Green Zone

Renewables poised to occupy a commanding role

Siddharth Gangal, CEO, The Solar Labs

“The Solar Labs aims to develop the finest solar system design software, supporting the Indian solar industry in executing optimised solar projects maximising for energy yield”

Siddharth Gangal, CEO, The Solar Labs, staunchly believes that with powerful government institutions on its side, renewable energy has a bright future in India.

India can solely rely on renewable energy to meet its future electricity needs
India does not have the luxury of industrialising at the expense of the environment and our planet, the way the West did a century earlier. While unfettered use of fossil fuel energy sources may create an abundance of jobs in the short term, its contribution to global warming will create existential threats to India’s economy and population’s wellbeing in the decades to come. An economy that can create jobs and prosperity for all Indians in the close and distant future is indeed within reach through the use of alternative renewable energy sources. The Indian government recognises this fact and is making strides in creating a renewable energy friendly environment. Despite initial skepticism, the government signed onto the historic 193-country Paris Climate Accord, pledging to increase renewables’ share of India’s total electricity generation to 40 per cent by 2030.

Black out, green in
The government is turning its back on coal and embracing green sources such as solar, with ambitious rooftop solar subsidies for residential and commercial use, aiming to sell only electric cars by 2030, and lowering coal production targets by 60 million tons. According to experts at the Energy Resources Institute, India no longer needs new coal power plants as existing plants are operating below 60 per cent capacity. The future electricity needs can be solely relied on renewable energy. In recognition of this fact, the government has cancelled or halted the construction of many new coal plants that are currently in the early planning stages. Thus, with powerful government institutions on its side, renewable energy has a bright future in India.

Cheap solar power = Universal electrification
Lack of access to electricity makes economic growth difficult by hindering entrepreneurship and productivity. India’s largely coal powered energy grid is starved of energy and suffers power shortages of roughly 20 hours a day in some regions; stunting development. Cheap solar power can move India closer to universal electrification quicker. Even in rural areas, disconnected from the power grid, solar is powering economic activity in ways coal and natural gas never will through zero-emission rooftop solar panels. Therefore, it is becoming clearer than ever that renewables are poised to occupy a commanding role in India’s electricity generation. However, with more investment, solar and other renewables can easily become the dominant driver of India’s economic growth by affording cheaper, safer and reliable power to Indians in the agricultural, manufacturing, corporate, and service sectors for decades to come.

SUPRABHA program making the right strides
As a distributed solar proponent, I believe the SUPRABHA program supported by World Bank is making the right strides towards unlocking solar rooftop growth in the country. This program is targeting the right areas that hinder rooftop solar growth: consumer awareness through means of demand aggregation, standardisation of processes and low cost financing from the World Bank.

The program supported MPUVNL in analysing power consumption load of 291 government colleges, 159 police establishments, municipal corporations and private entities and aggregating demand for them as per the category of the consumer. Tenders were then rolled out as per the category of consumer for bidding.

The Solar Lab contribution
Nearly 40 per cent of all new power capacity in India this year is solar. This statistic is music to the ears for all of us in the industry. And this number is only going to increase as solar continues to grow. At the core of all projects is a well-engineered design. At, The Solar Labs, we aim to develop the finest solar system design software supporting the Indian solar industry in executing optimised solar projects maximising for energy yield.

Vast potential in solar powered irrigation
Irrigation in India as of 2018 is almost entirely reliant on electric and diesel pumps. 70 per cent are run on grid electricity, 30 per cent on diesel and only 0.4 per cent are solar. With a vision to increase the solar pump growth, the Indian Government set ambitious targets for renewable energy addition and launched the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission. In 2014, the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) outlined the Solar Pumping Programme for irrigation and drinking water to promote the adoption of solar pumps.

The number of solar pumps in India is increasing, with about 130,000 pumps installed since 2014 when the scheme started, though progress is well below the goals of the subsidy programme. This number is still miniscule out of a total estimated 30 million irrigation pumps at work in the country.

Several studies conclude that solar pumps are better for farmers than diesel pumps from a lifetime perspective due to a far lower operating cost, which opens up this market to innovations such as water-as-a-service similar to the solar power-as-a-service (RESCO) models.

2022 is approaching and much is left to be done
We believe two important driving forces for solar will be access and awareness. Currently, only medium to large industries are subjected to PPAs. PPAs, loans and other innovative means of financing, reaching homes and SMEs will be crucial in making solar more inclusive. Another important factor is awareness. Awareness among the general public about the benefits of solar power is lacking. Awareness campaigns should be aimed at educating the households about the available subsidies, and information on how much solar can be installed and their lifetime savings.

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