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India launches $5bn renewables infrastructure drive to tackle pollution issues

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Business World - Independent
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India is lifting a target for renewables to 227 Gigawatt (GW) of renewable energy capacity by 2022 because the country is well on its way to exceeding the previously set target, vice president Venkaiah Naidu said. The country had already indicated it will launch $5bn (€4.43bn) of transmission-line tenders in phases, beginning in June, to route a targeted 175 gigawatts (GW) of power from renewable sources into the country’s grid by 2022. India, the world’s third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, has pledged to cut emissions and have clean energy account for at least 40pc of its installed capacity by 2030, up from 21.4pc now, while looking to manage its energy appetite as its population becomes more prosperous. The renewable energy targets would require investment in feeder lines and infrastructure upgrades.

India has awarded tenders for 12 GW of transmission lines since December, while bids for a further 16 GW will be launched by the end of June.

Another 38 GW will be out for bidding  before March 2020, he said.

Building transmission lines for 66 GW worth projects would need an estimated investment of 430bn rupees, the secretary for renewables, Anand Kumar, said.

India receives twice as much sunshine as European countries and wants to make solar central to its renewable expansion as part of the fight against climate change.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has set a goal to raise solar power generation to 100 GW and wind to 60 GW by 2022. The other 15 GW would come from biomass and hydropower.

Research analysts have been sceptical about India meeting its ambitious targets.

Consultancy firm WoodMac and research firm CRISIL have said India would not meet its renewable energy target due to policy issues, including cancellations of auctions of tenders, rights to land use and tariffs.

But Kumar says the government must be careful not to buy power at any cost.

“The mandate of the government is that we should buy power at a competitive price which is affordable,” he said.

The government is determined to overcome roadblocks, and is in talks with states to ensure easy land availability. It has asked distribution companies to borrow from the government-run Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency to ensure timely payments to power producers.

Modi’s government changed rules for the awarding of renewable energy projects in 2017, leading to higher competition, lower prices and greater acceptance of renewable energy.

“Earlier tariffs were about 6.17 rupees per unit and now we are getting bids as low as 2.44 rupees a unit,” Kumar said, adding that India was ahead of its internal target to award 135 GW of renewable energy projects by March 2019.