Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s doubling of India’s renewable energy target by 2022 has made global headlines.
At the United Nations Climate Action Summit earlier this week, the Modi said India was now aiming to install 450 GW of renewable energy by 2022, more than double the previously promised 175 GW, The Hindu reported.
India had committed to creating 175 GW of green energy capacity under the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015. The country has about 77 GW of installed renewable energy capacity, more than double its capacity as of five years ago; projects in the pipeline will add about 60 GW in renewable energy capacity.
Addressing the UN Summit last Monday, Modi reiterated India’s seriousness about doing something concrete on the renewable energy front. He highlighted other promises, including India’s plans to spend about U.S. $50 billion “in the next few years” on the Jal Jeevan Mission to conserve water, harvest rainwater and develop water resources.
In addition, he announced two international initiatives, the first being a platform with Sweden and other countries, for governments and the private sector to work together to develop low0carbon pathways for industry, plus a second initiative called the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure. The U.K., Australia and island nations such as Fiji and the Maldives will be part of this coalition.
The Paris Climate Agreement is aimed at strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
Modi added that India had a capacity of 4 GW and that the country is well on its way of adding 100 GW of solar power by 2022.
India is the world’s third-largest source of greenhouse gases after China and the United States. Experts here point out that while the Indian prime minister’s aims are laudable, there still was a question mark on whether they could be practically achieved or not.
The country has moved on to renewable power over the last five years, banking on solar power to lead the transformation.
A recent report by the International Energy Agency on worldwide energy investment noted renewable power investments in India were much ahead of those for fossil fuel-based power for the third year in a row. Spending on solar energy had also surpassed spending on coal-fired power generation for the first time in 2018.
But India still relies heavily on coal-powered energy and a large chunk of investments are still being made in that sector. There are reports that coal demand in India will nearly double from 2020 to 2040.
The Hindu Business Line newspaper reported environmentalists and experts in India had mixed feelings about the prime minister’s target. The report quoted environmentalist Chandra Bhushan as saying Modi had given a “positive roadmap” for India. He said the promise of increasing renewable energy capacity to 450 GW showed Modi’s seriousness about reducing the carbon emissions.
Others quoted in the report, though, were not so sure, arguing that renewable energy was costly and achieving the target may not be easy to achieve. NGO Social Action for Forests and Environment founder Vikrant Tongad expressed support for the move, but expressed reservations about how money will be raised to actualize the goal.
Environmental activist Gaurav Bansal told the Hindu Business Line that instead of blindly setting a target of increasing renewable energy, the Indian government must look into the concern that it does not harm the environment.
Meanwhile, showing its determination to go ahead with the renewables plan, Modi remotely inaugurated the Gandhi Solar Park at the UN headquarters in New York, the Hindustan Times reported.
The inauguration came as part of the Gandhi@150 commemorative event marking the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. The 50 kilowatt hour (kWh) rooftop solar park was built at a cost of U.S. $1 million. Each panel is powered to reach the max of 50 kWh of generation power, which will take the park’s annual output up to 86,244 kWh.