In India, the COVID-19 lockdowns briefly shifted the power mix to renewables, but the industry at large now seeks solutions to a lasting net-zero future. A glimpse of what the energy industry might look like in the future was witnessed when COVID-19 lockdown measures resulted in the share of renewables used in the energy mix started soaring because of depressed electricity demand and running of Solar PV and Wind power plants combined with lower tariffs. Moreover, the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic presents an opportunity to build back better. Certainly, there will be headwinds in the short term, but renewables have proven to be resilient and are well equipped to seize the opportunity and face the challenges ahead.
India’s renewable energy (RE) based power generation capacity has increased over 5 times since 2010, taking the cumulative installed capacity to ~90.39 GW (as of November 2020). Wind and solar photovoltaic (PV) constitute ~38 GW and ~37 GW of installed power generation capacity respectively in the current scenario. Together they dominate the overall RE based power generation capacity mix with over 80% contribution. The International Energy Agency (IEA), in its latest renewables market update (2020), forecasts India to be the largest contributor to the renewables upswing in 2021, with the country’s annual additions almost doubling from 2020. Rapid fall in the cost of power purchases from Solar PV and Wind generators is the key driver for clean energy transition across the globe including India. Increasing participation from overseas players backed by foreign institutional investors, sovereign wealth funds and multinational integrated power utilities has enabled competitive and efficient discovery of tariffs in the renewable energy auctions. Other key policy drivers include priority access to grid and waiver of inter-state transmission charges for Solar and Wind power generators, renewable purchase obligations etc. Moreover, India is witnessing a gradual transition from Solar PV and Wind power auctions towards hybrid RE auctions by blending solar PV, wind, storage and stranded thermal power generation assets. Round-the-clock (RTC) supply of hybrid renewable power is increasingly adopted in RE auctions to help DISCOMs manage the intermittency / variability, otherwise associated with Solar PV or wind power projects. Going forward, we will see distributed/decentralised renewable energy capacity addition gaining more traction in India. Rooftop solar and solarization of rural agriculture feeders is proving to be a promising solution for DISCOMs to optimise power procurement costs and the capital expenditure towards T&D infrastructure upgradation.