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[Answered] Discuss the role of renewable energy resources in order to maintain environmental sustainability with special reference to India.

Demand of the question Introduction. Contextual introduction. Body. Discuss the role of renewable energy resources in sustainable development. Mention India’s efforts towards renewable energy. Conclusion. Way forward.

Renewable energy (RE) sources are resources which can be used to produce energy again and again e.g. solar energy, wind energy etc. India has taken the lead in the renewable energy sector in the world. As of 2019, 35% of India’s installed electricity generation capacity is from renewable sources, generating 17% of total electricity in the country. The country is aiming to expand its renewable energy capacities.

Role of renewable energy resources in sustainable development:

  1. Sustainable development: Economic development has been strongly correlated with increasing energy use and growth of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Renewable energy can help by contributing to sustainable development by reducing energy imports.
  2. Benefit poor: In addition, renewable energy offers the opportunity to improve access to modern energy services for the poorest members of society, which is crucial for the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal. For instance, by installing the solar panels, the poor can access electricity most of the time in the day.
  3. Energy access: In India many areas still lack access to electricity. And most of the rural areas lack 24 hour electricity. If solar and wind plants are distributed, there can be minimal electricity generation interruption because weather disruptions in one location cannot be the same in other locations.
  4. Climate change mitigation: RE technologies provide important benefits compared to fossil fuels, in particular regarding GHG emissions. Renewable energy is a clean source of energy, meaning, it has low or zero carbon and greenhouse emission.
  5. Employment: Development of renewable sources lead to creation of employment opportunities and actively promoting structural change in the economy. Solar, wind electricity has potential to produce over millions of jobs.
  6. Reduce pollution: RE technologies also offer benefits with respect to air pollution and health. Non combustion based RE power generation technologies have the potential to significantly reduce local and regional air pollution and lower associated health impacts compared to fossil-based power generation.
  7. Energy security: Sources of energy like fossil fuels (oil, gas, and coal) are considered limited resources and there is a strong possibility that they will run out in the future. Renewable resources do not deplete over a lifetime and there is zero possibility that they will run out (sustainable source of energy). For example solar and wind energy.

India’s efforts towards renewable energy:

  1. Ministry of New and Renewable Energy: India is the first country in the world to set up a ministry of non-conventional energy resources (now Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE). Its public sector undertakings the Solar Energy Corporation of India is responsible for the development of the solar energy industry in India.
  2. Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC): In the Paris Agreement India has committed to an Intended Nationally Determined Contributions target of achieving 40% of its total electricity generation from non-fossil fuel sources by 2030. 175 GW interim target is 100 GW of solar, 60 GW of wind, 10 GW of biomass and 5 GW of small hydro.
  3. Central Electricity Authority’s strategy blueprint: The country is aiming for an ambitious target of 57% of the total electricity capacity from renewable sources by 2027 in Central Electricity Authority’s strategy blueprint. According to 2027 blueprint, India aims to have 275 GW from renewable energy, 72 GW of hydroelectricity, 15 GW of nuclear energy and nearly 100 GW from other zero emission sources.
  4. Commission for Additional Sources of Energy: Realizing the need for concentrated efforts in this sector, The Government of India established a Commission for Additional Sources of Energy (CASE) in the Department of Science and Technology. The mandate of CASE is to promote research and development activities in the field of renewable energy.
  5. Solar mini-grids project: As part of the government’s initiatives to take renewable energy to remote places, Union Minister for New and Renewable Energy, launched the solar mini-grids project. The Solar Mini Grids project has an objective of taking advantage of the available solutions to promote universal energy access by 2025 and reduce electricity costs and tariffs.

Way forward:

  1. Infrastructure: To support growing renewable energy, the expansion of transmission infrastructure, for both intra and inter-state should be strengthened.
  2. Domestic content requirement: It should be carefully assessed to ensure that domestic content requirement does not hinder the growth of solar capacity.
  3. R&D: Investment in R&D programmes, as well as human resource development is necessary in addition to local content requirements
  4. Institutional strengthening: Strengthen the institutional structure to facilitate effective flow of central financial assistance. It is also important to strengthen institutional structure to monitor implementation of Government policies and programmes.
  5. Capacity building: The government also needs to ensure that India’s distribution companies have the capacity to continue to purchase renewable electricity, especially if bid prices level off or rise.

Renewable energy technologies are still significantly new to the market. They still lack the much needed efficiency. India must strengthen regional structures so that states can efficiently promote renewable energy usage.

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