Renewable energy in India

AUG 16

Mains   > Science and Technology   >   Energy   >   Renewable energy


  • India crossed the 100-gigawatt mark of installed renewable energy capacity (excluding large hydro), bringing the country one step closer to its renewable energy targets.


  • As per the International Energy Agency (IEA), ‘Renewable energy is derived from natural processes that are replenished constantly. In its various forms, it derives directly from the sun, or from heat generated deep within the earth.’
  • Included in the definition is electricity and heat generated from solar, wind, ocean, hydropower, biomass, geothermal resources, and biofuels and hydrogen derived from renewable resources.
  • Renewable energy displaces conventional fuels in four areas:
    • Electricity generation
    • Transportation
    • Off-grid energy services
    • Heating


  • As part of the Nationally Determined Contributions (as per the Paris Accord on Climate Change), India made a pledge that by 2030, 40% of installed power generation capacity shall be based on clean sources.
  • India has set an ambitious target of installing 175 GW of renewable energy capacity by the year 2022, which includes:
    • 100 GW from solar
    • 60 GW from wind
    • 10 GW from bio-power
    • 5 GW from small hydro-power
  • The government has increased this target later to 450 GW by 2030.


  • India is one of the largest producers of energy from renewable sources. Renewables, excluding hydro, account for 100 GW (approx. 25.9%) of India's total installed capacity of about 386 GW.
  • If large hydro is included, the installed renewable energy capacity increases to 146 GW.



  • The major contributors of the renewable energy mix are:
    • Wind: 40 %
    • Solar: 44 %
    • Waste: 11 %
    • Small hydro: 5 %
  • India has attained 4th and 5th positions globally in wind and solar power installed capacities.
  • While 100 GW of renewable energy capacity has been installed, 50 GW is under installation and 27 GW is under tendering.


  • Combat climate change:
    • Renewables offer a solution to the dichotomy between development and environment. Renewables are the only way for India to successfully meet its INDC commitments.
    • Also, certain renewable sources offer not only clean energy but also help in carbon sequestration. Eg: Plants like Jathropha used for bio-ethanol production acts as carbon sinks.
  • Attain energy security:
    • India’s fossil fuel requirements, which comprise nearly 90% of primary energy supply, are mostly met by imports. Hence, India incurs huge import bills and uncertainty with regards to energy security.
    • Abundance of solar and wind energy can fulfill India clean energy demands, thereby diversifying its energy basket and reduce import bill.
  • To meet rising energy needs:
    • India suffers from chronic energy poverty. This has been a major factor in India’s poor performance in the ease of doing business ranking. Renewable energy can address the deficit in power.
    • The Centre is pushing for a full transition of mass e-mobility through initiatives like FAME-II and Make in India. As a result, there will be a rise in demand for electric power.
  • Promote energy accessibility:  
    • As they can be setup as standalone off-grid units, renewable energy systems are ideal for areas such as remote and hinterland locations of the country, such as parts of North east India, Ladakh, Kashmir and Left-wing extremism affected areas.
  • Women empowerment:
    • Indians use biomass such as dung, agricultural waste and firewood as the primary energy source for cooking. These fuels cause indoor pollution and increase the burden of disease of women. Access to reliable clean energy and the consequent time savings enable women to avail opportunities for their development, like education and skill-training.
  • Inclusive growth:  
    • Ensuring basic energy services to all is a major goal under the SDGs. Renewable energy is becoming cheaper by the day. Eg: lowest ever wind tariff of Rs.2.43 per unit was registered in Gujarat in 2017. Thus, it can help promote the use of clean energy among the poorest sections of the society.
  • Supplement depleting energy sources:
    • India lacks sufficient petroleum reserves and its coal reserves are poised to be depleted by the end of this century. However, with 300 clear sunny days, over a dozen perennial rivers and a coastline of more than 7,500 Kms, India has abundant sources of renewable energy.
  • Employment generation:
    • Renewable sources require skilled manpower for their operation. This is suitable for India’s potential demographic dividend, especially for the technically educated youth.



  • Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission:
    • Part of the National Action Plan on Climate Change, it seeks to establish India as a global leader in solar energy, by creating the policy conditions for its diffusion across the country as quickly as possible.
    • Initially it targeted 20 GW solar power capacity by 2022, which was later expanded to achieve a target of 100 GW grid-connected solar power capacity in the country by 2022.
  • National offshore wind energy policy:
    • With the introduction of the National Offshore Wind Energy Policy, the Centre is attempting to replicate the success of the onshore wind power development.
    • Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) has been authorised as nodal ministry for use of offshore areas within the EEZ of the country.
    • National Institute of Wind Energy (NIWE) has been authorised as the agency for development of offshore wind energy in the country.
  • National wind-solar hybrid energy policy:
    • Under the category of wind-solar hybrid power plants, Wind Turbine Generators (WTGs) and Solar PV systems will be configured to operate at the same point of grid connection.
    • The main objective of the Policy is to provide a framework for promotion of large grid connected wind - solar PV hybrid system for optimal and efficient utilization of transmission infrastructure and land.
  • National Biofuel Policy, 2018:
    • The Policy categorizes biofuels as basic and advanced to enable extension of appropriate financial and fiscal incentives under each category.
    • It also expands the scope of raw material for ethanol production by allowing use of Sugarcane Juice, Sugar containing materials and damaged food grains unfit for human consumption for ethanol production.
    • The Policy allows use of surplus food grains for production of ethanol for blending with petrol with the approval of National Biofuel Coordination Committee.
  • National Hydrogen Mission:


  • Kisan Urja Suraksha evam Utthaan Mahabhiyan (KUSUM):
    • It aims at boosting farmers’ income by allowing them to sell additional power to the grid through solar plants. Government will incentivize farmers to run solar farm water pumps and use barren land for generating power for extra income.
  • Green energy corridor project:
    • The project aims at synchronizing electricity produced from renewable sources, such as solar and wind, with conventional power stations in the grid, leading to an integrated grid across the nation.
  • Sustainable Rooftop Implementation for Solar Transfiguration of India (SRISTI):
    • The scheme, part of the larger grid-connected Rooftop Solar (RTS) power programme, aims to bring DISCOMs to the forefront in the implementation of rooftop solar projects.
  • Pradhan Mantri Jaiv Indhan-Vatavaran Anukool fasal awashesh Nivaran (PM Ji-VAN) yojana:
    • The scheme focuses to incentivise 2G Ethanol sector and support this nascent industry by creating a suitable ecosystem for setting up commercial projects and increasing Research & Development in this area.
  • GOBAR-Dhan yojana:
    • GOBAR (Galvanizing Organic Bio-Agro Resources) - DHAN scheme, by Ministry of Drinking Water & Sanitation aims to impact village cleanliness and generate wealth and energy from cattle and organic waste. The scheme also aims at creating new rural livelihood opportunities and enhancing income for farmers and other rural people.
  • Perform Achieve and Trade (PAT) scheme:
    • PAT is a flagship programme of Bureau of Energy Efficiency.
    • It is a market-based mechanism in which sectors are assigned efficiency targets.
    • Industries which over-achieve will get incentives in the form of energy saving certificates. These certificates are tradeable and can be bought by other industries which are unable to achieve their targets.
  • Other Initiatives:
    • Ethanol blending:
    • Promotion of waste-to-energy plants. Eg: Delhi Metro became the first ever project in the country to receive power generated from a waste-to-energy plant.
    • Barefoot College, Rajasthan has been promoting and training rural women solar engineers (solar mamas) from Africa in fabrication, installation, use, repair and maintenance of solar lanterns and household solar lighting under Government of India supported programmes.


  • International Solar Alliance:
    • The ISA is an alliance of more than 120 countries, which come either completely or partly between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn, to collectively work for efficient exploitation of solar energy to reduce dependence on fossil-based fuels.


  • Infrastructural deficiencies:
    • Large swaths of land are necessary for setting up renewable energy plants such as wind and solar. Hence, land acquisition remains a major challenge.
    • Lack of necessary transmission infrastructure and efficient power storage facilities such as batteries hinders smooth integration between renewable and conventional energy sources.
    • Lack of capable transport facilities is a major hindrance to wind energy plants in India. For eg: Indian roads are not wide enough to carry large size windmill blades. This restricts the capacity of plants that can be set up in an area, especially rural areas.
  • Institutional challenges:
    • Capital costs: The upfront expense of building and installing solar and wind farms are very high. Hence it is unviable for state-run DISCOMs with fragile financial health to take up such projects.
    • Weak private investments: Cut-throat competition among producers is forcing cost of renewables to decline to unsustainable levels. This, along with the NPA crisis, is creating shortage of capital for private investors.
    • Unpredictable government policies:
      • Rules, regulations and taxes are imposed without much discussions or warnings. This significantly affects the profitability of power plants. Eg: The introduction 5% GST on solar panels has forced several under-construction projects to run into troubles of profitability.
      • Also, certain states have backed out of Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs), creating further uncertainty in the sector.
    • India’s domestic content requirement clause is facing legal challenge at WTO.
  • Geographical constrains:
    • Most of the major renewable sources are location specific in nature. Eg: Wind of sufficient speed is available only in some areas. Remoteness of generating source, especially off grid locations, makes periodic maintenance difficult
  • Import dependency:
    • Over 80 % of solar cells and modules are imported from China because of its competitive pricing compared to domestic manufactures. Also, the COVID 19 pandemic and border disputes have disrupted production and transport of key equipment.
  • Environmental concerns:
    • Renewable sources are not fully ecofriendly. Wind turbines and tidal plants are not conducive for the surrounding ecosystems. Solar plants increase the albedo, thereby affecting its microclimate of the region. Also, used solar cells are e-wastes, the disposal of which poses a major challenge.  
    • India’s e-waste problem:
  • Human resource shortages:
    • Shortage of trained technicians for installation, periodic repair and maintenance in acute in India.


The recent announcement comes days after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a damning report on the state of global warming across the world. India’s future is heavily dependent on how well it can develop on renewable energy. The government needs to sort out its internal issues which are hindering the nation to achieve its target to tap potential energy resources.

  • Import substitution:
    • Import dependency in renewable energy sector, especially for Rare Earth Minerals (REMs), should be reduced. India has several potential sources of REMs, such as in the beach sands along Kerala coast. What is needed now is a focused mission to efficiently utilize them. 
  • Storage technology:
    • Efficient energy storage facilities are vital for improving the reliability on renewable sources. Hence, research should be encouraged in the development indigenous storage facilities.
  • Stable policy support:
    • The industry should be consulted while formulating rules, regulations and taxes related to the sector. Also, the power purchase agreement structure needs to be strengthened further to make renewable energy projects more bankable.
  • Explore full potential:
    • India is blessed to have a huge potential in renewable energy resources and the country should exploit this to the maximum extent so as to meet its on-going energy deficit issues and reduce its dependence on other countries.
  • Promote energy efficiency practices:
    • In order to remain energy positive and make the most of renewable energy sources, focus equally on aggressive promotion of energy efficiency practices. This can include measures such as smart metering, efficiency rating for appliances, mandating green building codes etc. 


Q. India has set ambitious targets in developing its renewable energy capacity. Discuss the challenges in attaining these targets. What measures have been taken by the government in this regard?