India Will Miss Its 2022 Solar Power Target: Report

  • India is set to miss its target of installing 100 GW of solar power by the end of 2022, per a new report.
  • The country will fall short by 27% – principally due to insufficient rooftop solar installations.
  • Reasons for this shortfall include restrictions on net-metering and power banking.
  • The report recommends short and long-term actions to help India meet its target soon.

Kochi: India promised to install 100 gigawatts of solar power by 2022. But the country will not be able to deliver on this climate pledge. According to a new report, India will miss this target by 27%, primarily due to insufficient rooftop solar installations in the country.

Switching from fossil fuels to renewable energy helps cut down on carbon emissions, and is vital in the fight to tackle climate change. Shifting to renewable energy plays a huge part in many countries’ climate pledges. The renewable energy sector, therefore, is growing rapidly.

According to a 2021 report by the International Energy Agency, renewables (such as solar, wind, hydropower, geothermal and some forms of biomass) are set to account for almost 95% of the increase in global power capacity through 2026, with solar photovoltaic alone providing more than half. According to the report, China, India, Europe and the US alone account for 80% of renewable capacity expansion worldwide.

Solar power plays a crucial part in India’s climate pledges as well. Of the 175 gigawatts (GW) of renewable energy that India promised to install by 2022 as part of the 2015 Paris Agreement, 100 GW were supposed to come from solar power alone. Utility-scale solar would contribute 60 GW of power, while the rest – 40 GW – would come from rooftop solar installations.

Installing 175 GW of renewable energy by 2022 “is really an immense and huge initiative of my government,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi had told The Guardian regarding the pledge.

In 2019, Modi went further: by 2022, India’s renewable energy capacity would be increased to “much beyond” 175 GW, he said. He also said renewable energy capacity would increase to 450 GW by 2030, reported Mongabay-India.

India will fall short

One part of that “huge initiative” appears to be failing. According to a report by JMK Research (a Gurgaon-based research and consulting firm) and the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA), India will fall well short of its 2022 solar power target: it will not be able to attain its target of 100 GW of installed solar capacity by December this year.

The report estimates that there will be a shortfall of 25 GW from the 40 GW rooftop solar target, and 1.8 GW from the 60 GW utility-scale solar target. This indicates the need for a concerted effort towards expanding rooftop solar, the report said.

That India’s rooftop solar sector is ailing comes as no surprise. While rooftop solar has significant potential in India, the sector has lagged behind due to many factors including a focus on mega solar power projects, according to Mongabay-India. Experts, including Vibhuti Garg, a co-author of the latest report, had called for a policy shift from centralised to decentralised rooftop solar projects, and recommended focusing on commercial and industrial rooftop solar to boost growth in the sector.

As of March 31, 2021, only 40% of the total installed solar capacity has been met, according to data on the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy’s website. As per the new report, as of December 2021, India’s cumulative installed solar capacity was 55 GW, which is around 55% of its 100 GW solar target. Grid-connected utility-scale projects contributed 77% to this, and the balance came from grid-connected rooftop solar (20%) and mini or micro off-grid projects (3%). This means that almost half of India’s 100 GW solar target has to be met by December 2022.

The report estimates that ~19 GW of solar capacity will be added over the coming months (15.8 GW from utility-scale and 3.5 GW from rooftop solar). But even with this capacity addition, about 27% of India’s 100-GW solar target would be unmet, said report co-author Jyoti Gulia, Founder of JMK Research, in a press release.

There are ways out

There are many reasons for this shortfall, the report said. These include regulatory roadblocks, net metering limits, unsigned power supply agreements, financing issues and restrictions on power banking. (Banking allows producers of renewable energy to deposit surplus power into the grid and withdraw it later when needed.)

Rejection of and delays in open access (OA) approval grants and the unpredictability of future OA charges are a concern too, the report said. Open access permits big consumers to buy power from solar plants in the open market at competitive prices. This helps power distribution companies sell their power at profitable rates too, encouraging the use and distribution of solar power.

The report also recommended several short and long term actions that could help India meet its solar targets at the earliest. Over the short term, applying uniform power policies nationally for at least the next five years would help, as would implementing consistent regulations for net metering and banking facilities. Revoking restrictions on power banking at least until rooftop and OA state targets have been achieved would be crucial too, the report said.

Over the long term, moves such as implementing capital subsidies for Battery Energy Storage Systems and even privatizing distribution companies could help India meet its solar targets soon.

“Central and state government policies and regulations must be aligned to support the solar sector overall, and especially the ailing rooftop and open access segments of the market,” said co-author Akhil Thayillam, a senior research associate at JMK Research, in a press release.