Regulatory hurdles prevent bigger utilities from entering renewable energy space: Greenpeace Interview

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Greentech Lead India: A recent Greenpeace report revealed that Indian states have failed to meet their Renewable Purchase Obligation (RPO) targets, and this led to loss of more than 25 percent electricity that was expected to be generated from renewable energy sources in 2012.

The report calls for a revision in the current RPO mechanism and suggests a new differential mechanism based on three criteria– renewable energy potential of the state; consumer profile / consumption pattern and purchasing capacity of each state –to make the RPO mechanism far more rationalized and realistic; and suggesting realistic RPO targets for every state.

Greenpeace also argues for increasing the country’s renewable energy generation target by proposing a hike of 5 percent in the national renewable energy target from the present 15 percent set by the National Action Plan for Climate Change (NAPCC) in 2008.

Further Greenpeace thinks government should also look into reforms at policy and regulatory level to create the right enforcement and financial environment for effective implementation of differential RPO mechanism across the country with equity and responsibility at the core of its implementation.

Greentech Lead, in an interaction with Anand Prabhu Pathanjali, climate and energy campaigner, Greenpeace, further explores how renewable energy sector in India needs to develop to achieve its target of 55,000 MW by 2017 from the current 25,000 MW.

Our interaction follows:

In your report you said growth of renewable energy cannot be achieved until we address the key challenges which are “market-level, perception related and political in nature.” Could you explain each of these?

Market level perception includes the external market pricing against oil and other fossil fuels. It also takes into account the market acceptance as solar is indeed a practical mainstream electricity generation technology and not a magic pill. Political interests refer to the vested interests of not promoting the technology due to the opposition’s interests.

How do you think the equity based RPO (proposed by Greenpeace) will help achieve the target?

Equity based RPO will really help achieve the target because of the fact that though we have a centralized energy framework, the state government policies and RE initiatives are not coherent with the central government policies. The region of the coal hub in India is also the place of least or no electrification. So there is a huge environmental impact in these regions due to high impact mining but people elsewhere are reaping the benefits of this. We need to understand at what costs? Why do states like Gujarat, Delhi, Punjab or Karnataka need to have the same RPO as the eastern states? The Financially richer states can take up more RE and lift the burden from these electrified poorer states. It is very similar to the way India responds in major climate mitigation talks where we talk about EU and US taking more emission reduction than countries like India, which is in the development paradigm.

There are no major renewable energy initiatives from major utility companies in India. Why?

As major utilities in the country are public state owned utilities which directly operate with the interest of the respective state govt. Certain utilities have shown interests in RE, but due to unavailable financial or regulatory mechanism in place, the utilities are not able to take it forward.

Do you think solar PV imports will have a negative impact on our renewable energy industry? 

PV imports on the long run will affect our PV industry. We need to encourage and invest in PV manufacturing and research so as to strengthen our own PV industry and take leadership on that front.

Do you think government should revise the incentives to renewable energy industry – solar, wind and biomass.  If yes, how? Please explain

Incentivizing Renewable energy projects unbiased of technology is indeed a must. It should be given long term Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) as this will give a security for investors to invest in projects.

Recent reports say solar energy itself is not 100 percent sustainable because solar PVs contribute for greenhouse gas emission. What do you think should the renewable energy industry do to reduce carbon emission?

Well the PV panels don’t emit greenhouse gases, it’s the process of manufacturing these panels result in Co2 emissions. From a finding,  the life cycle assessment of  PV panels v/s a coal plant, the PV has an overall CO2 emissions which is 40g CO2 eq/kWh, whereas for coal it’s about 1000g CO2 eq/kWh. The industry can reduce its carbon emissions by making their manufacturing plants and process more greener.

Rajani Baburajan

[email protected]

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