India’s present Modi government conducted its third reshuffle of the Union Council of Ministers on September 3, 2017, appointing former Secretary of Defense Raj Kumar Singh as the new Minister of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) in the process.
RK Singh was elected to the 16th Lok Sabha, the lower assembly of Parliament of India, in May 2014. Since then, he has mostly worked as a member of the parliamentary standing committees on Privileges, Health and Family Welfare, Defense, and, Law and Justice. This is the first time that he has been appointed a ministry of state.
This news has come as a surprise to loyal Goyal followers. Goyal was a figurehead and somebody who was seen as the face and voice of the dramatic transformation of India’s renewable energy sector, and a man who pledged to electrify every village of India. Under his tenure, India’s cumulative solar capacity reached 13 GW as of June 30 – an increase of almost 80% in the past three years.
One of Goyal’s biggest achievements was the introduction of the Under Ujwal DISCOM Assurance Yojana (UDAY) scheme in 2015, which aims to eradicate the losses posted by DISCOMs and to make them profitable.
The challenge for Raj Kumar Singh will be to carry forward all the good groundwork laid by his predecessor, a fact noted by the new minister himself: “My efforts will be to meet his standards of performance [attained]. The Power Ministry has earned good name for itself in the last three years. We will maintain that and improve it further,” Singh told local media the Deccan Chronicle.
One of the foremost challenges facing the new minister is to maintain the pace towards achieving the country’s ambitious target of 175 GW of renewable energy, of which 100 GW will be solar, by 2022.
Other tasks in Singh’s in-tray include working effectively to achieve the set targets under the UDAY scheme, handling the falling tariffs of solar projects that have caused a disturbance in the sector, and tackling the stressed assets in coal, gas and hydro-based projects.
There is no controversial motive behind the replacement of Goyal, who has become the new Railway Minister. A recent spate of accidents in India’s railways served to tarnish the reputation of former railway minister Suresh Prabhu, who duly offered to resign from his post. It is thought that Goyal’s decisiveness could be put to effective use in this new department.