A Sustainable Solution with the National Offshore Wind Energy Policy

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With India signing the Paris Agreement and the Government unveiling an ambitious plan to generate 100 Giga Watts (GW) of electricity from solar energy, India has developed a comprehensive renewable energy policy and a climate action plan to follow through. With the new policy and plan in play, wind energy has taken the back seat even though it has four times the capacity of that of solar energy.

The wind energy capacity of India is remarkable and the industry has been getting a push from the Government since the end of the twentieth century. With the policy coming into effect there has been a push to generate more solar energy and the results can be seen as there has been an increase in the solar capacity of the nation. However, as Mr. Sarvesh Kumar, Chairman of the Indian Wind Turbine Manufacturers Association, had stated that focusing solely on one form of energy will not generate the desired results. Solar energy alone cannot be the sole solution to India’s energy problems. A hybrid approach, combining solar energy and wind energy, would bring about the desired result.

The wind energy industry has been evolving since the late 20th century and from a low capacity of 225 KW, the turbines have become more efficient with a generation of 3 MW. India is currently the fourth largest producer of wind energy with its current installed capacity of 27 GW. This has increased from a previous 12 GW during 2010 when the Government’s focus was primarily on the solar energy industry. Statistics show that this could increase to 67 GW by the year 2020.

With India currently generating the wind energy from a height of 80 metres from the ground, if this height increases to around 100 metres then the potential could become threefold. In such a context, India is still not generating worth its potential and the growth could outpace the solar energy industry.

The Union Cabinet had approved the National Offshore Wind Energy Policy 2015 with the plan to generate 100 GW by 2022. This policy has the intent to incentivise and develop the potential of offshore wind energy in India. The Government also added the incentive of replacing the existing turbines with those of greater capacities.

Even with the capability to generate a massive capacity of energy there is a lack of demand. The domestic demand is still below the current production. With the absence of a demand the potential is getting wasted. Instead of limiting the scope of wind energy to the domestic market, the Government should enable the industry to export as well.

The industry is also keenly awaiting the promulgation of the new renewable energy law which would remove uncertainties and provide clarity in the sector. With the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy issuing guidelines every now and then, which are not even adhered to at times, the market is unpredictable. The lack of predictability has been detrimental to the sector with investors wanting to invest in areas which have clarity. To add to this each State has its own policies. The wind energy industry has the potential to grow but for this the Government needs to work towards its ambitious plans and focusing on the wind energy industry as well.

The revision in the Government’s policies come in the light of its ambitious target to generate 60 GW of wind energy by the end of 2022. The Government has targeted to reach 175 GW of renewable energy production by the year 2022. To further the clean energy growth the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy issued fresh guidelines which has promised rapid growth in the wind energy sector.

The new guidelines are a step in the right direction as there is a push for hybrid, wind and solar, energy. The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy expects to complete the handing of wind energy projects by the end of December. The ministry has already issued guidelines for the transparent bidding process for setting up of 1,000 MW wind energy projects. As per the guidelines, the wind energy projects will be selected through an open and transparent competitive bidding. The last date for submitting bids was 15th of December, 2016 after which all the bids were to be opened and evaluated. The Government did not keep any reserve price and left this for the market to decide. Presently the market prices varies from Rs. 3.9 per unit, which is in Tamil Nadu, to Rs. 5.5 per unit. Bidders can buy a minimum of 50 MW and a maximum of 250 MW. To ensure the facilitation of wind energy from windy state to non-windy states the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy issued a tariff policy has been made to waive the inter-state transmission charges to the extent of 1,000 MW. The government said the move would help India as it moves towards attaining energy security and achieve targets under the National Action Plan for Climate Change.

The current wind energy production is to be doubled by 2022 and the revised guidelines need to address the current issues persisting in this sector. The new document does answer several issues such as land use permission, availability of resources, logistics regarding transportation, health and safety issues, grid connectivity, hybridization, environmental potential and decommissioning plans. The document has given a maximum period of four years for the start of commission of the project. Failure to implement the project within the given period could amount in the land allotment being cancelled. The document further states that the project developer needs to ensure that grid connectivity is commercially and technically feasible at the selected site. The guideline also establishes the need for the project developer to include a decommissioning plan when upon the completion of the wind turbine’s life. The project developer needs to acquire all of the required clearances from the respective departments, which could include the forest land authorities, civil aviation authority, defence authority, etc.

However, experts have voiced their opinions concerning the offshore wind energy policy and believe that onshore wind energy should be exploited first. As the estimated onshore wind power potential is around 300 GW while only 23 GW is being generated there is scope for development in this sector as well. While offshore wind energy will become a valuable component of renewable energy in the future, there is a need to increase the market for onshore wind energy as well. Wind energy is considered to be one of the most developed and cost-effective source of renewable energy and it is a potential solution for our energy demands.

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