India is a country in which the electricity sector struggles to meet demand and depends heavily on fossil fuel imports. A large proportion of citizens still have limited access to commercial energy. Meanwhile, rapid economic and population growth mean India’s energy demand is expected to increase fourfold by 2040.
However, India is poised for a massive transition to clean energy, in which renewables will help reduce the energy deficit and reach over 300 million people that are not currently connected to the electricity grid.
175 GW renewable energy by the end of 2022
The Indian government has set an ambitious target of “175GW renewables by 2022”, which includes a $100bn investment in a utility-scale project. Reaching this goal will see a sharp increase from the 2015 target of 39GW. A second $50bn investment goal of “40GW by 2022” applies to small energy grids and rooftop solar initiatives. These projects aim to reduce pollution, cut dependence on imported fuels, increase renewable energy supplies in cities and bring reliable, clean energy to rural areas. Smaller-scale NGO efforts include innovative solar-charging centres that will potentially transform the lives of over 200 million residents of informal settlements.
Clean energy for more than 18,000 villages
In rural India, where electricity is either intermittent or absent altogether, residents have little choice but to use expensive and polluting fuels like kerosene and firewood. The government’s mandate is to electrify more than 18,000 villages with clean energy initiatives such as solar roofs. The solar rooftop industry has become the fastest growing segment of the energy sector and requires no costly infrastructure investment.
Increase of renewable sources in 48 solar cities
India’s urban areas emit high quantities of greenhouse gasses and suffer from electricity shortages. The government has identified 48 “Solar Cities” in which to develop energy conservation and increase capacities from renewable sources such as wind, solar, biomass and small hydro. Projects such as solar water heating for homes, hotels and hospitals, or industrial waste-to-energy plans, are designed to pave the transition toward clean energy across the nation.
Toward net-zero emissions by 2070
Looking forward, India has announced ambitious plans to fulfil 50% of its energy needs – about 500GW – with renewable energy (RE) by 2030. The “Mission 500GW” plan demands an increase of 30-40GW per year from current capacity over the next nine years, delivered via a combination of solar, wind and other hybrid energy sources. This goal will require a monumental effort to transition away from India’s largely coal-based economy, but will serve as springboard for its long-term commitment toward net-zero emissions by 2070. If India succeeds in meeting these milestones, it will lead other South Asian nations in the fight against climate change and move the region and the world closer to achieving carbon neutrality.