Print Friendly, PDF & Email

India’s Energy Security – Renewable Sources of Energy



As we already know that Inida’s energy mix is heavily skewed in favor of conventional sources of energy, more particularly Coal and Big Hydro Plants, there is growing clamour for Inreasing share of Renewable energy. Renewable sources of energy mainly includes – Solar, Wind, Small Hydro, Waste to Energy, Bio energy. These have numerous advantage over conventional. All conventional resources use a scarce resource which is expected to exaust in near future. Even Hydro power falls in this category as water is a scarce resource and we have seen that countries are having hard time securing their future water needs. Renewable sources on the other hand, uses resources which are abundant from nature. Wind and Solar resource wont exhaust even if fully exploited. Other renewable sources such as waste to energy, bio energy aims to turn waste into resource.

This character of renewable sources is also expected to give cost advantage over other sources, once current technical and economic barriers are overcome. Like there is coal market, oil market there cannot be any market of wind or solar resources in future resulting in fluctuations in raw material material prices. Hence only cost is Infrastructural and Operational cost is mainly of management and mantainence.

Another strong argument is of environmental costs of conventional sources which are enormous. While doing cost benefit analysis if we include costs of damages to ecology then renewable energy is preferable even if its current economic costs are substantially higher.

Combustion of fossil fuels emmits greenhouse gasses such as Carbon dioxide, Carbon Monoxide, Nitrogen Oxide, Sulphur dioxide, methane. Coal undergoes incomplete combustion which emmits Carbon Soot and more carbon monoxide, these both causes respiratory problem. Carbon Monoxide is extremely poisnous and has affinity with Haemeoglobin cells, hence it can elleminate oxygen from human cells.

Further coal mining operations are one of the riskiest jobs and results in gross violation of human rights of miners to have safe working envirinment. Their have been many instances where miners got killed due to mining roof collapse or suffocation by hazardous gases such as Methane. Similarly Oil rigs and pipelines have time and again leaked in seas causing havoc with marine ecology and biodiversity.

Nuclear Energy as we have seen, gives hazardous radioactive wastes which are to be handled for hundred of years. Any accident can cause genetic mutations in the affected people. Further, use of nuclear energy might have some link with corresponding Increase in nuclear arms because of growth and free flow of nuclear knowledge, which is beyond any one’s control.

In this backdrop, fortunately, costs of clean energy, particularly of Wind and Solar is falling from few years. There has been technological barriers and unsupportive external environment , which is now turning around by increasing competition in Industry and Indegenious innovations too. Further government’s attempts of positive intervention by diplomacy with countries such as Germany is expected bring many benefits.

Advocacy for renewable energy also came from United Nations, through its ‘United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’ in pursuance of which India adopted National Action Plan For Climate Change ( NAPCC). This action plan has 8 core mission. Among them 2 missions ie. ‘National Solar Mission’ and ‘National Mission for Enhanced Energy effeciency’ have direct bearing on the chapter.

Around 23 % of rural India continues to use Traditional Fuels such as firewoods, Crop residue and dungcakes. This too have environmental and health concerns as their combustion releases poisonous gasses. It also brings hardship on rural women and girls as they spend substantial time on collecting this fuel. In recent years decentralised clean energy sources have increased and Use of portable solar cookers is catching up. This is important part of government agenda of ‘Inclusive and Sustainable development’

India’s domestic renewable power generation base is expanding rapidly on the back of various incentives such concessional loans, Tax holidays, 100 % depriciation allowance etc. Govt. has also allowed 100% FDI in renewable energy and there is interaction of government in this field with about 22 countries. As a result sector is growing at 20% from last 5 years.

Wind energy is dominant source, followed by biopower , small hydro and solar energy (See piechart) and India ranks 5th in renewable power globaly. 12th plan envisages development in foolowing manner ( this data is for Grid Interactive power generation)-

  1. Wind energy – 15000 MW
  2. Solar Energy ( both photovoltaic & Thermal) – 10000 MW
  3. Bio energy – 500 MW
  4. Small Hydro – 2100 MW
  5. Baggase Cogeneration – 1400 MW

Total target from renewable sources is 55000 MW ( total target of 318000 MW)




1982 – Department of Non Conventional Energy Sources under ministry energy

1992 – Converted to Ministry of Non conventional Energy Sources

2006 – namne changed – Ministry of New and Renewable Energy

Under Ministry there is Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency (IREDA), to promote, develop and extend financial support for renewable energy and energy efficiency.

Now ministry is under Minister of State Mr Piyush Goyal, which also wolds Ministry Of power and Ministry of Coal. This integeration is expected to bring more clarity and Integerated approach.

Germany – As an example

Germany, on the back of government support through generous subsidies is undergoing landmark shift towards clean energy. Currently about 25 % of energy is renewable backed and plan for 2050 and 2080 is for 50% and 80% of clean energy. Further, after Fukushima disater they have dicided to completely get rid of Nuclear Energy in gradual manner.

In Germany, allmost every houshold has small Solar photovoltaic plant at its roof top and they sell surplus energy to national grid utilities. People have been gauranteed purchases at lucrative rates for coming decades by government.

There is ‘Indo- Germany Energy Forum’ for deepening cooperation in matters such as energy effeciency, Grid improvement and promotion of clean energy.

United States too is engaged with India over clean energy. In 2005 US-India Energy Dialogue took off which focused, among other thing, on low carbon energy. Recently Indian PM on visit to US concluded Indo- US energy partnership, under which USA agreed to extend $1 Billion loan (by ‘US export import bank’ to IREDA) for grid connected projects.

National Clean Energy Fund

This is Non lapsable fund established in 2011 to promote research & development in clean energy. It draws funds from coal mined or imported which are levied Clean energy cess at Rs 50/ Ton. This is in pursuance to ‘polluter pays’ principle. Fund is mainly to be utilised for promotion of renewable energy,cleaner energy (CBM , Shale gas etc) grid improvement etc. Having said this, corpus of fund is severly underutilized and misutilised. Misutilised in sense that grants from this funds are being used for making good budgetary shortfalls, rather than for R&D.

Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs)

There is ‘renewable purchase obligation policy’ in place ( under electricity act 2003), under which Distribution companies ( DISCOMS) have obligation to purchase certain amount of renewable energy(fixed %age of their total electricity supply). This was needed because renewable energy is expesive when compared to conventional sources. To fullfil this obligation, they can alternatively buy RECs from renewable power producers. A producer gets 1 REC when 1 MWh ( megawatt hour) power is fed to the grid. When he sells this certificate in market or to the DISCOM, money he earned will reduce cost of power generated.

This came in 2010 and now there is a market for RECs.Its price will fluctuate as per demand from DISCOMS. Demand will be more when price difference between two types is more or when there is sudden surge in total electricity supplied. DISCOMS will do cost benefit analysis of wether its benificial to buy ‘Expensive’ renewable energy or to buy certficate and get rid of ‘obligation to buy’. It all depends upon prices of all variables.

RECs are a policy mechanism to promote renewable energy based power generation in India. Technologies such as wind, solar PV, solar thermal, biomass and hydro are eligible to earn RECs. Renewable power producers can earn additional incomes by trading these certificates. These are tradable on power exchanges.

Off Grid/ Interactive Grids

Renewable energy systems can be either standalone ( off grid ) or Grid Interactive ones. Former use energy for their own need such as solar tubelighs, Solar waterpumps, Solar water heaters. There can also be standalone power plants based on wind, solar , small hydro or biomass energy which power a particular locality, industry, remote area etc. These will be off grid if not connected to national grid.

Grid Interactive systems are connected with national grid. Roof top solar panels can also be grid interactive. Thses are smart systems, which can convert Direct current to Alternating current in order to have interface with grid. They manage supply to users by automatically switching to grid power in case renewable source is out of power due to bad weather. These include ‘advances metering system’ which takes into account power generated by renewable source of a house/industry/ locality and deducts it from total electricity bill. Further, these also have facility of transfering surplus electricity to national grid.

Variability Problem of renewable energy

As we know weather is variable and so is sunlight and wind. Wind is not present at all times, even if present doesn’t blow at same speed and direction. This will result in variation in speed of wind mills, in turn of Turbines. Same is true for solar plants as sunrays warry throughout day in in intensity depending upon time of the day and clouds in the sky. This results in fluctuating voltage. When proportion of this variable power is high as to total power on grid, then wastage,ineffeciency and losses increase. To remedy this problem Smart Grids are required which are capable of self adjustment.

To address this variability problem government planned to launch Rs 43,000-crore ‘Green Energy Corridor’ project to facilitate the flow of renewable energy into the national grid.

 The project will be implemented with the assistance of Germany who has promised provide developmental and technical assistance of euro1 billion for the project.


Objective is of Synchronizing electricity produced from renewable sources, such as solar and wind, with conventional power stations in the grid.

The whole project has been divided into two parts:

1. Inter State- To be developed by State utilities.

2. Intra State- To be developed by Power Grid Corporation of India (PGCIL).

 The planned transmission system would be made dynamic to handle the variations leading to an integrated grid across the nation.


Another important method to reduce variability is to go for Hybrid Wind-Solar power plants. At many places where both wind and solar assessment is positive these’ two in one’ plants could be installed. Battery bank is used to store power. First such plant was in Haryana at Morni Hills.


Wind Energy

Wind energy holds largest share in renewable energy in India and also in most of the countries. Current capacity is of about 21 GW. Government has lauched a ‘Wind Resource assessment Programme’ under which more than 700 ‘wind monitoring centers’ have been established at various locations all over the country. These assess potential at various heights. Wind energy potential grows with heights. At 50 m height potential is about 49 GW and at 80 m its 103 GW (Total potential = 152 GW). Highest potential is in Gujrat, followed by Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh.

Wind energy requires huge tracts of land and this is major constraint in India . Above given potential is based on assumption that 2 % of land ( .5% in hilly areas) will be available for the sector. Further, potential for Off shore wind energy is also under assessment. Here wind mills are erected on continental shelves. Globally 7 GW is harnessed from Offshore Wind Plants. Some International Journals put India Offshore energy potential at 350 GW. Prelimnery Assessment indicate reasonable prospects of offshore wind energy in Gujrat, Maharashtra and Tamil nadu

Government came out with ‘Generation Based Incentive scheme’ which allows ‘Independent Power prodecers’ and FDI in the sector. This scheme was recontinued after it was discontinued in 2009. It currently allows disbursal or subsidy upto rs 1 Crore/ MW generation of power. Under revised scheme capacity of 2100 MW has been added.

However, wind mills have been dangerous for threatened birds. Time and again carcasses of Flamingoes, Great Indian Bustard,White Backed Vulture, Sarus Crane are found near wind mills which die of collission with moving blades.

Waste to Energy

Biomass Power and Bagasse Co-generation Programme

Biomass power is derived from agricultural residue like husks, shell, strew, deoiled cakes ( from solevant plants – resudue of oil) etc. These are put in high pressure boilers and its stream is used to turn turbines.

Bagasse is fibourous residue of sugarcane which is left after extraction of Juice. This has been traditionally used by Sugar Mills in various processes such as boiling. With advancement of technology
more efficient and small turbines are in market which can be used to generate electricity.Stream generated can be partially or fully used to turn turbines along with providing energy directly for other processes.This is called cogeneration.This can be captive power plants for sugar mills and they can sell surplus power in markets if they are connected with grids.

Combined power generation capacity is about 4 GW.

Potential assessed is 17000MW for biomass power and 5000 MW for bagasse based power

Energy From Municipal Waste

This involves thermal treatment which is called ‘incineration’. This involves combustion of waste to generate stream. This is quite popular in developed countries as it also addresses waste management problems. But this is vehemently opposed by environmentalists, over claims of release of poisonous gases. Further,as raw material is municipal waste , it is generally in vicinity of residential area. There are disagreements over its treatment as renewable source of energy.

MNRE classifies this as renewable energy as it is claimed that modern combustion facilities and air treatment are state of art and results in complete combustion and minimal emmission of gasses. Further, it converts waste in energy and turns a liability into an asset. Waste left into landfills emmits methane gas which is potent greenhouse gas and this is saved by waste to energy plant.

India’s first such plant is in Okhla near Delhi. Residents of Okhala appealed to National Green Tribunal against this plant. NGT got a study conducted and found that air quality in that area was hazardous.

Small Hydro Power

Small Hydro Power potential is assessed at 20000 MW out of which approx. 3800 MW is being currently harnessed. This source is significant for electrification in remote and isolated areas. Problems assocciated with large dams such as deforestation and displacement of people is not there in this case. Small hydro power Program is in place under Ministry of New & Renewable Energy, under which about 6200 sites have been identified. Projects under 25 MW are classified under this category. They doesn’t need EIA and are elegible for financial assistance of government. Many states too have policy toward SHP.

Prime Minister last year announced for electrification of border villages of Arunachal Pardesh by small hydro and 1058 villages have been electrified.

Solar Energy

Solar panels in past years were quite expensive which made this sector perform poorly by making this energy uncompetitive to Conventional energy sources. Note in preceding graph/data that solar energy despite of having good potential ranks at 4th, behind all other sources. Fortunately from last few years prices are consistently falling. Recently a MP government tender for purchase of solar energy was released at Rs 6.5/ Unit which is just 14 % more than cost of thermal energy. This fall is due to fall in prices of Photo voltaic panels because of increased competition, more efficient production and economies of scale. Further, India’s largest solar plant is planned in Madhya Pradesh for 700MW, which is expected to generate electricity at Rs. 5.40 /unit.

It is hard to quantify potential of solar energy because it’s directly proportional to area covered by PV cells. Yet one can have idea by the fact that most parts of India receives, clear sunlight for 300 days a year. Another estimate suggests that if 10 % of India’s land is put under solar panels; we’ll get 8000 GW of energy, which is about 50 times higher than current generation.

Jawaharlal Nehru Solar Mission

Launched in 2010 under ‘National Action Plan for Climate Change’ will be implemented in 3 phases. 1st phase is over and 2nd is going on. Targets under the Mission are –

  1. Deployment of 20000 MW of ‘Grid connected’ solar power by 2022 (1st phase target 1100 MW)
  2. 2000 MW of ‘Off grid solar applications’ and 20 million ‘solar lights’ by 2022 ( 1st phase target 200 MW)
  3. 20 million sq. km of ‘solar collector area’ ( for solar water heaters , 1st phase target is 70 lakh sq. km)
  4. Creating favorable conditions for solar manufacturing facilities
  5. Support R&D and capacity building to achieve ‘ Grid parity’ by 2022

1st phase got over in March 2013 and Grid connected solar power target of 1100 MW was achieved comfortably.

Highest capacity is in Gujrat followed by Rajasthan

Under the mission new solar plants will be eligible for Viability Gap Funding from ‘National Clean Energy Fund’ which shall comprise of 30 % of the project cost. This will be given in instalments after commissioning of the project.

Batch 1, of 2nd phase of mission aims for 750 MW capacity of grid connected plants. Mission also has a clause for ‘Domestic Content requirements’ by which 375 MW of project investors will need to source certain proportion of solar PVC and modules from domestic suppliers.

USA dragged India to WTO over this issue alleging that it violates GATT and Trade related Investment measures (TRIMs). For this WTO has recently constituted a ‘Dispute settlement Body’.

Cardinal principle behind these agreements is of ‘National Treatment’ of foreign goods as per which imported goods once entered in market shouldn’t face any discrimination vis a vis domestic goods. US alleges that this principle is violated because of ‘domestic content requirements’

Grid Interactive Rooftop and small SPV power plants

Rooftop solar panels can make huge environmental and economic impact at macro level. This will reduce electricity expenditure of households. This system can also provide electricity backup to users at time of outages. These systems use solar inverters to change DC power generated by SPV power plants to AC to feed the grid (solar cells and batteries generate DC power, whereas electricity generated through turbines is AC power). Central govt. provides ‘Central Financial Assistance’ for these plants to make electricity cheaper.

Off Grid Solar Photovoltaics (standalone)

Government provides subsidy of 30 % of project costs to maximum of Rs 135 / watt (90% up to Rs. 405/watt
for North East, J&K, UT islands, districts with International borders). Major projects sanctioned included solar streetlights, study lamps, SPV pumps and small power plants.

Solar Water Heating System

Depending upon location a 100 liter capacity water heater can save annual 1250 units and 1.25 ton of carbon dioxide. Under JNNSM 70.01 lakh sq. km. collector area has been achieved in 1st phase. 80 % of the installations were in residential areas. Capital subsidy of 30 % is available.

Off Grid Solar Heater Program

Objective of this program under mission is to promote off grid applications of solar thermal power such as solar cooker, solar air/water heating system.

It also include Concentrated Solar Thermal technologies (CST) for community cooking, process heat and cooling application

Hence renewable energy might be answer to environmental and economic woes of current energy mix. If we compare seriously all costs of various alternatives of power, we’ll conclude that renewable energy should get dominant attention of our policy makers. To achieve rapid progress in the sector it is essential that Industrial base be developed to ensure supply of adequate technology and continuous innovation directed towards efficiency. This should be coupled with robust demand which will also need government support. Overtime Solar PVC, small wind mills, Small hydro will become part of common man’s life in India. This is best way to electrify whole India in a sustainable way.