By Shalvi Singh, WBNUJS, Kolkata.
The diplomatic relations between India and Belgium were established in 1948. Of late, Belgium has acknowledged the importance of India’s global role in economic spheres. In the past, both the countries had co-operated in the field of trade, investment and education. The Union Cabinet on 5th November 2015, approved a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between Indian and Belgium government authorities at the federal and regional level on energy. The objective of this MoU is “to encourage and promote technical bilateral cooperation on new and renewable energy issues on the basis of mutual benefit, equality and reciprocity.” Both the countries would focus on the development of renewable energy technologies in the field of solar energy, wind energy, biomass, geothermal energy and marine energy. This MoU would help in strengthening bilateral cooperations between the two countries. It would also aid Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the renewable energy sector by bringing in more and more sophisticated technology in India.
NEED FOR RENEWABLE ENERGY
India imports 80% of its crude oil and 18% of its natural gas requirements. Rapid economic expansion makes India one of the world’s fastest growing energy markets. It is expected that, by 2035, India would become the second largest contributor to the increase in global energy demand, thereby accounting for 18% of the rise in global energy consumption. An ever-growing demand for energy makes it important for India to explore alternative sources of energy apart from conventional sources. At present, around 60% of India’s power generation capacity is based on coal. Furthermore, net coal import dependency has risen from a negligible percentage in 1990 to nearly 23% in 2014. This, in addition to India’s increasing dependence on imported oil, is leading to imports of around 28% of India’s total energy needs which, in turn, puts a burden on the exchequer. Also, even though fossil fuels are the biggest energy source, burning them releases harmful greenhouse gases which contribute to global warming. Thus, considering the financial and environmental aspects of using conventional energy sources, reliance on renewable energy sources seems a viable option.
RENEWABLE ENERGY POTENTIAL
Renewable energy has huge potential to provide solutions for the increasing energy crisis in the country. There is high potential for generation of renewable energy from various sources- wind, solar, biomass, small hydro and cogeneration bagasse. The total potential for renewable power generation in the country as on 31st March 2014, is estimated to be 1,47,615 MW. This includes wind power potential of 1,02,772 MW (69.6%), Small-Hydro Power (SHP) potential of 19,749 MW (13.38%), biomass power potential of 17,538 MW (11.88%) and 5000 MW (3.39%) from bagasse-based cogeneration in sugar mills. India has an estimated energy potential of about 900 GW from commercially exploitable sources viz. solar power, wind, small hydro and bio energy, assuming that 3% wasteland is made available. The total power capacity of renewable energy in the country is 37,000 MW. This accounts for 15% of the total power capacity in the country. Various companies have also come up to provide help in producing energy using renewable sources. The state-run thermal power producer, National Thermal Power Corporation Ltd. (NTPC), has agreed to set up 10,000 MW of renewable energy in the next five years. In the private sector, the US-based SunEdison Inc. has committed to produce 15,200 MW of energy while ReNew Power Ventures Pvt. Ltd. has promised to produce 11,500 MW.
The Indian government has committed to reduce greenhouse gases emissions intensity (the ratio between gross emissions and a country’s GDP at a particular point in time) by 33-35% of its 2005 levels by 2030. To achieve this target, India will have to ensure that about 40% of its electricity must come from non-fossil fuel sources. Experts within the government calculate that 3,00,000 to 3,50,000 MW of renewable energy would have to be produced to meet this target. The government has submitted these numbers to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change as its targets [technically called the Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC)] for the global Paris agreement. In addition to this, India is aiming to add 1,75,000 MW of capacity from clean energy sources by 2022 in which 60% of energy would come from solar energy, 30% from wind and the remaining 10% from biomass and small hydro. But, there is also a degree of scepticism about the targets for renewable energy generation. The Union Ministry of New & Renewable Energy (MNRE) gauges the annual growth of solar power at 15,000 MW. According to Shreya Jai, currently, on an average, the country is adding 1,000 MW of solar power annually. At this rate, the target of generating 1,00,000 MW of energy in six years from renewable sources looks far fetched.
MEASURES TO BE TAKEN
There is no denying the fact that the government has taken several commendable steps towards improving infrastructure and power reliability. The establishment of the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (JNNSM) in the year 2010 was one such step. The present aim of JNNSM is to produce 20,000 MW of energy by 2022. However, this aim is totally inadequate, as 20,000 MW only constitutes 10% of the country’s solar energy . In order to tap the potential of solar energy of the country, the cooperation between the central and state governments is required. A nationwide solar initiative to facilitate deployment of 100 million solar roofs and utility-scale generation installations within the next 20 years can be undertaken. Additionally, off-grid powered micro-grids can be developed to change the way communities generate and use energy thereby helping in reducing costs and increasing reliability. Using micro-grids would also take off a substantial amount of load from existing power grids which, in turn, would dispose of the need for building new or expanding existing transmission and distribution systems. Apart from these methods, international cooperation can also contribute in utilising the renewable energy sources in India.
Harnessing clean and renewable energy sources helps in meeting energy demands in a sustainable way. Considering the perishable nature of conventional energy sources, using renewable energy sources is a better alternative. Furthermore, since non-conventional energy technologies are more labour-intensive than mechanised fossil fuel technologies, by using renewable energy sources, opportunities for more domestic jobs can be created. As India is well endowed with good potential for both wind and solar generation, helpful government policy and regulatory regime would facilitate in achieving the energy generation targets which have been set out by the government. Involving more private sector companies and gaining cooperation from other countries would also be useful in achieving this target. Thus, this MoU on energy signed between India and Belgium would contribute in improving the creation and accessibility of energy, thereby bringing about a ‘Green Energy Revolution’ in India.