Challenge of Renewable Energy

By Dr. Arvind Kumar

Sustainability and development go hand-in-hand. There is a dire need for the industry to increasingly adopt sustainable practices to safeguard ecological balance, which in turn will give greater dividends to companies in future. Companies, which have adopted substantial green practices now, could well become future leaders in this space. Energy conservation measures provide direct benefit to companies in term of cost saving.
In the wake of Kyoto protocol and rising pollution level in India, there is a raging debate over synergy between industrial development and sustainability. It’s not only the international pressure of cutting green house gases but also the sensitivity of younger generation towards green practices that can force companies to adopt sustainable methods.
Viewed in a broad spectrum, renewable energy sources like wind and solar power are the answers to India’s burgeoning energy needs. New energy sources throw enough opportunities for business which is engaged in manufacturing of equipment, development of components and also in servicing and consultancy space. The time has come for India to lower its reliance on fossil fuel to save on import cost.
Recent years have seen significant growth in renewable energy sector in India, even for electricity generation from renewable sources. The grid connected systems with installed capacities in the MW range indicate a growth of 96% for wind power, 26% in small hydro, 234% for biomass/co-generation power and 200% for solar photovoltaic power. Even for the decentralized systems, the growth for solar home lighting systems has been 300%, solar lanterns 99% and solar photovoltaic water pumps 196%. This is a phenomenal growth in the renewable energy sector mainly for applications that were considered to be supplied only through major electricity utilities.
Renewable energy systems are also being looked upon as a major application for electrification of 20,000 remote and unelectrified villages and hamlets and all households in such villages and hamlets by 2012. The need to increase the use of renewable energy sources for sustainable energy development was recognized in the country in the early 70s. A significant thrust has been given to the research, development and induction of renewable energy technologies in different sectors. To begin with, these endeavours were steered and overseen by the Commission for Additional Sources of Energy (CASE). The Department of Non-Conventional Energy Sources was created in the Ministry of Energy and entrusted with the charge of promoting non-conventional energy sources. In 1992, DNES was upgraded and it started functioning as a separate Ministry of Non-Conventional Energy Sources (MNES) and was re-christened as Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE), in October 2006.

Consequent to the announcement of the National Action Plan on Climate Change in June 2008, development of solar energy technologies in the country was identified to be pursued as a National Mission. In November 2009, the Government of India approved the “Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission” (JNNSM) which aims at development and deployment of solar energy technologies in the country to achieve parity with grid power tariff by 2022. The objective of the National Solar Mission is to establish India as a global leader in solar energy, by creating the policy conditions for its diffusion across the country as quickly as possible. On 11 January, 2010, Prime Minister of India launched the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission in a Solar Energy Conclave organized by the Ministry.
The Mission will adopt a 3-phase approach, spanning the remaining period of the 11th Plan and first year of the 12th Plan (up to 2012-13) as Phase 1, the remaining 4 years of the 12th Plan (2013-17) as Phase 2 and the 13th Plan (2017-22) as Phase 3. At the end of each plan, and mid-term during the 12th and 13th Plans, there will be an evaluation of progress, review of capacity and targets for subsequent phases, based on emerging cost and technology trends, both domestic and global.
The immediate aim of the Mission is to focus on setting up an enabling policy environment for solar technology penetration in the country both at centralized and decentralized levels. The first phase (up to 2013) will focus on capturing of the low-hanging options in solar thermal; on promoting off-grid systems to serve populations without access to commercial energy and modest capacity addition in grid-based systems. In the second phase, after taking into account the experience of the initial years, capacity will be aggressively ramped up to create conditions for up scaled and competitive solar energy penetration in the country.
Biogas production is a clean low carbon technology for efficient management and conversion of organic wastes into clean renewable biogas and organic fertilizer source. It has the potential for leveraging sustainable livelihood development as well as tackling local (land, air and water) and global pollution. Biogas obtained by anaerobic digestion of cattle dung and other loose and leafy organic matters/ wastes can be used as energy source for cooking, lighting and other applications like refrigeration, electricity generation and transport applications. Since biogas plants contribute in the reduction of greenhouse gases (GHG) they can be put up for availing of CDM benefits thereby generating additional revenue for wider coverage and reducing cost of biogas plants to government and beneficiaries. Based on the availability of cattle dung, a potential of 12 million biogas plants exists in the country which can generate an estimated 17,340 million cubic meter of biogas. In addition, these plants also provide high quality organic manure that provides nutrients and improves the quality of soil required for sustainable productivity. During the 11th Plan it is envisaged to install 1.4 million cubic meter of biogas generation capacity in the country. These biogas plants would be capable of annual savings of about 2.4 lakh tones of LPG equivalent while producing bio-fertilizer equivalent to 628 lakh kg of urea equivalent or 116 lakh tonnes of organic manure per annum.
Wind Power
India now ranks as a “wind superpower” with an installed wind power capacity of 1167 MW and about 5 billion units of electricity have been fed to the national grid so far. In progress are wind resource assessment programme, wind monitoring, wind mapping, covering 800 stations in 24 states with 193 wind monitoring stations in operations. Altogether 13 states of India have a net potential of about 45000 MW.
Wind energy, today, has emerged as the most promising renewable energy technology for generating grid connected power amongst various renewable energy sources. The Ministry’s wind power programme covers survey and assessment of wind resources, facilitation of implementation of demonstration and private sector projects through various fiscal and promotional policies. A total capacity of 10925 MW has been established up to December, 2009 in the country. India is now the fifth largest wind power producer in the world, after USA, Germany, Spain and China.
The on shore wind power potential has been estimated at about 48,500 MW, assuming 1% land availability in potential areas for setting up wind farms @12 ha/MW in sites having wind power density greater than 200 W/sq.m at 50 m height.
The Wind Resource Assessment (WRA) Programme is an ongoing activity, which is being implemented by the Centre for Wind Energy Technology (C-WET), Chennai in association with State Nodal Agencies. WRA programme has so far covered 32 States and Union Territories involving establishment of about 620 automated wind monitoring stations. During 2009, the power generation through wind power was1565.00MW and the cumulative power generation upto 30 April 2010 amounted to 11807.00MW, as shown in Table-A
Solar Energy
Solar water heaters have proved the most popular so far and solar photovoltaics for decentralized power supply are fast becoming popular in rural and remote areas. More than 700000 PV systems generating 44 MW have been installed all over India. Under the water pumping programme more than 3000 systems have been installed so far and the market for solar lighting and solar pumping is far from saturated. Solar drying is one area which offers very good prospects in food, agricultural and chemical products drying applications. During 2009 an area of 0.62 million sq.m was tapped for solar water heaters and total area thus tapped up to the end of April 2010 stood at 3.53 Mln. sq.m.
SPV Systems
More than 700000 PV systems of capacity over 44MW for different applications are installed all over India. The market segment and usage is mainly for home lighting, street lighting, solar lanterns and water pumping for irrigation. Over 17 grid interactive solar photovoltaic generating more than 1400 KW are in operation in 8 states of India. As the demand for power grows exponentially and conventional fuel based power generating capacity grows arithmetically, SPV based power generation can be a source to meet the expected shortfall. Especially in rural, far-flung where the likelihood of conventional electric lines is remote, SPV power generation is the best alternative. During 2009, 72,886 SPV Home Lighting systems were installed and as on 30 April the cumulative number of the SPV Home Lighting system stood at 5, 83, 429. About 8680 SPV street lighting systems were installed during 2009 and the cumulative number by the end of April 2010 stood at 88, 297. The year 2009 saw installation of 106 SPV pumps and the cumulative number of such pumps as on 30 April 2010 stood at 7,334, as shown in Table-A

Solar Cookers
Government has been promoting box type solar cookers with subsidies since a long time in the hope of saving fuel and meeting the needs of the rural and urban populace. There are community cookers and large parabolic reflector based systems in operation in some places but solar cookers, as a whole, have not found the widespread acceptance and popularity as hoped for. A lot of educating and pushing will have to be put in before solar cookers are made an indispensable part of each household (at least in rural and semi-urban areas). Solar cookers using parabolic reflectors or multiple mirrors which result in faster cooking of food would be more welcome than the single reflector box design is what some observers and users of the box cookers feel.
Solar Water Heaters
A conservative estimate of solar water heating systems installed in the country is estimated at over 475000 sq. mtrs of the conventional flat plate collectors. Noticeable beneficiaries of the programme of installation of solar water heaters so far have been cooperative dairies, guest houses, hotels, charitable institutions, chemical and process units, hostels, hospitals, textile mills, process houses and individuals. In fact in India solar water heaters are the most popular of all renewable energy devices.


In order to make renewable energy order of the day, there is need to synergise the isolated systems of renewable energy and make them more cost-eefective and to be linked with rural industry. The technology presently bening harnessed for wind power and tapping of solar energy is required to be upgraded. Besides, there should be a premium fixed for switching over to renewable energy resources. There is also a need for innovative financing of the renewable energy resources.

Cumulative achievements as on 30 April 2010
No Sourse/system Achievements
30 April 2010 Cumulative Achievements
30 April 2010
1 Biomass Power (Agro residues) 153.30 MW 865.60 MW
2 Wind Power 1565.00 MW 11807.00 MW
3 Small Hydro Power (up to 25 MW) 305.27 MW 2735.42 MW
4 Cogeneration-bagasse 295.30 MW 1334.03 MW
5 Waste to Energy 4.72 MW 64.96 MW
6 Solar Power 8.15 MW 10.28 MW
Sub Total (in MW) (A) 2330.42 MW 16817.29 MW
B. Off-Grid/Distributed Renewable Power (including Captive/CHP Plants)
7 Biomass Power / Cogen.(non-bagasse) 50.80 MW 232.17 MW
8 Biomass Gasifier 13.28 MWeq. 122.14 MWeq
9 Waste-to- Energy 15.88 MWeq 46.72 MWeq
10 Solar PV Power Plants 0.16 MWp 2.46 MWp
11 Aero-Generators/Hybrid Systems 0.22 MW 1.07 MW
Sub Total (B) 80.34 MWeq 404.56 MWeq
Total ( A + B ) 2410.76 MW 17221.86 MW
II Remote Village Electrification 1013 Villages & Hamlets 5348 villages / 1408 hamlets
III. Decentralized Energy Systems
12 Family Type Biogas Plants 1.06 lakh 42.40 lakh
13 SPV Home Lighting System 72,886 nos 5,83,429 nos.
14 Solar Lantern 82,999 nos 7,92,285 nos.
15 SPV Street Lighting System 8680 nos. 88,297 nos.
16 SPV Pumps 106 nos. 7,334 nos.
17 Solar Water Heating – Collector Area 0.62 Mln. sq.m. 3.53 Mln. sq.m.

NOTE: MWeq. = Megawatt equivalent; MW = Megawatt; kW = kilowatt; kWp = kilowatt peak; sq. m. = square meter
Source: Ministry of New & Renewable Energy, Government of India, available at

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  1. Anonymous

    Thank you very much . Very nice and very relevant article.
    Looking forward
    My best regards


    Jezic von Gesseneck
    Executive Director @ VGGroup
    President @ Chamber of Commerce
    Belgium-Luxembourg South-East Europe
    Independent Consultant@European Commission

  2. Anonymous

    Dr Kumar,
    Terrific article and right what you have proposed.We must meet up as we work in the Himalayan hills and the games that China is playing on water shortly it would be his biggest weapon to do arm twisting by constructing the Gorge Dam by diverting the Brahmaputra to generate 30,000MW or 25% of India's energy generation n Bangladesh this wld create havoc
    More on receiving your comments, am in Delhi only for a few days and moving away to Uttaranchal Sir

    Mr. B.B.Tewari.
    For Himalayan Development Foundation
    On Thu, Jun 24, 2010 at 12:20 PM,

  3. Anonymous

    Dear Sir,
    Thanks for providing your useful article.
    Dr. Bhishm Kumar, Ph.D.
    Scientist ‘F’ & Head, H.I. Division
    IAEA/UNESCO Consultant
    National Institute of Hydrology
    Jal Vigyan Bhawan, Roorkee-247667, Uttarakhand-India

  4. Anonymous

    Dear Dr. Arvindji,

    We appreciate your interest in “Akshay Urja” and we have received your article titled “Challenge of renewable energy”. I would like to mention that your article was duly considered by the editorial board of “Akshay Urja” but some how it couldn’t be found suitable for publication. “Akshay Urja” prefers publication material on news, articles, research papers, case studies, success stories etc.

    While appreciating your effort, we regret the inconvenience caused to you. We expect our further association in this regard.

    Mr. Dr.Arun K Tripathi
    M/o New & Renewable Energy
    Block-14, C.G.O. Complex, Lodhi
    Road, New Delhi-110003


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