India has made significant progress in renewable energy capacity installation, ranking fourth globally in 2022. The Indian government has implemented comprehensive policy measures to encourage renewable energy, including capacity targets, improvements to administrative processes and incentives for the domestic production of solar technologies, and ramping up the production of green hydrogen.
Countries in a global comparative framework with respect to carbon emissions continue to be among the top three largest emitting nations. At the same time, on a per capita consumption basis, it is pegged at 7th place. Over the last two decades, since its focus on renewable energy, India has made considerable progress on scale and impact, bringing the prices of solar energy assets to one-tenth of the cost. Further progress on the application of cheaper technology in renewables production is being ramped up, improving the quality of energy generated and the cost advantage to help the renewables further scale up as a dependable energy source among the masses. In the interim, though, the state of carbon emissions in the country of 1.4 billion people has been a matter of concern. Policies to clean up the carbon have been implemented involving the private sector, and financial institutions, among others.
India’s progress on two counts, particularly on its performance on renewables and electric vehicles, is vetted by international agencies, multilateral banks, and private sector actors internationally.
With regard to renewables, India has made steady progress, having pledged to generate 450 GW by 2030, a performance that tops the G20 nation’s progress on an aggregate basis. India currently has a total renewable energy capacity of 169 GW (as of February 28, 2023), with about 82 GW at various stages of implementation and about 41 GW under tendering stage up to the end of July 2023.
This effort is also being pursued by upgrading the national grids, which may combine the renewables and non-renewables to carry the hybrid energy mix without disruptions and ensuing prevention of cybercrimes through resilient energy infrastructure.
Concerning electric vehicles, India is performing in line with its commitments exceeding sales numbers between January 2023 and June 2023, principally due to the subsidy that the government launched and incentives both for purchase and manufacturing. According to retail sales numbers of EVs, announced sales numbers have posted a robust 42% increase monthly, an uptake from 100000 EVs in January 2023 across all categories to that 157000 by July 2023. It is further estimated that all two-wheelers in India, which has the largest population of vehicles in this category, will go electric by 2030, the dateline of India’s international commitment to halve its carbon emissions.
India’s reliance on coal has continued despite its push for renewables and green and clean energy resources. India’s current installed capacity in MW is pegged at 400000 MW, 51% of which comes from coal, 30% from renewables, 6% from gas, and 2% each from nuclear and lignite. Though the country has been able to lower its dependence on coal over time, 51% of its total installed capacity is still considered high by any standards. It may be noted that India imports quality coal from Indonesia and Australia while depleting coal availability domestically.
In addition, more than 450,000 people are directly and indirectly employed in coal and coal-related businesses and activities. In order to be able to wean itself fully off the coal, India would need to undertake massive up-skilling programs and find replacements for their jobs for just energy transition, including addressing its energy security given disruptions in supply chains and larger geopolitical issues in Asia.
Domestic policies, especially National Electric Policy (2022-2027), reviewed every five years, have made the provisions of phasing out coal plants beyond 25 years of their existence and not pursuing fresh proposals to set up coal plants beyond what’s already planned through policies and mechanisms. India’s further growing nuclear and natural gas energy portfolios are now considered green energy by the EU and others through their parliaments.
However, concerns have been raised and shared on India’s overreliance on coal, a sticky point that continues to be contested both within domestic boundaries and internationally. The matter concerning India’s overindulgence in coal and fossil fuel sources falls between the nation’s need for energy security and economic growth versus agencies’ and activists’ views around phasing out the coal and fossil fuel assets. This debate would take time to settle, especially when COP 26, Glasgow communiqué, mentions its negotiated stance around coal to be ‘phased down’ and not ‘phased out.’
But reliance on coal power continues to drag India’s transition to clean energy ambitions. The government is pushing for increased domestic coal production and likely plan to build substantial new coal power capacities between 2027 and 2032 under the latest electricity plan. India also wants to increase its Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) imports to meet its energy security and national development goals.
Our analysis shows that with current compulsions of just transition, energy security, and pursuant policies, India will over-achieve its NDC targets to set a more robust target. Given the criticality of variables in pursuing India’s clean energy transition without sacrificing its economic development, it has made significant progress. Still, it needs to do much more to adequately address the challenge of carbon emissions as a responsible nation.
COP 28 will also independently determine India’s progress and performance on the containment of carbon emissions through global stocktaking.
By India Country Manager Pooran Chandra Pandey