Renewable Energy is energy derived from resources that are regenerative or for all practical purposes non-depleting beside environmentally benign. By these qualities, renewable energy sources are fundamentally different from fossil fuels. Mankind’s traditional uses of wind, water, and solar energy are widespread in developed and developing countries; but the mass production of energy using renewable energy sources has become more commonplace recently, reflecting the major threats of climate change, depletion of fossil fuels, and the environmental, social and political risks of fossil fuels. Consequently, many countries promote renewable energies through tax incentives and subsidies. The role of new and renewable energy has been assuming increasing significance in recent times with the growing concern for the country’s energy security.
During the last two and half decades there had been a vigorous pursuit of activities relating to the development, trial and induction of a variety of renewable energy technologies for use in different sectors.
The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy has been facilitating the implementation of broad-spectrum programmes covering more or less the entire range of new and renewable energy. These programmes broadly seek to supplement conventional fossil-fuel-based power through harnessing wind, small hydro and bio power; reach renewable energy to remote rural areas for lighting, cooking and motive power; use renewable energy in urban, industrial and commercial applications; and develop alternate fuels and applications for stationary, portable and transport uses apart from supporting research, design and development of new and renewable energy technologies, products and services.
Commercialization of the renewable energy technologies started in 1993. The States were pursued to offer suitable sites and announce policies for private sector participation. Grid interactive renewable power projects are essentially private investment driven and almost all the renewable power capacity addition is coming through this route.
Eventually, since renewable power would need to compete with conventional electricity, the challenge is to align it in terms of reliability, quality and cost. Accordingly, the focus is towards reducing the capital cost of projects and increasing their capacity factors, with the eventual aim of reducing the unit cost of renewable power generation.
The Wind power programme in India was initiated towards the end of the Sixth Plan, in 1983-84. A market-oriented strategy was adopted from inception, which has led to the successful commercial development of the programme. The fiscal incentives that were already available, have also played an important role in commercial development. The total installed capacity in India comprises of commercial projects and demonstration projects aggregating to about 7300 MW. In 2005, the country became the 4th largest producer of wind power in the world.
The sun is an inexhaustible source of energy to mankind. India is ideally located for utilization of the radiant energy of the sun. The country receives solar energy in most of its parts and throughout the year except rainy days. The daily average incident energy varying between 4 and 7 KWh per sq.m. depending on the location. Solar energy can be used through thermal as well as photovoltaic routes. Solar energy utilization in India has been growing steadily over the last two and half decades. A wide variety of technologies have been developed.
The Ministry is implementing a wide range of programmes to make these systems and devices available to the common man. As a result, over one million solar PV lighting systems, solar water heating systems equivalent to a collector area of around 2 million square metres, 7000 solar pumps, 600 000 solar cookers stand installed in the country. These contribute to saving huge quantity of conventional electricity daily in the country.
Hydro power is perhaps the oldest renewable energy technique known to mankind for mechanical energy version as well as electricity generation. India is amongst the countries including China where water wheels were first developed. India has a century old history of hydro power and the beginning was from small hydro. In India, hydro projects up to 25 MW station capacity have been categorized as Small Hydro Power (SHP) projects. India has an estimated potential of about 15 000 MW with perennial flow rivers, streams, and a large irrigation canal network. Mapping of potential sites/locations on a GIS platform is receiving utmost attention.
Biomass has been one of the main energy sources for the mankind ever since the dawn of civilization, Every year million tons of agriculture and forest residues are generated. These are either wasted or burnt inefficiently in their loose form causing air pollution. These wastes can provide a renewable source of energy. The sugar industry has traditionally used bagasse-based cogeneration for achieving self-sufficiency in steam and electricity as well as economy in operations. Therefore, the Ministry has been promoting new technologies for sugar mills to operate at higher levels of energy efficiency and generate more electricity than what they require though bagasse based cogeneration projects. The Ministry is also giving a thrust to Biomass Gasifiers. A large number of installations for providing power to small-scale industries and for electrification of a village or group of villages have been undertaken as also oil replacement initiatives through thermal applications.
The Remote Village Electrification Programme has been aligned with Rajiv Gandhi Gramin Vidyutikaran Yojana and would now be extended only to those villages/hamlets not likely to receive grid-connectivity under the said Yojana. During 2006-07, the Rural Electrification Policy, which has laid down the broad framework for rural electrification in the country, was notified. Accordingly, provision of SPV home-lighting systems under RVEP is required to be treated as an interim solution. Supply of electricity is being made in far-flung villages through solar, biomass gasifier and small hydro power. About 2240 remote villages have been provided with electricity through renewable energy under the programme. The Ministry has also taken up Village Energy Security Test Projects which aim at meeting energy requirements of cooking, lighting and motive power and are being undertaken in remote villages and hamlets that are not likely to receive grid connectivity.
The most important and popular technology developed indigenously is the “biogas plant” for processing of cattle dung. It serves the purpose of meeting fuel as well as the manure requirement from the same quantity of cattle dung available in the rural households and institutions. Five models of biogas plants have been developed under the National Programme of Biogas Development. India’s position in the biogas development is number two in the world.
Constant efforts are being made for the development of research in new and renewable energy sources such as hydrogen energy, fuel cell, geothermal energy, ocean, tidal energy, synthetic fuel and bio-fuel. The National Hydrogen Energy Board has approved and decided to implement the hydrogen energy road map in the 11th Five Year Plan.
*Inputs from Ministry of New and Renewable Energy