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Analysis of Kurukshetra Magazine: How Renewable Energy is Transforming the Face of Rural India?

Context

  • In recent years, rural areas have become significant battlegrounds for the implementation of energy transitions. Not only are they meant as the location for the siting of renewable energy (RE) facilities, but they also hold great potential for the creation of significant synergies for sustainable rural development.
  • During the last 7.5 years, India has witnessed the fastest rate of growth in renewable energy capacity addition among all large economies, with renewable energy capacity (including large hydro) growing 1.97 times and solar energy expanding over 18 times.

Background

  • At COP 21, as part of its Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), India had committed to achieving 40% of its installed electricity capacity from non-fossil energy sources by 2030. The country has achieved this target in November 2021 itself.
  • The country’s installed Renewable Energy (RE) capacity stands at 150.54 GW (solar: 48.55 GW, wind: 40.03 GW, Small hydro Power: 4.83, Bio-power: 10.62, Large Hydro: 46.51 GW) as on 30.11.2021 while its nuclear energy based installed electricity capacity stands at 6.78 GW. This brings the total non-fossil based installed energy capacity to 157.32 GW which is 40.1% of the total installed electricity capacity of 392.01 GW.
  • In line with the Hon’ble Prime Minister’s announcement at the recently concluded CoP26, the Government is committed to achieving 500 GW of installed electricity capacity from non-fossil fuel sources by the year 2030.

Status of Renewable energy across the states

  • The penetration of renewable energy in India is highly variable across states.
  • The share of solar and wind in India’s 10 renewable-rich states — Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Telangana, Punjab and Kerala — is significantly higher than the national average of 8.2 per cent.
  • Solar and wind account for around 29 per cent of annual electricity generation in Karnataka. It is 20 per cent in Rajasthan; 18 per cent in Tamil Nadu; and 14 per cent in Gujarat in the financial year 2020-21.
  • India’s renewable energy-rich states already have a higher share of variable renewable energy (VRE) than most countries. As a result, many states are already facing system integration challenges.

What does renewable energy offer rural areas?

  • Local revenue
  • Local jobs
  • Innovations, in products, processes and policies
  • Capacity building and local empowerment
  • Affordable and reliable energy

What is Pradhan Mantri UjjwalaYojana (PMUY)?

  • Launched on 1st May 2016 from Ballia district in Uttar Pradesh by PM Narendra Modi.
  • It is a flagship scheme with an objective to make clean cooking fuel such as LPG available to the rural and deprived households which were otherwise using traditional cooking fuels such as firewood, coal, cow-dung cakes etc. Usage of traditional cooking fuels had detrimental impacts on the health of rural women as well as on the environment.
  • The release of 8 Crore LPG connections under the scheme has also helped in increasing the LPG coverage from 62% on 1st May 2016 to 99.8% as on 1st April 2021.

What is PM KUSUM?

• KUSUM was launched by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy in 2019 to provide energy sufficiency and sustainable irrigation access to farmers.
The components of the scheme are:
1. Component-A: Under this component, solar or other renewable energy-based power plants of capacity 500 kW to 2 MW can be installed on barren or uncultivable agricultural land mainly. Agriculture land is also permitted under this scheme provided that solar plants are installed in slit fashion (i.e. raised structure for installation of solar panels) and with adequate spacing between panel rows for ensuring that farming activity is not affected.
2. Component-B: Under this Component, farmers can replace their existing diesel-powered agriculture pumps with standalone solar pumps of capacity up to 7.5 HP in off-grid areas. Pumps of capacity higher than 7.5 HP may be allowed, however, the central subsidy will be limited to the subsidy applicable for a pump of 7.5 HP.
3. Component-C: Under this Component, farmers can solarize their existing grid-connected agriculture pumps of capacity up to 7.5 HP. Solar PV capacity up to two times of pump capacity in kW is allowed under the scheme. However, States may choose to allow lower solar PV capacity, which in no case will be less than pump capacity in HP. The farmer will be able to use the generated solar power to meet the irrigation needs and the excess solar power will be sold to DISCOMs.

What is National Hydrogen Mission?

  • In the Independence Day speech on 15.08.2021, Prime Minister announced the launch of the National Hydrogen Mission and stated the goal to make India a global hub for Green Hydrogen production and export.
  • The Mission proposes a framework for inter alia creating demand for Green Hydrogen in sectors such as petroleum refining and fertilizer production; support for indigenous manufacturing of critical technologies; Research & Development activities; and an enabling policy and regulatory framework.
  • The proposed steps will lead to the development of additional renewable energy capacity for Green Hydrogen production.

What is One Sun – One World – One Grid (OSOWOG)?

A tripartite Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE), the International Solar Alliance (ISA) and the World Bank on 08.09.2020 for a study on the OSOWOG initiative.

What is International Solar Alliance?

  • International Solar Alliance (ISA) was launched by Hon’ble Prime Minister of India, and the President of France on 30.11.2015 at Paris, France.
  • With the signing and ratification of the ISA Framework Agreement by 15 countries, on 06.12.2017, ISA became the first international intergovernmental organization to be headquartered in India.
  • On 15.07.2020, this amendment came into force, which enables all member States of the UN, including those beyond the tropics, to join the ISA. As on 30.11.2021, 101 countries have signed the Framework Agreement of the ISA. Of these, 80 countries have also ratified the same.

Challenges ahead

  • To mobilize necessary finance and investment on competitive terms.
  • The need for mobilization of funds on attractive terms has further increased with the launch of PM-KUSUM, which provides farmers an opportunity to become entrepreneurs and participate in India’s growth story.
  • The ongoing efforts for mitigating investment risks, and easing approval processes would also need to be strengthened.
  • Land acquisition: Land acquisition is one of the major challenges in renewable power development.
  • Identification of land with RE potential, its conversion (if needed), clearance from land ceiling Act, a decision on land lease rent, clearance from revenue department, and other such clearances take time. State governments have to play a major role in the acquisition of land for RE projects.

Conclusion

Innovations in the energy sector – specifically focusing on appliances that are powered by renewable energy – have changed entrepreneurship and life in rural India. From solar freezers that increase the shelf life of dairy products, to solar-powered computer labs in schools, to mini-grids that power entire communities – these innovations demonstrate the immense potential of decentralized renewable energy (DRE) systems in transforming rural India, not only by improving access to electricity but by putting that electricity to use in order to boost rural economies.

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