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India’s Solar Energy Push – The Big Picture – RSTV IAS UPSC

  • IASbaba
  • August 7, 2020
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The Big Picture- RSTV, UPSC Articles
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India’s Solar Energy Push

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TOPIC: General Studies 3

  • Infrastructure, Energy

In News: On 15 February, 2015, Prime Minister Narendra Modi made an interesting observation in his inaugural speech for the first RE-Invest global summit in New Delhi. He remarked that Indian energy sector has been thinking in terms of Mega Watts (MW), but for the first time, India had started talking about Giga Watts (GW). It was inconceivable that India aimed at 100 GW of installed solar power capacity by 2022, given that the entire country had under 3 GW of existing installations when the Modi government took over. Yet, the ambitious target set clearly signalled the government’s intent to make solar energy an integral part of Indian energy security strategy. 

Has it been possible?

India has managed to hit about 35 GW in installed capacity till now. One major gap is rooftop solar, which has not progressed much. So while adding 65 GW of solar capacity in two years looks tough, opening up the rooftop solar market nationwide can help push the envelope. But even this current progress from 3 GW to 35 GW was not easy. 

One of the projects that has given impetus to this journey is the Rewa Ultra Mega Solar Ltd (RUMSL) solar plant, inaugurated by PM Modi on 10 July. 

  • The plant consists of three solar power generating units that are located on a 500-hectare plot of land inside a 1,500-hectare solar park 
  • The solar plant was set up by the Rewa Ultra Mega Solar Limited, a joint venture between Madhya Pradesh Urja Vikas Nigam Limited and the Centre’s Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI).  
  • This project will reduce carbon emission equivalent to approx. 15 lakh ton of CO2 per year, which is equivalent to planting 26 million trees.

India’s Solar Energy Push

  • Energy Security: India energy demands is largely fulfilled by non-renewable source of energy 
  • Environmental Sustainability: India’s large part of energy demand is fulfilled by thermal energy largely dependent on fossil fuels which causes pollution. Solar energy is clean form of energy resource, which can be a substitute. 
  • India being Tropical Country, there is abundance of free solar energy in almost all parts of country. 
  • Changed Developmental Strategy: Solar energy is being viewed as a path for self-reliant industrialisation 
  • Green energy in rural area -  This is crucial for agri – business in farms for running irrigation, greenhouses, and crop and hay dryers, making agriculture risk – free. 

Challenges w.r.t developing Solar Energy 

  • Low domestic cell manufacturing capacity at 3.1 GW last year 
  • Heavy reliance on China for importing of photovoltaic cells, modules and associated equipment 
  • Projected addition of capacity in a COVID-19 affected future could fall short of stated goals (100 GW by 2022) 
  • India’s domestic content requirement clause is facing legal challenge at WTO. 
  • Land availability in India for solar plant is less due to high population density. 
  • India’s solar waste is estimated to be around 1.8 million by 2050 also needs to be tackled. 
  • Challenges with respect to importing critical raw materials such as polysilicon 

Major Initiatives

A. ‘One Sun One World One Grid’ (OSOWOG) initiative proposed by India

OSOWOG initiative was recently proposed by India to set up a framework for facilitating global cooperation which aims at building a global ecosystem of interconnected renewable energy resources that can be easily shared. 

Key takeaways 

  • Parent Body: The Union Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) 
  • Objective: To build global consensus about sharing solar resources among more than 140 countries of West Asia and South-East Asia.
  • This grid shall be interconnected with the African power pools also at the later stage. 
  • Proposals are invited from consulting firms for making a long-term OSOWOG road map, and identify two or three cross-border projects that can be initiated within one or two years. 

Phase I: The first phase deals with the Middle East—South Asia—-South East Asia (MESASEA) interconnection for sharing green energy sources such as solar for meeting electricity needs including peak demand.

  • Fostering cross-border energy trade is an important part of Modi’s South Asia-focused neighbourhood-first policy. 
  • India has been supplying power to Bangladesh and Nepal and has been championing a South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) electricity grid minus Pakistan to meet electricity demand in the region.
  • The initial plans also involve setting up an under-sea link to connect with Oman in the West.

Phase II: MESASEA grid getting interconnected with the African power pools

Phase III: Global interconnection

Benefits

  • Creation of regional and international interconnected green grids can enable sharing of renewable energy across international borders and also balancing. Such grids should work in tandem with the existing grids and will not require parallel grid infrastructure, thus requiring only incremental investment.
  • An interconnected grid would help all the participating entities in attracting investments in renewable energy sources as well as utilizing skills, technology and finances. 
  • Resulting economic benefits would positively impact poverty alleviation and support in mitigating water, sanitation, food and other socioeconomic challenges.
  • The proposed integration would lead to reduced project costs, higher efficiencies and increased asset utilization for all the participating entities

B. International Solar Alliance (ISA) 

  • It is a treaty-based inter-governmental Organisation. 
  • It aims to deploy over 1,000 GW of solar generation capacity globally.
  • It aims to mobilise investment of over $1 trillion by 2030. 
  • Headquartered: Gurgaon. 
  • It was established following the Paris Declaration as an alliance dedicated to the promotion of solar energy among its member countries.

The Way Forward – Solar energy should be considered as a strategic sector 

  • Should comprise of components like Solar Waste Management and Manufacturing Standards Policy
  • India needs to show leadership at global level to advance the manufacture and absorption of solar photovoltaic infrastructure in low- and middle-income countries.  
  • Come up with integrated policies fully supported by states where industry gets help to set up facilities and avail low cost financing  
  • India should also be able to invest in intellectual property. 
  • Faster adoption of Innovative technologies- aesthetic photovoltaic window and roof tiles for buildings 

A decentralised approach will be suited for Indian landscape and this there has to be greater use of residential and commercial buildings to deploy more panels.  

Connecting the Dots:

  1. With favourable tropical geography, huge domestic demand, and high export potential, India can be a world leader in the field of tapping and utilising solar energy. Do you agree? What are the challenges? Discuss.
  2. Energy has traditionally played an important role in global geopolitics, contributing to the rise of great powers, the formation of alliances and, in many cases, also to the emergence of wars and conflicts. Elucidate. 
  3. Essay: The Sun Never Sets

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