquid fuel from biomass transformation used in transportation, and municipal wastes generated by the residential, commercial and public services sectors to produce power and/or heat.

Solid biomass resources such as cattle dung, agriculture wastes and many other organic wastes have been known energy sources for the mankind since ancient times. These are converted to biogas which is a clean low carbon technology for the efficient management and conversion of fermentable organic wastes into clean, cheap and versatile fuel for various applications including electricity generation, heating, cooking and refrigeration etc. The country ranks second with its capacity of biomass power and gasification at about 1365 MW as in July, 2014. Biomass based power has an added advantage that the biogas can be generated round the clock as against the solar and wind power which are intermittent in nature.

Another very successful form of biomass is sugar cane bagasse from the agriculture, pulp and paper residues. Currently, India has installed bagasse cogeneration capacity of about 2680 MW. The country is rich in biomass. As per an estimate, the country has a potential of over 20,000 MW of which bagasse cogeneration alone accounts for about 3,500 MW. Thus a vast biomass potential remains untapped even now.

Small Hydro Power

Ministry of New and Renewable Energy has the responsibility of developing Small Hydro Power (SHP) projects up to 25 MW. The estimated potential of power generation in the country from small hydro is about 20,000 MW. Most of the potential is in Himalayan States as river-based projects and in other States on irrigation canals. The government facilitates statutory clearances and the private sector is showing a lot of interest in SHP projects which are essentially private investment driven. The Ministry aims to harness at least 50% of the potential in the country in the next 10 years.

India has a vast potential of hydro power in the country and the installed capacity of major hydro projects up to July, 2014 is about 40,798 MW which works out to 16.3% of the total installed capacity. However, despite being replenishable energy source, the hydro power has traditionally been accounted for in India with the conventional energy sources largely comprising of fossil fuels.

In the country, the small hydro projects as renewable energy source for power generation have an estimated more than 4,000 identified potential sites. Besides, it has added advantage of old and reliable technology. As against the estimated potential of 20,000 MW, the total installed capacity stands at about 3826 MW up to July, 2014 and thus a vast potential still remains untapped. Besides encouraging and setting of new small hydro projects, the MNRE is also engaged in renovation and modernization of old projects and industry based research and development to improve technology.

Other Sources

Among the other categories of grid-interactive power, India has recently geared up to generate power from the Waste and a capacity of about 107 MW has been build up to July, 2014. In addition, off-grid captive power capacity from the sources like the Waste to energy, Biomass (non-bagasse) cogeneration, Biomass Gasifiers including rural and urban, Aero-generators and Hybrid Systems, SPV Systems, Water mills/micro hydel etc. accounts for a total of about 1023 MW (Table-2) up to the same period, with Biomass (non-bagasse) as the lead source at 532 MW.

Table-2 Off-Grid & Captive Power (Capacity in Megawatts)

Sr. No. Category As on
July, 2013
As on
July, 2014
1. Waste to Energy 115.57 132.73
2. Biomass Cogeneration 486.84 531.82
3. Biomass Gasifiers - Rural
Biomass Gasifiers – Industrial
Bio-gas based energy systems
4. Aero-Generators / Hybrid systems 2.14 2.32
5. SPV Systems 131.86 174.35
6. Water mills/Micro hydro 10.65 13.21
Total 906.83 1022.88

Source: Ministry of New and Renewable Energy website

India in Global Scenario

Towards the end of 2013, the renewal energy accounted for approximately 20% of the global total energy consumption. The exact matching figures are not available but India still continue to be far below this average as the capacity including all sources of renewal energy stands at around 12% of the India’s total capacity including all conventional and non-conventional modes of power generation. India has an ambitious capacity augmentation target of about 30,000 MW during the 12th Plan (2012-2017), the bulk of which is focused on solar and wind sources. As against this target, a little over 8000 MW were added in the first two years, bulk of which came from the wind and solar power. Till recently, the levelised cost of these renewable sources was prohibitive vis-à-vis other conventional sources, but recent trend shows that the levelised cost of electricity generation from the onshore wind and solar PV is sharply decreasing. This has paved way for the large scale solar and wind projects in the country.

China, United States, Brazil, Canada and Germany continue to remain the top five countries for the total installed capacity of renewable power. China’s new renewable capacity has surpassed their new fossil fuel and nuclear capacity for the first time in 2013. India has, however, made a dent in the fraternity of nations in hydro power capacity and wind power capacity in terms of annual investment, net capacity addition and production in 2013 where it stands at fifth and fourth slots, respectively. Besides, India is endeavoring particularly to augment its solar PV capacity in the coming years. In terms of total capacity or generation as of end-2013, India stands at 5th position in wind and biomass power generation globally and occupies 4th position in concentrating solar thermal power (CSP). Incidentally, China and many other countries include major hydro too under renewable power while India excludes it from the renewable power.

Government Initiatives

MNRE is the nodal ministry of the Government of India for all programmes and policies relating to the development of the renewable energy. The broad aim of the ministry is to develop and deploy new and renewable energy sources to supplement energy needs of the country. The government has put in place certain financial resources and incentives and legislation in place to promote renewable energy technologies in the country.

Financing Resources and Incentives: The Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency (EREDA) was set up way back as a specialized financing agency to promote and finance renewable energy projects. Various incentives include income tax breaks, accelerated depreciation, custom duty/duty free import concessions, capital/interest subsidy and incentives for preparation of the Detailed Project Reports (DPR) and feasibility reports. For illustration, 100 percent tax exemption is granted for any continuous block of power for 10 years of first 15 years of operations. Tax exemption is also admissible to financers of such projects. Interest rate subsidies up to 4% are granted to promote commercialization of new technology. 30% project cost is borne by the government on all viable solar PV projects under Jawaharlal Nehru National solar Mission. These are a few illustrative and not comprehensive measures.

Legislative Measures: The Energy Conservation Act, 2001 has inter alia enabling provisions on energy efficiency, consumer requirements, standards and labeling, energy conservation building codes, energy conservation fund and Bureau of Energy Efficiency. Electricity Act, 2003 features among other things enabling provisions of the National Electricity policy, delicensing of generation including captive power, open access, establishment of the central and state electricity regulatory commissions, unbundling of erstwhile State Electricity Boards, licence free generation and distribution in rural areas, and so on so forth. Several measures are under consideration for further amending this Act for the hassle free development and growth of the renewable energy sector in a market based competitive environment.

Besides, 100% foreign equity participation has been allowed, procedure for clearance of power projects are being simplified, a robust national grid catering for the renewal power is envisaged, privatization of various segments being encouraged, guidelines for the tariff based competitive bidding for the grid connected power projects based on renewal energy sources, emphasis on 100% metering, smart meters and tariff regime is being strengthened.

Way Forward

The country is passing through a transition phase, where on one hand efforts are being made to augment and optimize availability of electricity through conventional sources through encouraging public-private participation in ventures, adoption of newer technologies and expediting reforms; on the other hand all efforts are being made to tap and augment all available means of new and renewable energy sources to minimize dependence on diesel by clean and green power to all in a 24X7 mode in the years ahead. However, in view of the large population, geographical area, diversity and existing constraints, it is obvious that the country has to go a long way to achieve this vision and mission.

Continued to Indian Energy Scenario: Challenges & Opportunities


More by :  Dr. Jaipal Singh

Top | Analysis

Views: 3467      Comments: 2

Comment Coal is coal, it is difficult to reach the goal.
Exploit coal, produce power near to mines, take electricity lines where need (no transport of coal)
Explore for coal in every state...there are chances that you will succeed .
Think of alternate to coal...wind energy energy...even underground gasification
of coal (UGC)...hydroelectricity
Underground mining of coal...750-1250

pranlal sheth
28-Oct-2014 22:33 PM

Comment Jaipal Sahib,

Thanks - a very informative article.

24-Sep-2014 15:48 PM

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