2040-50 may finally be the decade when the installed renewable energy capacity in India would overtake the coal-based installed capacity, if the ambitious Integrated Plan for Desert Power Development is fully realized.
Under the Desert Power India – 2050 plan, a gargantuan 455 GW of renewable energy capacity addition has been targeted to meet India’s ever-growing need for electricity. According to a government enterprise, the Asian giant would require an installed power base of 1,388 GW, compared to the current 250 GW.
About two-thirds of this 455 GW renewable energy capacity would be installed in the desert wastelands of India, spread across the northern and western parts of the country. The arid regions of Himachal Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir in the north, and the Desert of Rajasthan and marshland of Kutch in Gujarat in the western part, have been identified for this project.
The plan is to harness 5-15% of the wasteland available in these arid regions to tap the vast solar and wind energy potential. Upon harvesting 95% of the solar and wind energy potential available on 10% of the area, a total of 271 GW of solar power capacity and 29 GW of wind power capacity would be installed.
Renewable energy sources currently contribute about 12% to India’s installed capacity base, with a capacity of about 32 GW. With an installed renewable energy base of 485 GW in 2050, the share of renewable energy capacity would increase to 35%, while the share of coal-based power capacity would be 32%.
With 300 GW capacity coming from the desert areas, the balance 155 GW capacity would come from states rich in renewable energy resources – Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra among others. These states are likely to contribute 55 GW capacity, while 70 GW capacity would contributed through biomass, waste-to-power, small hydro power, rooftop and canal-top solar power projects across the country. Offshore wind energy capacity is expected to contribute about 30 GW.
The Ministry of New & Renewable Energy (MNRE) has already started working on four ultra mega solar power plants in these arid regions. The Indian Finance Ministry recently announced $90 million outlay for these projects. The government would also support the construction of ‘Green Corridors’ – transmission networks dedicated to carry electricity generated from renewable energy projects throughout the country.