While India may have internationally committed to half its installed electricity being sourced from renewable sources by 2030, an estimate of the country’s projected power needs by the Central Electricity Authority (CEA) on Wednesday suggests that this target may be achieved early, by 2026-27.
The National Electricity Plan (NEP) prepared by the CEA is a five-year plan that assesses India’s current electricity needs, projected growth, power sources, and challenges. The voluminous document notes that “…the share of non-fossil based capacity is likely to increase to 57.4% by the end of 2026-27 and may likely to further increase to 68.4% by the end of 2031-32 from around 42.5% as on April 2023.”
Installed capacity, however, does not perfectly translate into generated power as different sources of energy have varying efficiencies, and not all sources of power are available at all times. For instance, solar power is available only during the day and wind energy is dependent on climate vagaries. Accounting for this, the available power from renewable energy will only be around 35.04% of the total generated electricity by 2026-27 and 43.96% by 2031-32, the NEP estimates.
Following Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s 2022 announcement in Glasgow, Scotland of India’s 2070 Net Zero target, India updated its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) in August 2022 whereby it committed to achieving “about 50 percent cumulative electric power installed capacity from non-fossil fuel-based energy resources by 2030.” The NDCs are commitments made by countries under the terms of the Paris Agreement to keep global temperatures from rising beyond two degrees Celsius by the end of the century, and are required to be updated once in five years.
Independent experts told The Hindu that the NEP’s targets were “ambitious but possible” and were premised on significant support by government to industry. “It’s a little ambitious but the government has recently said that it is committed to adding 50 GW [of renewable energy] every year,” said Vibhuti Garg, South Asia director at the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis and an observer of global energy trends. “While not all of that will be added at a go…if things go at that speed we could achieve those numbers,” she added.
Recent experience, however, suggests that targets have fallen short of reality. The Centre had committed to installing 100 GW (1 GW is equal to 1,000 MW) of solar power by 2022 but only managed about 64 GW.