As the world focuses on Europe as the big green energy giant, India has been steadily building its renewable energy capacity. With huge potential for solar, wind, and tidal power, India is investing in developing its renewables sector while still maintaining the coal and oil industries that keep the country running. This mix of energy sources responds to the needs of a rapidly growing population while addressing the inevitable energy transition of the future. India is ramping up its renewable energy development starting with its offshore wind as German energy firm RWE and India’s Tata Power announce a new partnership developing offshore wind projects. The Indian government hopes to establish 30 gigawatts of offshore wind operations by 2030, building on the underdeveloped sector. With 7,600 kilometers of coastline, the country is thought to have significant offshore potential.
CEO of RWE Renewables, Sven Utermöhlen, stated of the partnership, “India has excellent wind resources, which can help to meet the country’s increasing energy demands.” Further, “If clear regulations and an effective tender scheme are in place, we expect India’s offshore wind industry will gain a real momentum,” he explained.
To develop the offshore wind industry, RWE and Tata will conduct technical and commercial site assessments, as well as assessing the supply chain for supporting infrastructures, such as ports and grid connections, to better understand the situation.
India has already established its onshore wind energy sector, producing around 10,000 MW of wind power each year. At present, India has a total installed capacity of 39.25 GW with major international energy firms such as GE supporting the sector. Although the government approved the country’s first offshore wind projects around three and a half years ago it has yet to happen, largely due to the lack of regulatory framework and the interruption caused by the Covid19 pandemic.
The Indian government announced an intended ‘phase down’ of coal and greater investment in renewable alternatives at COP26. And recently the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) stated that it is hoping to achieve an ambitious installed capacity of 500 GW of non-fossil fuels by 2030 to meet 50 percent of the country’s energy needs.
At present, India continues to rely on coal, oil, and biomass for around 80 percent of its energy needs. In addition, its growing population means these energy needs could double in the next two decades. However, India is now aiming to achieve net-zero energy production by 2070, just 20 years after many European countries.
Much of India’s renewable energy development will be supported by international investors, with Prime Minister Modi highlighting the need for support from developed economies to help India achieve an energy transition. And this strategy appears to be working as India’s green energy sector attracted $797.21 million in FDI in 2020-21.
Modi stated during the 2020 RE-Invest conference, “Demand for energy in India will keep growing. There are huge renewable energy deployment plans for the next decade.” And “these are likely to generate business prospects of the order of $20 billion a year” he explained.
As part of India’s aim to develop its renewable energy sector it is setting up ‘green energy corridors’ in two phases. In the first phase of the project, India will see 20 GW of renewable energy supplied to the national grid.
India is also signing agreements on regional renewables with other state powers. This month, India signed a letter of intent with Australia on new and renewable energy technology to develop ultra-low-cost solar and clean hydrogen. The two states hope this will lead to lower-cost renewable energy technology and greater deployment capabilities.
But India needs to be smart about developing its renewables as a rushed effort to build the new energy sector could lead to other environmental issues. Just recently, the Indian media has reported on concerns over solar energy waste, suggesting that there is no clear strategy for disposing of old solar panels or waste produced during the panel manufacturing process.
In 2021, the International Renewable Energy Agency estimated that global solar waste will reach 78 million tonnes by 2050, and India could be one of the top five waste producers. As India’s solar energy sector started life in around 2010, many of its solar panels have completed around half of their lifecycle. But it must establish a clear plan for the future of its renewable energy waste to avoid causing greater environmental harm as it rapidly develops its renewable energy sector.
With already well-developed solar energy and onshore wind power industries, India is now looking to develop its significant offshore wind potential. Renewable commitments with other state powers will also help the country expand its green energy sector faster, and greater foreign investment will support India’s ambitious clean energy targets over the next decade.
By Felicity Bradstock for Oilprice.com
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