India Ranks Third in Renewable Energy Installations in 2021 – But Needs to Do More

Kochi: India ranked third in renewable energy installations in 2021, after China and Russia, according to a global status report released on Wednesday, June 15. India installed 15.4 gigawatts (GW) of renewable energy projects in 2021, the report titled Renewable Energy 2022: Global Status Report published by REN21 (Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century) said.

It ranked fourth in total solar installations (60.4 GW) for the year – overtaking Germany (59.2 GW) for the first time.

The world, overall, added around 3,146 GW of total installed renewable power capacity in 2021 – a spike of 11% from the previous year. Despite this, the share of renewables in global energy use stagnated in 2021.

Renewable energy capacity is nowhere close to the targets that need to be met for global climate goals in this decade, as per the report. India, too, will have to do much more to reach its renewable energy target, said energy scientists.

As a means of achieving its climate goals, India has announced a target of 500 GW of renewable energy by 2030 through sources such as solar photovoltaic (PV) energy, wind and hydropower. Currently, projects worth almost $197 billion are underway in India, said Union minister of state for new and renewable energy, Bhagwant Khuba, on May 22.

REN21, a global collective of renewable energy actors, including scientists, governments such as India’s, non-governmental organisations and members of the industry, collated data on renewable energy installations, markets, investments and policies in countries across the world. More than 650 experts have contributed to the outcome of the report.

According to the report, despite the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, renewables saw a year of record growth in both investment and installation. Globally, renewable power capacity additions grew 17% in 2021, amounting to more than 314 GW of added capacity.

Overall, the total installed renewable power capacity globally grew 11% to reach around 3,146 GW. This included hydropower – with new capacity additions of at least 26 GW, and solar PV adding 175 GW of new capacity – a record high – in 2021 to reach a cumulative total of around 942 GW.

India also ranked third in total installed capacity of wind power at 40.1 GW – after China, the United States and Germany, and for developing hydropower projects – followed by China and Canada.

As per the report, India was also the second largest market in Asia for new solar PV capacity. Globally, India’s solar PV capacity addition ranked third with 13 GW of additions in 2021. It ranked fourth in the total solar installations at 60.4 GW, overtaking Germany (59.2 GW) for the first time.

India progressed in terms of investment in renewables, and policy too. The total new investment in renewables for the year 2021 increased by 70% to $11.3 billion. India also extended its national Rs 18,100 crore ($24.3 billion) solar production programme, which provides incentives to domestic and international companies for setting up battery manufacturing plants. In 2021, after India increased its cap on solar PV installations under its net metering scheme, the country’s rooftop PV market hit a record high, the report said.

India looks set to achieve its goals on greenhouse gas emissions and non-fossil fuel sources. (Photo by: Reuters)

Still not enough

But despite all this, the overall share of renewables in the world’s final energy consumption has stagnated – rising only minimally from 10.6% in 2009 to 11.7% in 2019 – and the global shift of the energy system to renewables is not happening, the report found. In fact, the renewable energy capacities achieved so far come nowhere close to the targets required to keep the world on track to reach net zero emissions by 2050.

The strong economic rebound in 2021 contributed to a 4% rise in final energy consumption, offsetting the growth of renewables. Progress across different sectors (such as the use of green energy in the transport industry) has also been uneven. As per the report, the invasion of Ukraine added to the energy crisis that the world saw in 2021. Governments, however, responded by increasing fossil fuel production and subsidies. Fossil fuels were burnt to meet the increase in energy demand worldwide (by around 4% in 2021) and this has caused a record surge in carbon dioxide emissions (up by 6%, adding more than two billion tonnes).

“Although many more governments committed to net zero greenhouse gas emissions in 2021, the reality is that, in response to the energy crisis, most countries have gone back to seeking out new sources of fossil fuels and to burning even more coal, oil and natural gas,” said Rana Adib, REN21 executive director, in a press release.

We’ll need more

While India added record-high capacities of renewable energy in 2021, it will take more for the country to reach its target of 500 GW by 2030, said Neeraj Kuldeep, Programme Lead, Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW). India will have to increase the annual capacity deployments by a factor of three; one of the significant challenges is to integrate such a huge capacity in the grid, he told The Wire.

“Much of the installations so far have been in only five states where RE [renewable energy] already holds more than 40% share which sometimes even reaches 60-70% mark during the peak wind season. Adding more capacity within RE-rich states will require significant investment in inter-state transmission infrastructure and Discom buy-in from non-RE states for power off-take.”

The government has introduced a slew of initiatives such as the Performance Linked Incentive (PLI) Scheme, Green Open Access Rules, Green Term Ahead and Day-Ahead Market etc. that will accelerate RE deployment, Kuldeep added. On June 6, for example, India notified the Green Open Access Rules which facilitates the generation, purchase and consumption of green energy including that produced by waste-to-energy plants. Among the many things the Rules enable is open access, which permits such green energy to be accessed by more consumers, big and small.

“However, it is too soon to conclude whether these will deliver on their objectives and help India reach the 500GW goal,” Kuldeep said.

Renewable energy projects in India also come with their share of social and environmental impacts. Projects such as the solar power project in Karnataka’s Pavagada have come under scrutiny for the disruptions in traditional livelihoods and depletion in biodiversity they have caused.