India cabinet set to approve aggressive 40% renewable goal

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India’s National Democratic Alliance (NDA) is rumored to be considering the approval of aggressive new clean energy targets that would require the nation to source 40% of its power from renewable sources by 2030.

The target would see India substantially shake up its energy mix, with solar capacity reaching 250 GW by 2030, and wind power capacity hitting 100 GW. Under India’s National Solar Mission (JNNSM), the country is targeting a solar PV capacity of 100 GW by 2022 – meaning a further 150 GW would need to be deployed in just eight years if India was ‘only’ on track by that stage.

The NDA’s national power capacity projection puts India’s energy needs in 2030 at 850 GW. Ahead of the UN climate talks in Paris later this year, a 40% renewable energy target would satisfy global pressure for leading industrialized nations reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 35% by 2020 based on 2005 levels. Currently, India has agreed to target a 20-25% reduction by that date.

India’s renewable aim of 350 GW by 2030 largely omits hydro and nuclear power, with these two sources combined only expected to grow to around 80 GW by that date, a NDA source told newspaper Business Standard. Coal, wind and solar PV will form the backbone of India’s energy growth, the official said.

Vinay Rustagi, managing director of strategy consultants Bridge to India, could not verify the report, but told pv magazine that NDA’s aim is very much a work in progress, stressing: "We know the Indian government is trying to make a drastic change in its approach to climate change negotiations, and that partly means accepting more responsibility and ownership rather than just asking the western world for help."

Rustagi continued: "India desperately needs more energy and actually has very few options. The two main pillars of growth are going to be solar and coal. I see no reason why 250 GW is not achievable in 15 years. I believe the financial and operational issues are relatively more manageable. The key is going to be ensuring the transmission grid is robust enough to incorporate this and of course, there is the intermittency issue. If storage can become commercially attractive in 4-5 years, the biggest impediment to growth of renewables in India will be overcome."

Narendra Modi’s administration is expected to formally submit India’s Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), required under the Paris agreement, to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change this week.

The world will be keenly watching what India does next, given its expanding influence in global geopolitics and its potential climate impact as the economy grows. The U.S. has already submitted its INDC, which outlines a declaration to reduce emissions by 24-26% by 2025, with the EU aiming for a 40% reduction on 1990 levels by 2030.