INTERVIEW | Aiming 50 per cent power generation from non-fossil fuels by 2030: RK Singh
India is a leader in renewable energy and has also emerged as one of the most attractive destinations in the world for investments, says Union Power Minister R K Singh
Amid the upsurge in fossil fuel prices across the globe, India has emerged as a world leader in switching over to environmentally sustainable renewable sources of power. Union Minister for Power, New and Renewable Energy RK Singh have been at the forefront of a major transformation of the energy sector. In conversation with Amit Mukherjee, the Minister tells us how India has taken a lead in the use of green energy.
India has been talking about green initiatives and net-zero goals. What are the steps taken by your ministry?
Our ministry has been the flag bearer of most of the green initiatives in India. We have emerged as a global leader in the green energy sector as we have the fastest growth rate in the renewable energy (RE) production segment globally with an installed capacity of 177 gig watts (GW), comprising a combination of renewable and nuclear resources. Currently, nuclear power is 6.8 GW and the remaining capacity is renewable (wind solar, hydro and bio) from non-fossil fuel (NFF) resources.
India has also emerged as one of the most attractive world destinations for investments in RE. We had pledged that by 2030, 40 per cent of our power generation capacity would be from NFF sources. But we achieved our target in November 2021 – almost nine years in advance.
Also, we are the only major economy whose energy transition access is in consonant to the sub-2 degree rise in global temperature. We had pledged to reduce our carbon emission intensity by 33 per cent by 2030. We already reduced it by 30 per cent and will achieve the rest in the next 2-3 years. India is the only country that has over-achieved in terms of its pledges and going further, in Glasgow COP 26 our PM voluntarily raised the NFF-base power generation targets from 40 to 50 per cent and also revised the emission reduction target from 33 to 40 per cent by 2030.
What have been the major achievements in terms of strengthening the power sector?
We are the global leader in energy transition with RE capacity which accounts for 42 per cent of our energy production from NFF resources - the largest and the fastest energy capacity expansion globally.
We strengthened the distribution network, added over 2900 new substations, and upgraded nearly 4,000 old ones, added over 8 lakh circuit kms of HT and LT lines and about 7 lakh transformers. As a result power availability in rural India has gone up from 12.5 hours in 2015 to 22 .5 hours today and the urban average is now at 23. By distributing power to 29 million homes, we have connected every home at every corner of India – the largest expansion of energy access in the world.
The entire country - from Arunachal to Kutch and from Leh Ladhakh to Kanya Kumar, is now connected to one grid. The task which was achieved by adding 173 thousand circuit km to our transmission lines, makes the whole country into one market. A power producer can set up capacity at any corner of India and sell electricity to any state. With ‘one nation one grid one market system’ the entire power business has undergone a transformation.
We have changed rules and regulations as well and today the overall viability has gone up since the discoms now have to pay for the electricity that is being used by putting in place the payment system mechanism. One biggest achievement was that we managed to bring down the AT&C (aggregate technical and commercial) losses of power distribution utilities from 22 to 17 per cent - a record margin of 5 per cent, and another 5 per cent by next year.
With elections around the corner, any particular targets for 2024?
The country under the present government does not set its targets on the basis of elections. Our development targets are ongoing, and dynamic and are India’s development oriented. In the past nine years, we have completely transformed the power generation sector. Earlier we had a power deficit, but today we have enough to meet the country’s requirements at 411 GW, we have added almost 180 GW from 2014 onwards.
Our major target at the moment is to increase the capacity in the RE segment to 257 and the process is on to operationalise an additional 80 GW to reach the target. Also in thermal segment work is on to add another 28 GW along with simultaneous work to add around 14 GW in the nuclear segment by 2030. Also on priority is our mission Hydrogen and we have targets of installing 7 million tons of production capacity by 2030, which will be the largest project in the world. All these are already generating new jobs and are to generate more going ahead.
Considering Bihar is your home state, where do you see the state heading?
I feel very sad about my home state. All other states are progressing but the situation in Bihar is deplorable and is deteriorating by the day. Nitish Kumar has lost his credibility and I don’t think he stands a chance in the coming elections.
Do you have any ambition of leading Bihar as CM in case BJP comes to power in the state?
I don’t have any aspirations as such. I just do what the party tells me to do. My priority right now is to make India the largest green hydrogen manufacturing capacity in the world and to propel the country as the largest wind generator globally. Equally, I want to ensure the round-the-clock availability of RE with adequate storage capacity and uphold the rights of consumers.