Interview with K.P. Rudrappaiah: “India will witness decades of immense growth in the renewable energy sector”

K.P. Rudrappaiah, managing director, Karnataka Renewable Energy Development Limited (KREDL)

Karnataka, an early mover in India’s clean energy journey, remains a leading investment destination for renewable power projects. With its enabling policy interventions, the state has not only been successful in implementing large utility-scale solar and wind projects but has also witnessed huge uptake of renewables in the commercial and industrial (C&I) space. State agencies are now focused on promoting hybrids, round-the-clock (RTC) renewables and green hydrogen projects. Against this backdrop, K.P. Rudrappaiah, managing director, Karnataka Renewable Energy Development Limited (KREDL), discussed the state’s achievements, initiatives and future plans in the renewable energy development space…

With more than 16 GW of installed renewable power capacity, what are Karnataka’s future re­­ne­wable en­er­gy targets? What are the re­ce­nt key achievements of the state?

Karnataka has always been a front runner in the development of renewable energy, with fav­ourable policies driving the growth of renewable energy projects in the state. It was the first among the southern states to notify the renewable energy policy aimed at fostering organised growth of clean energy within the state. In line with the Ministry of Power’s (MoP) Green Energy Open Access Regu­lations, 2022, Karnataka was the first state to issue its green open access regulations. The current open access regulations prioritise green energy open access over normal open access applications. The Karnataka government has developed a holistic “Karnataka Renewable En­ergy Policy 2022-27” programme, wi­th the objective of achieving energy security primarily from renewable energy sources. With this, we aim to incorporate another 10 GW of renewable energy within the next five years. KREDL constantly collaborates with key stakeholders in the renewable energy sector to nurture and nourish the state’s clean energy ecosystem.

Since Karnataka has already achieved its RPO percentages, what are the top priority areas for the state now? 

Karnataka is one of the few states that has surpassed its 2022 renewable energy targets (14.82 GW), with installed capacity reaching 21.4 GW as of August 31, 2023. Out of this, 3.6 GW is based on hy­dropower and the remaining 17.8 GW is from solar, wind and other renewable energy sources.

The Indian government recently updated its Nationally Determined Contribu­tions by committing to achieve 50 per cent installed capacity from renewables by 2030, a crucial step towards climate ch­ange at the national level. However, Kar­nataka has already achieved a 60 per cent renewable energy share in its installed capacity, which is a significant accomplishment for the state and indicates a strong focus on reducing carbon emissions and transitioning towards cleaner energy. Karnataka electricity su­p­ply companies have urged state agencies to plan renewable energy capacity additions in order to meet renewable pur­chase obligation (RPO) targets. Com­pa­nies like Power Company of Karna­ta­ka Limited and KREDL play a pivotal ro­le in aggregating such renewable energy capacity and facilitating its development in the state.

What are the key steps being taken to promote distributed renewables, including solar and bioenergy, in the state? 

A multi-faceted proactive approach is being ta­k­en to promote renewables in the state, which are:

  • GW-scale renewable energy parks: Karna­ta­ka’s development of GW-scale renewable en­er­gy parks under the Ul­tra Mega Renewable Energy Power Par­ks (UMREPP) scheme is a significant step in harnessing rene­wable en­­ergy sources. This includes de­ve­lo­ping a 500 MW solar park in Bidar dis­trict and 5 GW of hybrid renewable energy parks across eight districts under the public-private partnership (PPP) model.
  • Promotion of PSPs: The Karnataka government is preparing guidelines for developing 3,000 MW of pumped storage project (PSP) capacity – with 2,000 MW of PSPs to be developed by the state genco, Karna­taka Power Corpo­ration Limited, and an additional 1,000 MW of PSPs under the PPP model.
  • Green hydrogen: Karnataka’s commitment to develop a green hydrogen policy in line with the national hydrogen po­licy is significant. Green hydrogen will play a crucial role in decarbonising various sectors, including industry and transportation. A dema­nd aggregation ex­ercise to award up to 1 million tonnes per annum of green ammonia manufacturing facility is under way.
  • Waste-to-energy project: The implementation of an 11.5 MW waste-to-en­ergy project at Bidadi, Ramanagar, de­mo­nstrates Karnataka’s focus on uti­lising waste as a resource and generating cl­ean energy. This addresses was­te management issues and contributes to re­newable energy generation.

These initiatives reflect the state’s commitment to a sustainable, clean energy future, aligning with India’s broader go­als of achieving a significant share of renewable energy in its energy mix and reducing carbon emissions.

“The state has formulated a conducive and transparent policy framework, and it is up to C&I consumers to seize the opportunity.”

With more C&I consumers opting for renewables and RTC power, what steps have been taken by the state to address the challenges related to open access projects?

Karnataka has taken proactive steps to encourage the development of solar projects by C&I entities by adopting the MoP’s Green Open Access Rules, 2022. This will allow consumers with a connected load of 1 MW and above to easily procure renewable energy. Karnataka’s decision to adopt these rules, extending open access to consumers with a connected load of 100 kW and above, demo­nstrates the state’s commitment to promoting renewable energy adoption across various scales. The state also pra­ctises the timely promulgation of regulations and tariff orders related to enab­ling open access, providing clarity for C&I consumers. The current renewable energy policy also advocates for the development of hybrid renewable energy projects with battery energy storage systems to facilitate RTC power. The state has formulated a conducive and transparent policy framework, and it is up to the C&I consumers to seize this opportunity.

There have been various MoUs signed for large-scale green hydrogen projects in the state. What is your take on the domestic de­ma­nd and export potential of green hydrogen that will be produced through these projects?

During recent investor summits, Karna­ta­ka attracted Rs 2.3 trillion worth of investments in the areas of renewable energy, gre­en hydrogen and ammonia. This re­fle­cts in­vestor confidence in Karna­taka’s po­tential as a hub for sustainable energy projects.

The key factors driving investment in the state are its competitiveness and economical cost of green power, access to water resources, proximity to international ports, presence of electrolyser ma­nufacturers, and a well-established re­newable energy project development ecosystem. These elements create a conducive environment for developing green hydrogen and ammonia projects.

The state is in the process of developing a green hydrogen policy, which will detail its ambitions in this domain.

What is your overall perspective on India’s re­newable energy journey and where is the sector headed?

India’s position as the third-largest electricity producer in the world, with an installed capacity of 415 GW, and its fourth rank glo­bally in renewable energy installed capacity highlight the country’s significant role in the global energy landscape. India is committed to achieving 50 per cent of installed power generation capacity from renewable energy sources by 2030. It has also taken an important step towards climate change by committing to reduce the emission in­ten­sity of its GDP by 45 per cent by 2030, relative to the 2005 level. India’s commitment to reach net-zero emissions by 2070 and to meet 50 per cent of its electricity re­quirements from renewable energy sour­ces by 2030 is a significant development in the global fight against climate change.

India is doing its best to decarbonise the power sector. The central and state governments have implemented policies and programmes, and created a favou­rable environment to attract and ramp up renewable energy investments in the country. These initiatives include the PM-KUSUM scheme, rooftop solar schemes, central PSU schemes, the UMREPP scheme for developing renewable energy and solar parks, renewable energy hybrid policies, wind repowering policies, production-linked incentive (PLI) schemes to enhance do­mestic PV module and battery manufacturing ca­pabilities, the National Green Hydro­gen Mission, offshore wind policies, intro­ducing a green day-ahead market, and easing the terms for open access to procure green energy. State governments are also contributing to the effort by formulating conducive policies, en­su­ring ease of doing business for renewable en­­ergy projects, providing waivers of in­terstate transmission system char­ges, and relaxing wheeling charges and ad­ditional surcharges. These initiatives are critical enablers for expediting the uptake of renewables.

India also aims to achieve self-reliance by investing in the manufacturing of renewable energy components. The PLI sche­me is a significant indicator of this effort. Thus, with critical levers establis­hed to foster accelerated investments in renewables, India will witness deca­des of immense growth in the renewable energy sector.