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India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been on a renewable energy road trip of sorts. One of his first stops was the G20 Summit in November, where he categorically stated that India would not only meet its target of generating 175 gigawatts (GW) of renewable energy, but surpass it. 

A few days later, at a government-sponsored summit, he (virtually) threw open India’s doors to investors. He promised them that renewable energy generation was an annual, US$20 billion opportunity. His third stop was the inauguration of Asia’s largest solar and wind energy farm in the western Indian state of Gujarat, on 15 December. From international to domestic pulpits, the prime minister’s itinerary leaves no doubt about the government’s intention to put India firmly on the global renewables map. 

The PM’s renewables road trip also comes at the tail end of a pandemic-battered 2020. Traditional industries such as automobiles and power generation—pillars that hold up India’s economy—suffered body blows with regards to both production and output. 

The automobile industry, for instance, was already reeling from a 19-year low in sales in 2019 when the pandemic hit. As offices and public spaces shuttered due to the lockdown, coal-generated power fell from 70% of India’s electricity mix to a historic low of 60%. Coal is back on the map now, though, with the economy going through several stages of “unlock”.  

In many ways, 2020 has been a watershed moment for alternative forms of energy. 

In segments such as electric vehicles (EV), companies found that the ownership model of leasing, instead of buying, fit them better. And smart, Internet-of-Things (IoT)-enabled electric two-wheelers are more amenable amenable The Ken EV batteries get their own identity. EV makers face an identity crisis Read more  to flexible, customised rental and insurance plans. Battery usage data, for instance, can indicate how well or poorly an EV is being run.

At a more macro level, renewable energy companies such as the Gurugram-based ReNew Power Limited, the Ahmedabad-based Adani Green Power Limited, and the Hyderabad-based Greenko Group won tenders to set up more solar power generation capacity, in line with India’s internal target to grow solar power generation 8X by 2022. The price of renewable power fell to a historic Rs 2/unit ($0.02/unit), as compared to the older, dirtier fuel coal (Rs 3-4 ($0.04-0.05/unit)

The celebration, though, is tempered by the fact that almost 18.5 GW of tenders given out by the Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI), for solar power generation, are still unclaimed. And these are figures from just 2020.

Stripped down, what can really propel India into a clean, green, renewable future is simple.


Olina Banerji

Based in Delhi, Olina writes about mega-trends in urban mobility, education, skilling and the environment, with a focus on how institutions and innovations can help cities grow sustainably. She is a graduate of the London School of Economics, and has worked previously with India Today and global non-profit Ashoka.

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