Decentralised renewable energy is the solution to India's energy poverty

  • Union minister for new and renewable energy, Farooq Abdullah, releases CSE’s Citizen’s Report on State of Renewable Energy

  • In 2012-13, electricity produced by renewables met the electricity requirements of 60 million people. But India still reels under immense energy poverty – 50 per cent of households in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Assam, Odisha and Jharkhand are yet to be connected to the grid

  • Renewable energy projects can have major ecological impacts if we don’t have environmental safeguards

New Delhi, February 28, 2014: In India, 50 crore people have access to less than six hours of electricity every day; 70 crore do not have access to clean cooking fuel – in such a scenario, we need to understand how to mainstream clean energy and energy access across the country. Decentralised renewable energy systems could offer the key to solving this state of energy poverty, said Sunita Narain, director general, Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) in her opening remarks at the Fourth Anil Agarwal Dialogue on Energy Access and Renewable Energy, which concluded here today.

In the concluding session of the two-day Dialogue, Union minister for new and renewable energy, Farooq Abdullah, released CSE’s Citizen’s Report on State of Renewable Energy. The report looks at the current status of renewable energy in the country, as well as the issues that plague the sector. It also puts together the policy interventions in solar, wind, small hydro, biomass and waste-to-energy sectors.

The speakers at the Dialogue included B K Chaturvedi, member, Planning Commission; Satish Balram Agnihotri, secretary, Union ministry for new and renewable energy; Ajay Shankar, member secretary, National Manufacturing Competitiveness Council; Deepak Gupta, director general, National Solar Energy Federation of India; and Gireesh Pradhan, chairperson, Central Electricity Regulatory Commission.

CSE points out that renewable energy projects can have major ecological impacts if they are installed without proper environmental assessment and management. Says Chandra Bhushan, deputy director general, CSE and the head of its renewable energy team: “Renewable energy must benefit the local community -- citizens must have the first right over electricity from renewables and they must benefit from the installation of renewable energy on their land.”

Speaking at the inaugural session yesterday, B K Chaturvedi  had said: “It is only fitting that we remember Anil Agarwal with a discussion on energy access, a critical area for the poorer and under-privileged segments of the Indian society. It is they who suffer the most when appropriate energy access is denied or provided poorly to them for their sustainable economic growth.” 

Chaturvedi also pointed out that the highest cause of premature deaths in India is due to asphyxiation because of household air pollution caused by cooking with bio-mass. Use of dirty cooking fuel has been responsible for killing 3.5 million women and children each year, according to a 2013 International Energy Agency report. According to Chaturvedi, India holds nearly 25 per cent of the global population without electricity and 31 per cent without clean cooking fuel.

Renewables: The agenda for change

The growth of renewable energy has changed the energy business in India. In the past 10 years, installation of renewable energy for electricity has grown at an annual rate of 25 per cent; as of January 2014, it had reached 30,000 megawatt (MW).

According to the Integrated Energy Policy, 2006, India is projected to have 30,000 MW of wind and 10,000 MW of solar power by 2031-32. The 12th Five Year Plan (FYP) document has projected a four-fold increase in the installation of renewable power by 2021-22. The resource allocation in the 12th FYP reflects the priority accorded by the government to renewable energy. Of the total plan outlay for the energy sector -- Rs 10,94,938 crore -- during 2012-2017, the outlay for MNRE is Rs 33,003 crore, or about three per cent of the total plan outlay.

However, this is not enough. Due to policy paralysis and uncertainty, the period of 2011-12 saw a significant dip in investments in this sector – from US $13 billion in 2011 to US $6.5 billion in 2012.

CSE advocates a set of action points for the sector. These include, among others, the following:

• Putting in place an integrated policy and plans till 2050.

• The 12th FYP is not ambitious enough – India needs to go beyond those targets.

• Incentivising off-grid.

• Institutionalising green norms for renewable energy.

Said Narain: “Renenwables are expensive compared to fossil fuels today, but they will become cheaper tomorrow. The benefits of moving to renewables are immense – energy security, climate protection, reduced pollution and health benefits.”


• For more on the Dialogue (programme schedule, complete list of participants, videos, factsheets etc)

• For any other queries, contact Souparno Banerjee on 9910864339,