Renewables might dwarf hydro in energy basket
The share of renewable energy in India's installed power generation capacity might surpass that of hydropower. A push in this regard by both the Centre and states has increased the share of renewable energy to 14 per cent of the energy basket, against 15 per cent for hydro. The share of hydro is likely to decline further, with more than three dozen hydropower projects, accounting for about 26,000 megawatts (Mw), yet to be considered for construction, despite having secured the approval of the Central Electricity Authority.
Besides rehabilitation and resettlement issues, a delay in securing environment clearances have stalled hydropower projects. On the other hand, renewable energy projects, especially solar power plants, could add capacity quickly, said N Venu, president (power systems), ABB India. "Now, hydropower is in a drop stage. In the past year, we have received orders for about 1,500 Mw of equipment from renewable energy projects, while orders from hydropower projects have slowed," he said.
Through the past three years, the installed capacity of hydropower projects has remained around 40,000 Mw, while that of the renewable energy sector has increased about 20 per cent. The share of hydropower in the installed power capacity declined to 15 per cent at the end of July this year from 26 per cent at the end of March 2005, while the share of renewable energy increased from three per cent to 13.9 per cent of the 275,912 Mw of overall installed capacity.
An expert said hydro projects faced the issue of being constructed by "builders who were into mere dam construction, not really serious hydro sector players". Venu, however, said hydropower had immense potential in the north-east, the hill states of the north and the south. Besides, the renewable energy sector is evolving and issues of access have to be resolved.
Despite moving towards smaller hydropower projects, run-through river water (against reservoir-based), the sector hasn't picked up. Small hydropower projects of up to 25 Mw are counted in the renewable category, besides wind, biomass, and solar. Within the renewable energy segment, wind has the highest share in installed capacity (24,088.36 Mw), followed by solar (4,229.36 Mw). The National Democratic Alliance government has set a target of 175,000 Gw (1,000 Mw) by 2022, of which solar alone will account for 100,000 Gw.
Globally, too, the trend is towards renewable energy. As of 2014-end, renewables accounted for an estimated 27.7 per cent of the world's power generating capacity, enough to cater to 22.8 per cent of the global electricity demand, according to the Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century (REN21). "Solar PV (photovoltaic) capacity has grown at a phenomenal rate, up 48-fold from 2004 (3.7 Gw) to 2014 (177 Gw), with strong growth in wind power capacity (up eightfold through this period, from 48 Gw to 370 Gw)," it said.
Christine Lins, executive secretary of REN21, said: "Creating a level-playing field will strengthen the development and the use of energy-efficiency and renewable-energy technologies. Removing fossil-fuel and nuclear subsidies globally will make it evident that renewables are the cheapest energy option."
REN21 estimates about $550 billion has been given in annual subsidies towards fossil fuel and nuclear energy.