IRENA Director-General: Renewable energy can fuel India's economic growth

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Delivering the keynote address at the first Renewable Energy Global Investors’ Meet & Expo (RE-Invest) in New Delhi on Monday, Adnan Z. Amin, director-general of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), stressed the importance of renewable energy in sustainably meeting India’s growing energy needs.

India is the world’s third largest economy and the fourth largest energy consumer. By 2030, the country will surpass China as the world’s most populous nation, demanding more than twice as much energy as is needed today, according to IRENA.

Increasing renewable energy in India was the topic of the day as government officials, investors and energy industry leaders gathered at the RE-Invest conference.

"India’s increasing demand for energy can no longer be met through traditional energy sources alone," Amin said in his keynote address. "Renewable energy must be a major part of the solution because it can meet the demand cheaply and sustainably while at the same time achieving broader socio-economic objectives."

According to IRENA’s new report Renewable Power Generation Costs in 2014, the cost of generating power from renewable energy sources has reached parity or dropped below the cost of fossil fuels for many technologies in many parts of the world — even without financial support and despite falling oil prices. Solar PV is leading the cost decline, with solar PV module costs falling more than 75% since the end of 2009 and the cost of electricity from utility-scale solar PV falling 50% since 2010.

India has some of the lowest development costs for renewable technologies worldwide. Average installed costs for large-scale solar PV have fallen dramatically in India to $1,670 per kilowatt. In Europe, by comparison, average installed costs for large-scale solar PV are $2,330 per kilowatt. Average installed costs for biomass, hydropower and onshore wind in India are between $1,240 and $1,390 per kilowatt. (In Europe, average total installed wind costs are $2,000 per kilowatt). In addition, the country’s significant volumes of agricultural residues also provide some of the lowest cost electricity in the world with an average cost of $0.04 per kilowatt hour.

"Falling prices are driving renewable energy investment in India, which rose 13% last year and is expected to surpass $10 billion in 2015,” said Amin. "Adoption of increasingly cost-effective renewables holds the genuine promise of a new age of socio-economic development, powered by clean, increasingly decentralised, and sustainable energy. The opportunity for India is tremendous."

In addition to being increasingly economical, Amin stressed that renewable energy provided strong social and environmental benefits, simultaneously improving public health and security, creating jobs, reducing air pollution, boosting GDP and improving the balance of trade. The renewable energy industry now employs 6.5 million people globally, a number IRENA estimates could top 16 million by 2030. India is the world’s fourth largest employer in the sector, with 391,000 renewable energy jobs.

‘Renewables are a fantastic investment opportunity.’

"India has one of the most ambitious renewable energy programmes in the world and developments in India will strongly influence the trajectory of the energy transformation worldwide,” Amin added. "The signs of progress so far are encouraging, and the attendance here today is testament to the recognition that renewables are a fantastic investment opportunity."