Daniel Yergin in his book, “The Prize: An Epic Quest for Oil, Money, and Power” states that, “They (as in the countries) will have to realize that the era of their terrific progress and even more terrific income and wealth based on cheap oil is finished. They will have to find new sources of energy. Eventually, they will have to tighten their belts; all those children of well-to-do families who have plenty to eat and cars to drive will have to rethink all these aspects of the advanced industrial world.”
India as a nation recognizes the impact of the environment as a major tenet of global growth. We are also a signatory to the Paris Agreement which aims to regulate climate changes over the years. To meet the climate objectives of the Paris Agreement, there is a need to accelerate renewables, and given the fact that with the rise in the use of renewable energy, the cost of installation shall come down rapidly. It is pertinent that post-Covid growth incorporates government expenditure on building sustainable power systems with more renewable energy power plants.
Clean Energy is the Need of the Hour
India is the co-chair of the International Solar Alliance and strongly believes in propagating the use of renewable resources of energy. However, India is still hugely dependent on the use of thermal power plants to cater to its energy needs, and what is concerning is that the thermal power plants across India have mostly become obsolete and have outlived their useful life and this has made us all doubt their inefficiencies. The provision of the ‘exit clause’ is also not favorable for DISCOMs as they are forced to purchase Power Purchase Agreements with the existing thermal power plants and their bargaining capacity is jeopardized.
A report titled ‘Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2020’ jointly published by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the Frankfurt School – UNEP Collaborating Centre, and Bloomberg NEF (BNEF) analyzed investment trends and clean energy commitments (in 2019) made by countries and corporations for the next decade. The report states that renewable energy is more cost-effective than ever, providing an opportunity to prioritize clean energy in economic recovery packages and bring the world closer to meeting the Paris Agreement goals. It has commitments equivalent to 826 GW of new non-hydro renewable power capacity, at a likely cost of around USD 1 trillion, by 2030 (1GW is similar to the capacity of a nuclear reactor). However, to achieve these targets, there is a need to first recognize and resolve the issues that are currently plaguing the energy sector.
Problems that plague the energy sector
The energy sector has been prone to various issues over the years. Apart from the fact that Power Purchase Agreements create financial hardships and states are compelled to procure high-cost power from such old, already depreciated thermal power plants, there are also unresolved issues in distribution and they are compounding the existing financial distress in the power generation sector.
Further, the tariff gap and losses, too, do not show any recovering correlation. Drawing attention to the states rich in alternative sources of energy, which due to their geological locations, show potential to deploy renewable energy if given the right assistance and support. These states can massively contribute to India’s target to contribute 15 times the solar power needed.
We all are also aware of the Great Indian Outage, stretching from New Delhi to Kolkata. This blackout, due to the failure of the northern power grid, caused nearly 700 million people – twice the population of the United States – to be without electricity. A grid failure of such magnitude has thrown light onto India’s massive demand for electricity, together with its struggle to generate as much power as it needs. India is aiming to expand its power-generation capacity by 44 percent over the next five years but prevalent problems indicate the scale of the challenge.
The Way Forward
To meet the renewable power obligation, the state needs to produce 1500 MW of solar power by 2022 and Odisha is proud to have already installed 31.6% of the capacity required, i.e. 474 MW in different parts of the state. Added to this, four solar power parks will also be set up in Sambalpur and Boudh districts, with a total capacity of 272 MW, thus achieving approximately 50% of the Renewable Purchase Obligation (RPO). The recent developments in the solar plant installations and promotion of renewable energy, following suggestions, are earmarked on our behalf which kindly is considered to the Ministry of Power (MoP), and Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) with respect to the notification dated 08.03.2019. The notification allows only Large Hydro Power projects (i.e., > 25 MW) to be eligible for RPO. But renewable energy should not be distinguished. All renewable energy should be treated on equal footing to be considered under the bracket Renewable Energy (RE).
The electricity generation during the month of September 2020 from renewable sources was 1,20,273 MU as against the generation of 1,15,991 MU during September 2019, showing a growth of 3.69%. The states like Odisha, which have shown signs of development in a realistic manner within the overarching National Goals.
PM Modi has also made a global pitch to invite investments worth $300 billion in the Indian Energy Sector under Atma Nirbhar Mission at India Energy Forum in his inaugural speech. With this positive approach from the government’s side, all sources of renewable energy, if mapped together, shall mitigate energy poverty and provide consolidated energy security solutions. India is blessed with geological diversities and individual targets to respective states are not only over-demanding but also questionable. A hydro-rich state may not receive sunlight (for example, Cherrapunjee, Meghalaya), and vice versa Rajasthan may generate solar power throughout the state, but wind energy would be found only in the Thar desert regions. Taking into account the climatic conditions, geological diversities, and most importantly the volatile oil prices and their impact on our rapidly increasing inflation, investment in renewable energy can free us from this unnecessary rising Balance of Payments (BOP). Renewable energy is the way forward to achieve energy independence and the state of Odisha stands with the country in achieving the same.