Explaining India’s 175 GW Renewables Target. The Big Change Making It Possible

Over the last few months, Mr. R.K Singh, the Minister of State (Independent Charge) of the Ministry of Power, Minister of State (Independent Charge) of the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy and Minister of State in the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, Government of India, has faced what must seem like a tiring question to him. He has been asked about the impact on India’s ambitious renewable energy targets for 2022, be it from the safeguard duty issues in 2018, issues linked to the GST disruption in 2017, or the plain cussedness of India’s famous bureaucracy, besides the vindictiveness of a key state government and payment delays by discoms. These are issues that have tangled up many renewable energy projects and firms too. Through it all, Mr Singh has remained steadfast in his message. The 175 GW target will be met, and met in time. The only ‘concession’ during this time that the MNRE has clarified on is that 2022 means December 2022.

So why the skepticism around the number? Why have industry analysts practically moved on to the period beyond 2022 already? It is important to close this issue formally. This is important, purely from the perspective of the solar and wind energy sectors, the two sectors that offer the highest potential, and have the most to lose in the new scheme of things.

Lets’ start with the original 175 GW target. The good news is, the target was always considered an ambitious ‘stretch’ target, seen more as a government challenging itself and industry to get there. Incredibly, when Prime Minister Modi first announced the target back in 2015, even he may not have imagined how quickly things would change on the ground to make this a real possibility, for a while at least. From a drop in equipment and material prices, to a strong global and private sector interest, it all came together to enable the country’s solar and wind sector actually dream about getting close. Till a combination of all of the challenges highlighted above laid them low. So why is the minister adamant that the 175 GW number will be met? Large Hydro. The original target was broken down by the MNRe itself as made of 100 GW Solar (with 40 GW of rooftop solar within that), 60 GW of wind energy, 10 GW of bio mass powered RE, and finally, small hydro, which was Hydro under 5 MW of capacity. Large hydro changes the picture completely.

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