Views of Bhupinder Singh Bhalla: “We will be bidding out 50 GW of capacity every year”

At a recent press conference on the performance of the power sector over the past nine years and India’s progress towards energy transition during this period, Bhupinder Singh Bhalla, Secretary, Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, spoke about the various policy reforms introduced by the government in the renewable energy space, progress on various government schemes and programmes as well as the future outlook for renewables in India. Edited excerpts…

The renewable energy sector has gro­wn significantly, from about 76 GW in 2014 to 172 GW at present. We have added about 100 GW of capacity in the past nine years. The solar capacity has increased exponentially from 2.8 GW in 2014 to 67 GW, and the wind capacity has almost doubled. We have another 128 GW of renewable capacity at various stages of implementation and tendering. Overall, we are at about 300 GW of ca­pa­city. We have a target of 500 GW, including 292 GW of solar, 100 GW of wind and 78 GW of hydro (large and small hydro) and 15 GW of bioenergy. The remaining capacity will come from nuclear energy. We have a task ahead of us to increase solar capacity four times from the current installed capacity of 67 GW to 300 GW, and more than double wind energy capacity from 43 GW to ab­out 100 GW. As far as the percentage of renewable energy in the energy mix is concerned, we are at about 22.5 per cent. Our estimate is that by 2030 renewable energy will ac­c­ount for a 43 per cent share in the energy mix. Notably, we have achieved our Na­tio­nally Determin­ed Co­ntribu­tio­ns obli­ga­tion nine years ahead of the target. The task ahead of us now is to achie­ve 50 per cent renewable energy capacity by 2030 and net-zero by 2070.

As far as the manufacturing capacity is concerned, we have grown significantly over the past nine years. The solar module manufacturing capacity has increas­ed from 2.4 GW per annum in 2014 to 25 to 27 GW per annum at present. In fact, we have recently received an application for adding 7 GW of module manufacturing capacity. Backed by incentives, we expect the module manufacturing capa­city to reach about 100 GW per annum of capacity by 2030 or before. The solar cell manufacturing capacity has increa­sed from almost nil in 2014 to 6-7 GW per an­num at present. We expect it to ramp up significantly in the next couple of years. We will have 45-50 GW per annum of capacity by 2026, and 55 GW per annum by 2030. This is based on the capacity planned under the PLI sc­heme. How­ever, the industry is setting up additional plants over and above the capacity for which the incentives have been extended. In the wind turbine space, we are already self-sufficient with about 15 GW per annum of domestic manufacturing capacity. This is expected to grow to about 25 GW per annum by 2030.

The renewable energy tariffs have significantly decreased over the past many ye­ars. In 2010-11, the tariff used to be ab­out Rs 11 per unit, and in 2014-15 it was around Rs 6.17 per unit for solar and Rs 3.51 per unit for wind. At present, both solar and wind energy tariffs are below 3 per unit.

Policy reforms

A number of reform measures have been taken in the sector. We have introduced standard bidding guidelines for renewable energy projects that have evolved over the years. We are implementing RTC, hybrid, battery energy storage system and floating solar projects. These projects are being incentivised and implemented across the country. A new development is the introduction of a five-year bidding trajectory for renewable energy projects. We will be bidding out 50 GW of capacity every year. We ha­ve split the target between four renewable energy implementing agencies. Apart from this, our green energy markets are becoming a larger part of the ov­erall power market. Last year, the green transactions accounted for about 7 per cent of the total transactions and we expect this to grow significantly.

For offshore wind and green hydrogen, we have announced an interstate transmission system waiver for 25 years. This will be applicable to offshore wind projects that will come up till 2032 and to green hydrogen projects commissioned by 2030. We are also working with the states to formulate a renewable energy plan, taking into consideration the reso­urces that can be pooled to allow the ex­pansion of renewables. A uniform tariff po­oling for renewable energy was an­no­un­ced in December 2022 and we are working on a plan for its implementation, going forward.

Major schemes and programmes

PM-KUSUM is a significant and very important scheme of the government. Of the total targeted capacity of 30.8 GW under the scheme, we have already sanctioned 4,800 MW under Compone­nt A. We are also trying to provide low-cost financing for these projects. The scheme has gained significant traction under Co­m­ponents B and C as well. We have al­re­ady sanctioned 3.30 million pumps.

In the rooftop solar segment, although we did not achieve the 40 GW target, we are rapidly progressing towards it. Residential rooftop is gaining traction. We now have a national portal and are steadily receiving new applications. The subsidies are also automatically going to consumer accounts.

We have launched the PLI scheme for high efficiency solar PV with an outlay of Rs 240 billion. This will begin to show results in the next three years. With this, we will not only be self-sufficient in solar capacity but also in solar manufacturing, becoming an exporter to the world, which will be a significant achievement.

In the offshore wind energy segment, we have done a lot of groundwork in the past couple of years. It is a new sector for us as we have not yet implemented this in India. We have done extensive analysis off the coast of Tamil Nadu and Gujarat and the implementation will begin shortly.

The National Green Hydrogen Mission has a budget of Rs 200 billion including incentives of around Rs 170 billion. This will incentivise electrolyser manufacturing as well as green hydrogen pro­duction in the country. We are also wo­r­king on a demand aggregation mo­d­el in consultation with other mini­s­tries. Be­sides this, pilot projects are be­ing wor­ked out in consultation with th­ree other ministries. A research and de­velopment roadmap for green hydrog­en is also in progress. We have done significant work on standards and regulations and we will soon release the definition of green hydrogen.

The green energy corridors are being im­plemented in two phases, involving the development of 20,000 ckt km of tra­nsmission lines and 50,000 MVA of substation capacity. Phase-1 of the scheme will be completed this year and the tendering process for GEC-2 has already started at the state level.

Another significant step that the government took is for solar parks, especially the plug and play feature of the model. As la­nd availability increasingly becomes an issue, this framework will be crucial for advancing solar installations.